Total time: 36:02, 12 songs
CDs: $17, includes shipping charges.Prince/SF Productions
I wish there had been more information about the group in this album's
liner notes; is this their first album? Have they been together for
years? Not knowing whether I should give them kudos for completing a
passable first album or critically analyze an advanced project, I had
to listen to this one on its face value merits, which were pretty
consistently average. I was bothered by the tuning problems apparent
throughout the CD, and I also found the soloists to be a little stiff
sometimes, especially for a gospel recording. Don't get me wrong; I
have no problem listening to a group with some tuning problems here
and there, if those details are made up for with an intense feeling
and genuine love of music and subject matter. I just felt that the
overall feel of the album was a tad too straight and uninventive to
make up for its shortcomings. If you're looking for an imperfect but
still inspiring group, pass on this one and check out The Fairfield
Four or The Persuasions instead.
Rating: 5 (5.4)
It boils down to this: if the Mighty Prince Singers sang at the potluck after church, I would think they were great. If they sang on a stage with the likes of the Persuasions, or the First Cosmopolitan All Male Chorus (quintet out of Raleigh, NC), or any other quality gospel ensemble, they'd be toast.
What the big boys have starts with one thing — voices, voices, voices. Usually five of them. Big voices. Lots of vibrato, and the potential to ring the rafters with a power chord or just a well-placed "Amen". The Mighty Prince Singers have six voices, and not one of them got me sitting up straight, much less offa my feet. Their tempos are fast, yet muted, which makes for nice mellow doo-wop but poor soul-stirring.
Quartet gospel (it's called quartet, even though a lot of it's
five-part singing) is somewhat rote. Arrangements are basic, repetitive.
Tuning sometimes suffers, since voices are intuitive rather than trained.
Sometimes this can be lived with, other times it gets under your skin.
There's not a ton of variety — there are fast songs, slow songs, shout
songs and hymns, and anyone who's not attached to the style is only
going to notice a difference in how fast you're supposed to clap. But if
they listen to a good quartet and then the Mighty Prince Singers, they'll
feel like Aretha Franklin just got replaced with Des'ree. It's not that
Des'ree is that bad, it's just, well — not enough there.
Rating: 5 (5.1)
The Mighty Prince Singers is a 5-member (with an additional guest vocalist on three tracks) gospel a cappella group from San Francisco. They have certain positive characteristics that carry pretty much throughout the album: Their tuning and blend are almost always without fault and their soloists are talented singers who are completely in sync with the style of the music they're doing.
There are, however, several aspects to this album that get in the way of my full enjoyment of it. For much of the album (especially the first half) I found the bass to be too prominent in the mix, distracting me from the soloist. The soloists are expressive and they should be the most obvious part of the song, but sometimes they sound like just another part of the mix, overshadowed by the combined forces of the other singers. Several of the arrangements provide little variety from verse to verse, and with little dynamic variation this leads to songs that travel along at a plateau level, without much to keep the listener interested.
I'm guessing that some of these problems are due to whatever recording
techniques they used, and would disappear in a live setting, but that
sort of speculation can't really have any bearing on a review of the
CD. If you're only interested in contemporary a cappella and not
gospel a cappella, I probably wouldn't recommend this CD to you. If
you like gospel, however, you'll probably enjoy it more.
Rating: 6 (6.2)
The Mighty Prince Singers consists of five voices (all male),
ranging from a deep but substantially-miked bass to some faint higher
voices often paired up. The repertoire is all gospel/spiritual,
consistently mild and, sadly, typically unexciting. For a group with so
much experience singing together (35 years according to the liner notes),
there is little sense of togetherness and a decided lack of energy. The
group has long since found its pattern and sticks to it through all of its
songs: an independent, "bom"-syllabic bass line, muffled middle voices and
a pale, unsoulful lead, with paired tenor voices supplying much of the
harmony. The choice of lead is almost never good (vocal quality being my
biggest complaint); the arrangement of songs strikingly consistent and
unfortunately bland. One song is too much like the next (finding its
epitome in a reprise which precisely duplicates the first time through).
Overall, then, a well-tuned but only decently sung collection of
spirituals, lacking any spark of spirituality.
Rating: 5 (4.2)
For an album full of inspirational music meant to tweak your soul in a decidedly Christian way, I was not inspired. While it is true that I am not a very big fan of spirituals, that fact had nothing to do with why I found this album by the Mighty Prince Singers to be flat and uninspiring... just a lackluster performance overall. An energetic, sparkling spiritual piece can get me up and singing in the aisles just like anyone else. Here are some of the reasons why I stayed in my seat:
The recording quality is not as good as it could have been; the balance was spotty, with the bass singer sometimes blatting in your ear; the pitch and tuning was circumspect throughout, with people going flat all the time; intonation just seemed shot; the singers sounded tired and seemed to lack breath support, which really contributes to the pitch problems (especially the background parts); tempo was just as sloppy as anything else; the arrangements were consistently lackluster and just plain boring.
