CD Review: Missing People (The Kingsmen)

Rating: 5 stars (of 5)

Average song rating: 4.5 stars (of 5)

Song List: Missing People; Someday; They Went to Pray; Mountain of Grace; When It’s All Said and Done; Cheer the Weary Traveler; God Saw a Cross; He Picks Up a Beggar on the Way; God Knows; He is the Only One; Reprise – Someday.

Members: Harold Reed (tenor), Phillip Hughes (lead), Bryan Hutson (baritone), Ray Dean Reese (bass), Cody McVey (pianist), Brandon Reese (sound engineer).

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The Kingsmen’s last release, When God Ran (2008), picked up quite a bit of positive buzz, even earning a 5-star review here. It was the first project with new tenor Harold Reed and returning baritone/lead Bryan Hutson; it was also their first post-band release. But even with all the factors I could enumerate that made the project different, there was one factor that I couldn’t quite put my finger on that made all the difference.

With Missing People, that factor is a little more obvious.

First off, the basics: Missing People has a street date of September 15, but the digital download is available for purchase on Crossroads’ site now. The same vocal lineup featured on the previous project returns for this one. Pianist Cody McVey appears for the first time, but that doesn’t make much difference in the group’s sound, since groups typically use studio musicians to cut soundtracks.

The project has one nod to the past, a lively cut of the convention song “Cheer the Weary Traveler.” But—as on When God Ran—the highlight is the new material. “When It’s All Said and Done” (penned by Dustin Sweatman and Scotty Inman) and “Someday” (by Woody Wright) are strong quartet songs that should go over well in live concerts. “Mountain of Grace” (Dianne Wilkinson) and “God Saw A Cross” (Rodney Griffin) are big ballads with powerful lyrics.

The title track, “Missing People,” has some similarities to the 1997 Kingsmen song “Missing Children” (on Shelter). Both start with first verses about the loss of family and loved ones on earth. But while the earlier song, “Missing Children,” takes the idea down a Good Shepherd / evangelistic path, “Missing People” contrasts losses here on earth with the lack of loss in Heaven. (One minor side note. I hate to be nitpicky on grammar, since I’m far from perfect myself, but on the first line of the chorus, the singular “There’s”—there is—doesn’t match the plural “people.” It really should either be “There’s no missing person up in Heaven” or “There’re no missing people up in Heaven.”)

So what sets these two projects apart from the last few years of the Kingsmen discography?

Since getting the rights to the Kingsmen back a few years ago, the current lineups have been constantly compared to decades of strong recordings from one of Southern Gospel’s most popular groups. So they did their best to capture that classic Kingsmen big-and-live sound.

They really didn’t do all that badly. After all, pretty much every project from 2004’s The Past is Past picked up a few reviews that said “with this project, the Kingsmen are finally back.” But the aptly named The Past is Past was just a few years prescient.

Today’s Kingsmen have recognized that even if they can come closer than anyone else, they can never quite be the 1979 Kingsmen. So while their sound and arrangements still frequently bring to mind the classic Kingsmen sound, this lineup has found its own niche. When God Ran and Missing People show a Kingsmen lineup comfortable in their own shoes.