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STARific Review: Alan Jackson - Precious Memories

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Alan Jackson's first stage was in his hometown church in Newnan, Georgia; it was on that "stage" where he learned to sing many beloved hymns. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he chose to record what eventually became Precious Memories. He actually did so at the request of his mother, who wanted him to record a full album of hymns. He then presented it to her as a Christmas gift; the album consists of fifteen hymns that he loved singing, with simple background vocals, and enhanced with a lovely backdrop of guitar, piano, and organ. The album was virtually left just as it had initially been recorded.

A soothing guitar introduces BLESSED ASSURANCE, the mid-tempo opening track. Rich background vocals bestow upon the listener the feel of a church choir. Accompanied simply by a piano, Alan's sturdy vocals in both SOFTLY AND TENDERLY and I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY make for an enjoyable listen. Next, WHEN WE ALL GET TO HEAVEN marches a rejoicing minute and forty seconds toward glorious triumph. Alan's wife Denise and two of his daughters Mattie and Ali lend their voices to 'TIS SO SWEET TO TRUST IN JESUS, creating the sweetest of family harmonies. It comes to a close with one reverberating organ chord, giving the hymn a seemingly undeniable impression that it was recorded right in your hometown chapel. (Alan's third daughter, Dani, didn't sing on the track, but receives credit in the album jacket for "Assistant Background Vocals.") IN THE GARDEN is bathed in a most magnificent piano accompaniment and enhanced by guitar highlights. ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD? and I'LL FLY AWAY seamlessly flow right into each other; both tinged with bluegrass styling, each featuring tight harmony vocal parts. The dancing piano in "I'll Fly Away" makes for a refreshing rendition to the well-known tune. Next is WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS. Already a classic in itself, Alan's version emits a renewed simplicity. Here, again, the organ rings with much spiritual essence. TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS. The piano part is a prominent presence and therefore a perfect compliment to Alan's voice in this heartfelt tune. Both STANDING ON THE PROMISES and LEANING ON THE EVERLASING ARMS are feel-good tracks that offer peace and comfort to its listener. The greatness of THE OLD RUGGED CROSS and HOW GREAT THOU ART is emphasized with rich chord piano progressions, the solo musical instrument featured on these widely sung hymns. I WANT TO STROLL OVER HEAVEN WITH YOU is the appropriate album closer, as it leaves the listener with inspiration and encouragement.

Precious Memories is indeed a precious collection of songs! The vocal arrangements for each hymn are not fancily layered, because Alan recognized that they didn't need to be! In fact, that is the very beauty of this album. Revisiting his church-going days has allowed him to introduce a new generation of fans to the core values and sounds of what country music was built on.

CD INFO:

Alan Jackson
Precious Memories
ACR/Arista Nashville
Released February 28, 2006

Alan Jackson

TRACK LISTING:

1. Blessed Assurance
2. Softly and Tenderly
3. I Love to Tell the Story
4. When We All Get to Heaven
5. 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
6. In the Garden
7. Are You Washed in the Blood?
8. I'll Fly Away
9. What a Friend We Have in Jesus
10. Standing on the Promises
11. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
12. Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
13. The Old Rugged Cross
14. How Great Thou Art
15. I Want to Stroll Over Heaven With You

By: Estella Pan

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