I actually found a couple of soloists to be quite interesting in their
performances (Carl Douglas showed soul that the rest of the singers
mostly lacked). But, I really was disappointed by the poor overall
quality of this album. They certainly did not live up to (or even close
to) their name.
Rating: 4 (3.9)
A pretty straightforward delivery here. It's a catchy little ditty by nature,
but this never really grabbed me. Its delivery is too straight-laced,
and the soloist (Carl Douglas) rarely got into making it his own.
A strangely tuneless solo sets the tenor of this song, which fails to
move me the way it's done here. It's definitely rhythmic, with a pleasant
energy. But this song to me should be a full-fledged old-style gospel
track, with Jerry Lawson resonance and a much slower and more heartfelt
delivery. We need fewer verses and much more emotion. The solo is better
when he lets loose a little and pushes higher, though his downward scoops
- which show up a lot on this disc — are a little silly. I got to rather
like the dissonant "oh lord"s that came near the end. The background
sounds good on the verses, loses tune on the choruses, and just aren't
locked, which is particularly disappointing because the piece is so easy
Besides being the title track of the album, this is a nice song to begin
with because it's familiar to most listeners. The background achieves the
blend that they do pretty consistently throughout the album. After a couple
of verses of the same thing — no noticeable dynamic changes, variation of
arrangement — I've heard pretty much the entire song. But it continues on
for the entire 4 minutes.
Smooth blend in the voices, with a heavily-miked bass markedly
standing out (he has low notes, but the smooth effect is troubled by his
artificially-enhanced sound). The blend is no doubt aided by the
arrangement being simple, unornamented and repetitive (in the style of
spiritual, of course). Unenergetically performed, with both solo and backing
voices perhaps aiming for tenderness but reaching only to "half-awake".
These people aren't ready.
This song has a good sound as it starts, which makes it a good opener.
but the one thing I found is that the background singers pitch slowly
began sinking as the song went on. It was quite noticeable within 90
seconds, and considering it is a 4 minute song, that did not bode well.
The baritone voices were the biggest sinners there (sorry, I could not
help it). Was it me, or did they sound tired at the end?
This one has a Persuasions feel to it, which is nice. (They don't
have Jerry Lawson rumbling down below, but hey — how many groups do?)
I think it's a song about a money-hungry preacher, but I could be
wrong... Anyway, pretty fun.
Bass forefront in this, too loud, another repetitive arrangement. By the
first listen I knew I'd always be able to sing along with it, though I'd
never heard it before and wasn't paying particular attention. Another
soloist who fails to inspire. Background is better, the song bops along, but
nothing grabs you. I feel like nodding along pleasantly, not like
clapping or even smiling in particular.
The bass is nice to listen to at the front end of this track, but when the
solo comes in I think the bass is too far forward in the mix, and he just
distracts me from the solo. There's a little more variety in this track,
but that's due more to the structure of the song than anything that the
Mighty Prince Singers did. The soloists are really the life of the tunes on
this album, and I think that making their sound more prominent would add to
the overall vitality of the effort.
Faster, with a funnier feel as well from the get-go. The
arrangement again is far too repetitive to warrant an extended listen, and
the solo is thin and unconvincing. As usual, the bass stands alone, the
soloist gravels his way through, and the high voices dance among
A bit of a tempo boost over the opener, which helped with the tired
sounding ending of the first song. The tempo suffered here though. And
the background singers went flat all of the time on the notes that they
had to hold longer more than 2 beats. The bass singer blatted a bit in
The opening arpeggios on the word "sinner" were just about too much
for me. But they're followed by a "unison" falsetto line by the group
which really should have been left to those who have the notes. Oops.
I do like the hook, though — "One day of prayin' and six nights of
fun/The odds against goin' to heaven are six to one". Nice soloist,
but the backup parts have a number of tuning issues to deal with.
Hello? Liner notes? This is not Lou Reed (as the notes say). This is
"Sinner", an old gospel favorite. As in: "One day of prayin' and six
nights of fun". Solo is better than his predecessors, slightly fuller,
more oomph in his delivery. Which is good, since this is a hellfire and
brimstone song. "Your chances of going to heaven are six to one." It
needs to be more than a nice listen. There's still a feeling of going
through the motions, and he comes from the same mold as the rest and
could use more resonance. The phrase "walk on the wild side" does occur a
time or two, but there isn't even a Lou Reed sample. Bad album designer,
bad bad bad.
