Due for release in March through Columbia Records, Something Big is the sixth studio album from three time Grammy Award-winning Gospel sister duo Mary Mary, entirely produced by longtime collaborator Warryn Campbell. Often considered as some of the pioneers of urban contemporary gospel, the Campbell (formerly Atkins) sisters Erica and Tina are back with the follow-up album to the critically acclaimed and hugely successful 2008 album The Sound, which debuted at number 7 on the US billboard album charts and birthed two Grammy Awards.
Whilst any kind of success and acclaim that Something Big receives in the same vein as its predecessor will suit Mary Mary and their record label just fine I am sure, the sisters are however clear to stress that the overriding “guiding light” for their music and this album is to connect with people and offer them real hope that “ultimately changes lives”.
Something Big attempts to kick off with a big bang from the word go with two up-tempo numbers starting with the album’s title track – the bass heavy guitar-driven, drums-supported praise song, ‘Something Big,’ which does nothing for me for the most part – and secondly with the catchy ‘Something Bigger’ backed by fast-paced and light drum patterns, faring much better than the album’s opener.
The song ‘Blind’ is when I start getting interested in this album as their vocal abilities begin to take centre stage and the musical backdrop retreats to a more supporting role on yhid slow (to mid) tempo number about the blind love of God towards the singing Campbell sisters, backed by sharp thumping drums, trailing keyboard lines and complementary synth sounds.
Their gorgeous vocal abilities are taken up a level on the next song, titled ‘It is Well,’ despite the unnecessary auto-tuned backing vocals on what is otherwise a perfect acappella rendition of a worship song. Without knocking the use of auto-tune as the singular musical backdrop on the entire song, it does do less good than it does harm and a more natural vocal harmony would have sufficed rather beautifully. Nonetheless, the Campbell sisters are undeniable in their vocal roles to make ‘It is Well’ one of my early favourites of this album.
‘Never Wave My Flag’ is a mid-tempo piano-driven fiery number laced with lush drum patterns which see Mary Mary in defiant mood as they sing about never giving up in the face of adversity and tribulations. The chorus seems to be quite repetitive at first but the drum solo in the middle of the chorus [and also at the bridge] adds some spark to the hook and to the entire song overall.
The album’s lead single ‘Walking’ is a smooth R&B/Hip Hop production laced with pronounced keyboard lines, corroborated by drum kicks, the lightest of DJ scratches and infectious hand claps, upon which Mary Mary give another enjoyable vocal performance with the customary message of walking with God and taking it one day at a time while refusing to rush through life.
The album’s following song, titled ‘Slow Walk’ is simply a stripped down reprise of the preceding ‘Walking’ single and works beautifully in gently gliding you into the next song on the album; the infectiously catchy and rather inspiring ‘Survive’ which is another of my favorite on the 12-track album.
The final third of the album begins ‘Are You Ready’; three odd minutes of life-affirming lyrics, uplifting music, catchy hooks laced with a cordial message about being ready to change one’s life. It does make for easy listening but I reckon to expect anything else from a ‘Mary Mary’ album would be somewhat misguided.
The next two songs on the album, ‘Catch Me’ and ‘Sitting With Me,’ are two very beautifully written and rendered songs with the first one (‘Catch Me’) a heart warming show of appreciation to God for his mercy, grace and essentially for catching Erica and Tina Campbell when they fall, and the second one (my personal favourite; ‘Sitting With Me’) a triumphant and powerful declaration and proclamation of exactly whose side these sisters are on in case we may have been unsure thus far.
The last song on the album, ‘Homecoming Glory,’ feels like a very personal song that Eric and Tina want to share with you as they sing this with a relaxed and assured passion that not only commands your attention but leaves you in a warm and tranquil place at the same time, in what is a really fitting end to the Something Big album.
The album seldom moves me or touches me in the way that I envision or expect a gospel album would or should except for one or two songs every time and while that might seem an unfair assessment to make [or more so, speaks volumes about how far I am spiritually from my God], I think the power of a gospel album is lost if it cannot touch it’s listener in some measure.
Having said that – and without trying to compare this album to a preacher’s sermon, even though their purposes are somewhat intertwined – the truth and beauty of this album is that you can and should certainly go back to it at different intervals and songs which didn’t register with you in the first place will begin to speak to you.
It’s not groundbreaking and it doesn’t ultimately change my life but it does connect with me on a few occasions and parts of the album are undeniably life-inspiring;Something Big is definitely worth the listen.
Something BIG is out on March 29th, 2011 through Columbia Records.
Pre-Order: Mary Mary – Something BIG