Most people would not wait until they were 73 before recording their first
solo project. Then again, most people are not Isaac Freeman. This is the
man who first sang with the Fairfield Four in 1948 for a couple of years,
before rejoining them in the 1980's. After receiving praise for his part in
"O Brother Where Art Thou!" Freeman has been into the studio with
Nashville's Mike Henderson and the Bluebloods, and come up with a very fine
gospel laden album.
Freeman uses a spoken introduction to several tracks, beginning with the
opener, "Standing On The Highway," where it is backed by some appropriately
churchy organ. Like most of the tracks here it is a traditional number, and
is a nice introduction to Freeman's beautifully rich bass voice. The song
also demonstrates the harmony between Freeman and the Bluebloods, which
permeates the album. For the ensuing track (and several others) the backing
band is joined by the McRary sisters on harmony vocals, who are the
daughters of the late Rev. Sam McRary who used to lead the Nashville-based
Fairfield Four when Freeman sang with them.
Although the pace throughout the album is nicely varied, the quality never
wavers. Whether it be a slow number like "Don't Drive Your Children Away"
or the positively upbeat "Lord I Want To Help You" you are always left with
the overarching feeling that Freeman and the rest of the band are putting
heart and soul into what they are doing. The album's best moment comes on
the fantastic interpretation of "When We Bow At The Altar" where everything
fits together just perfectly.
Several of the tracks have biographical reference points for Freeman. On
the title track, for example, Freeman personalizes a song that he was
taught by his mother. On the penultimate track, "I've Got Heaven on My
Mind," Freeman presents his personal tribute to the members of the
Fairfield Four, initially backed by just piano and brushed drums, before
the rest of the band step in to fill out the sound. Elsewhere the only
non-traditional tune, "You Must Come in at the Bottom," was written
specially for Freeman by Garrison Keillor. Freeman is only backed by bass
and drums here, and the lyrics appear intentionally written to have a
double meaning. On one level they are about singing bass, whilst on another
level they are about life itself.
"Beautiful Stars" is a terrific album. Anyone with a liking for the more
gospel inspired work of the Holmes Brothers will lap this up. Freeman has a
fantastic rich deep voice that will send chills down your spine, and
teaming him up with Mike Henderson and the Bluebloods was an inspired move.
The resultant synergy will have you thinking they have been working
together for years.
Simply click on the CD cover at left to order this CD NOW!
This review is copyright © 2002 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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