This song is credited to Lou Reed, but other than the title I find no
resemblance to his version, not melody, not lyrics, nothing. Who arranged
this, or wrote the lyrics? Some nice Take 6-ish harmonies come in toward
the end of this track (I hate to make too much of a comparison to the only
other gospel a cappella group I've listened to at any length, since I admit
I have a limited frame of reference, but it is a positive comparison at
least!) The solo comes through a little stronger on this track, and along
with the variety inherent in the song, this makes this song much more
interesting to listen to than some of the others.
_Tame_. Somewhat call-and-response oriented, with a light bass
(thank heaven) unfortunately offset by pained higher notes. The
impression conveyed is that no matter the lyrics, no matter the music, the
singers would approach the song in the same manner, emotively and
"Hey," I thought, "Lou Reed! This will be interesting to hear". But,
wait. This does not sound like the Lou Reed classic that I know. Did he
write a spiritual with the same title? All I know is that the only
reference to the original is the title and saying it once or twice. The
background singers were especially off in this tune, with all of their
long notes. Made me wish I could have heard Lou doing this instead of
these guys. Though I cannot lie: the soloist Carl really wailed on this
More tuning problems in the backup parts here too, but Paul Carrington
does a nice job with the solo. It's a goofy analogy ("Every child is
runnin' to Jesus just like an automobile"), but the song is short...
This is more like it. Not that there's anything too remarkable about this
song or its delivery. Because of that, they sing it as it deserves, and
it comes off as a nice pleasant match. One thing: There is no excuse for
the last chorus to be as out of tune as it is, particularly since all the
notes have been sung before.
At the beginning of the song, the syncopation comes through a little
muddily because there's no framework to hold it up against (the bass is
singing words along with the other parts, and there's no percussion). This
is a song that feels like it should be building toward something, but
really doesn't have a real climax.
Decently nimble solo, syncopated with backing voices (those highly
rhythmic). Possessed of the same sort of jazzy gospel music as before, but
without the needed energy from the singers.
Whoa, nelly. The backgrounds were flat from the get-go on this one.
Tenors were the worst this time. Simple arrangement left things wide
open for the singers to go flat. The pitch could not even stay put on
the ending chord, with one or two voices floating sharp while the rest
stay under pitch! Paul Carrington showed the only signs of excitement in
the otherwise tired sounding tune.
I really like the sentiment of this song; the lyrics are quite nice.
It's a shame that the lyrics and Paul's competent delivery of them are
hindered (to me, at least) by the second tenor's tuning. The first
tenor has a nice sound, but he can't carry the backup by himself.
Tuning issues abound and take away from the message.
I haven't gotten into it yet, but this group has a problem with its
falsetto. The opening chords make this apparent — tuning here is
generally poor, even in the context of this group. Bass is much less
resonant than before, sounds like a different singer, but also lower than
usual. Guess being in normal bass range could be doing this to him too,
since earlier basslines were higher. Solo has nice delivery on verses,
but falls to mediocrity over already sketchy choruses.
There's a disjointedness that comes out on this track, though it's present
on other tracks as well. I feel like there are 3 distinct sources of sound
- the soloist, the upper background parts as a unit, and the bass. On this
particular track, there is a sense that none of the parts are really
falling into a groove together, and in fact it is the bass who is the
farthest separated from both the soloist and the other accompanying parts.
Some of his high notes toward the end sound sharp, and as a result the
tuning of parts of the song really seems off.
Again, a prominently-miked bass contrasting with harmonizing
tenors, leaving the middle flat and empty. A strangely unmusical solo,
perhaps aiming at a preaching style? Not inspiring.
OK, it started with the baritones this time. Flat. But the tenors did
not let them stay lonely for long. By the first chorus, I was wincing
because the pitch was just grating, especially when they would hit the
last chord in the phrase "Heaven Help Us All". Man, is it just me or is
the title an ironically fitting thing to say about this tune? Well, it's
my review so it must be me.
This one sounds like it was recorded differently than most of the
others, almost as though the group decided to sing in a different room
or at least play with a different reverb. The soloist and bass sound
pretty much the same, but the backup is more tinny. Not a big deal,
just an interesting decision. This reminds me of another classic
gospel tune, but it's gonna bug me all night until I can figure it
out... arrrrgh. Anyway, a decent tune and pretty good delivery, but
perhaps a bit long (4.5 minutes) for my tastes.
