Praise for the Ages

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It's hard to know exactly how to rate an album like this. Its surfaces are perfect: the Talleys (formerly known as the Talley Trio) are a family vocal group with impeccable blend and flawlessly professional backing musicians -- whether they're singing over lite-soul horns or lush faux-classical strings, every note is in exactly the right place and every musical gesture is sweet and uplifting, which is what you expect in Southern gospel music. The chords are sometimes complex, but never challenging; when they get jazzy, it brings to mind some kind of strange cross between the Lawrence Welk singers and the Four Freshmen. When they try to rock out, as they do on a supremely ill-advised arrangement of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, the result is more endearing than annoying. To criticize them for the smoothness of their musical surfaces would be to miss the point: the Talleys are not working to deliver a musical experience, but a spiritual one, which means that their appeal is primarily limited to those who share their beliefs and are interested in albums like this one as soundtracks to their spiritual lives. As such, this album can only be counted a success. As a musical experience, it's of interest at only the most superficial level -- because that's where all the music exists. Below that level there is simply nothing to hear. If you want both spiritual uplift and musical depth, try listening to Handel's Hallelujah Chorus as it was written. While you're at it, try listening to a couple of other versions of "Be Still My Soul" and "There Is a Fountain" as well.