Ooh, nice tempo. Slow, you feel like swaying and snapping. Bass has some
rhythm. Decent depth. Background has words, not oohs, which seem to keep
tuning in check most of the song — the vamp at the end regresses. This
is one of those formula echo songs — solo lines out verse, background fills
in line with the same words each verse, all end singing refrain. Solo
sounds like the same one from opening track — not as melodic as I'd like,
but some nice moments. Generally a pleasant track.
Like track 1, this tune is pretty much the same thing over and over again.
I kept wanting to superimpose "Oh Mary don't you weep, Martha don't you
mourn" over a lot of the song. It ends with what should be an exciting
build to a climax, but it feels more like a plateau that just goes on at
the same level. Here's a picture of this song:
I think that a lot more variety would come out (again!) if the soloist was
made more prominent.
The most rhythmic and momentum-oriented of them all. The bass
throughout all the songs makes overmuch use of "bom" as his syllable, and
is further hindered here by a severe lack of force to his higher notes.
Still, a mildly pleasant change from the previous efforts.
Here is a traditional tune that to me evokes the feeling of a New
Orleans style funeral. Kind of interesting, actually. Other than the
soloist (Carl, who else), the song sounds tired and a bit lackluster.
Though the pitch is not as bad in this song as it is in some of the
previous songs. Tempo has a couple of glitches, and was that a
tambourine I heard? I think so, but I only heard one short sound from
it, as though someone bumped into it. They really should have cleaned
I think I'd get along OK if I never ever heard this song again. I
know, I know, Boyz II Men didn't write it — it's far older than that,
and I've heard a few gospel groups try it — but the one thing Boyz II
Men *did* do was cement in most of our heads their version of it.
Plus, they sang it in tune. Sorry, Prince Singers, I'd have to vote
against recording this one. I'd also vote against playing with all
the reverb knobs during the recording session. But that's just me.
Very deliberate. As in jerky, especially at first. Background has some
nice low moments with low oohs behind the line "forever's gone away".
First solo is fine, if a bit deliberate — second solo is a little looser
but doesn't lose it. They keep the ornamentation within bounds, which is
a very smart move. Bridge note — the solo ooh-wee is slightly off-pitch.
Maddening, because everyone else is more or less in pitch. Overall
though, nicely considered and a good job by them.
This track, smack dab in the middle of the album, embodies the variety
that's lacking in a lot of the other songs. The song itself is a change in
tempo from the rest of the disc, slower than most of the other tracks. They
make use of three different soloists, and while they all share a similar
vocal style, each brings his own personality to his section of the song.
The background has a lot more variety to it, and changes from verse to
verse, which makes the biggest difference of all in making this track one
of the most successful on the album.
Begun with lead and bass (tragically too loud for this song,
missing out on the blended feel and sympathy of the original). The middle
voices add a considerable depth to the sound given their entrance,
improving the song as it goes on. Not badly done, but nothing to compare
with the original.
Yes, this is the Boys II Men tune. If you ignore the bad start from the
soloist who comes in sharp to start the song (or maybe it was the rest
of the guys coming in flat... that's just as likely), and you ignore
some of the bad chords that the background singers produce, you might
find that this is a marginally passable rendition. I sort of did.
Weird effect opens this one — Paul sings "ohhhh" and the sound changes
from a large hall to a small 1 bedroom apartment. This one has
potential, but I think it could have been more effective had the group
used some variation — tempo, dynamics, something. The music doesn't
seem to go anywhere to follow the story .
Bass and solo opening is pleasant — another slow number, another good
call. Bass line gives it more rhythm than the Boyz II Men cover so you
can tell it's a different song, which is all to the good. Solo is very
basic, but no flaws. Just don't think about Sam Cooke. Arrangement is
basic again, but fewer problems. If they were singing this on a street
corner, I'd give them a buck.
The solo seems a little farther out in front on this track, which is what
they should have been doing all along. Here is a group whose purpose is to
have a message in their music, and if the message is largely in the solo,
it stands to reason that the solo should really stand out. Paul Carrington
does a great job with this Sam Cooke tune. Having the solo and the bass
start alone together adds some immediacy to the song, though more variety
(again!) in the background arrangement would have added even more interest.
A pattern among all these songs: bass/lead intro, followed by the
introduction of the middle voices. The soloist does an admirable job of
touching the untouchable in emulating the great Sam Cooke.
You notice how flat the guys were on the last song when they start this
one. They are in the same key, but this one was about a 1/2 step higher.
Not a very interesting song, musically. Kind of of slow and plodding,
with the pitch threatening to go down, but managing to stay up
A nice foot-tappin' feel-good tune. Fine work by Paul on the solo,
and a catchy walking bassline. Yes! *This* is the feeling I was
looking for from the group. There's a nice feel to the song all
around. But how to capture that energy in the rest of the songs?
Nice, snappable. But shoot, boys, put some heart in it! If you're
going to sing "when Jesus comes", sound like you believe it. These guys
could be singing Java Jive, for all you can tell from the way they sing
it. The words need some movement — crisp initial push, a little lean here
and there, something to make you go mm. They are singing like Take 6, but
without the spiffy tuning, spiffy jazz chords, perfect intonation and
general warm and shiny glow. Which means they need some earth in a bad way.
Some more Take 6-ish harmonies on this track, and a nice thing is that I
feel like I'm hearing each of the backing parts individually as well as
together, the bass isn't sticking out as much, and the solo is prominent.
This adds more interest to a song that otherwise shares the same plateau
format as track 6.
The singers finally show some real feel for the music, adding a
depth of emotion to the arrangement previously unseen. Some uncertainty in
the timing of the first choral moment mars their efforts.
No pun intended, but Jeez, when is the tuning going to improve? Once
again, things are consistently under the pitch on crucial chords. This
song also has something that other songs had, but not as obviously as
now: gasping on the part of one of the singers. A couple of times it
really sticks out!
Back to the large hall reverb. I don't get that — all the songs sound
pretty much the same vocally — same style, same arrangement technique,
same soloists. Is the change in the sound of the room a sort of
attempt to make the songs begin to sound different from each other?
Hmm. Anyhow, a pretty good delivery overall. It's a good song,
however you cut it.
Much better. Got me swaying. Solo sounds like he mostly believes what
he's singing, so the background gets peppier by association. Nice job,
Paul Carrington. Best feeling of any solo on the disc, and decent tone too.
Compared to the clarity of the previous track, this
sounds like the singers are in an echo chamber or something, and the
middle backing tracks are lost somewhere in the morass, with only the
upper part and the bass having any distinction. After some of my
initial general observations, I feel like I don't have a lot to say
about the individual tracks on this album. This one, for instance,
goes on for a while, then ends.
Nice! Walking bass is interestingly done against the chorus. More
energy during the second time around would seem to have been in line with
the music, but does not happen. A solid piece.
There is a cavernous sort of chamber echo on these guys with this song.
Actually, it made me think that they were in an empty church. This song
has some energy and some of the best tuning on the album. That does not
say that things are great, but this is a definite improvement over the
rest of the album, but the recording quality is worse than the rest of
the album too.
I've never heard this one done as a gospel tune before "The Lord keeps
liftin' me..." . The speedy tempo is a change from the rest of the CD,
and the bass keeps it moving. A few more tuning issues here,
especially in the bridge's unison. But a nice addition to the album
(even if it *is* overdone).
This is very Sunday school. Kitschy, contemporary Christian Sunday
school. The lord keeps lifting me higher. Choral. Little soul. The bass
seems to be trying to ignore that, but the rest of it is too straight,
too dooey, and too, well, white for a black gospel group to sing, except
maybe at a puppet show for pre-schoolers.
Another familiar tune, tweaked for inspirational purposes. ("The Lord
keeps lifting me higher...") It doesn't really do anything, but again goes
on for a while, then ends. There is a little unison interlude in the middle
(with contrasting bass) where I can't say they exactly went flat, but I
wished that they hit that top note a little higher.
I must say I am not fond of this song and therefore may be
prejudiced, but this comes of as . . . undernourished. The soloist strains
a little on his notes and sounds almost goofy. Again, I am just not
inspired to clap or sing along.
Yes, this is the song you probably think of when you hear that title.
They do a passable job of singing it, as well. The tuning and balance is
questionable, but not really bad. They have a new soloist on this song,
and Stan does a good job, though he sounded like he was straining on the
highest notes. The tuning starts going downhill after the little part
that the background singers do about 2/3rds into the song. Oh well.
Clocking in at under a minute, it's the chorus! It's also the title
track, of course, and having it at both the open and close of the CD
lends a nice sort of "thematic unity", or call it what you will. The
reprise includes only the best part of the song, so it ends the CD on
a higher note.
Oh, look, here we are again. It hasn't gotten any better. If I'd been
riding this train for a while, I would get off and look for one that
either went where I was going or at least had some spectacular scenery
along the way.
There's very little difference between this and track
1 except that this one is only 51 seconds long. I don't see the
musical necessity of this reprise, but I'm guessing that it's intended
to serve as a reminder to "get on board".
This is precisely the same as before. I don't understand its
inclusion on the album but for sentimentality.
It is just a little piece of the first song, and it is done with the
same quality as it is the first time around. Decent soloist, poor tuning
in the backgrounds. Nothing new.
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