Wielding a nasty blues harp, a smokin' band and a gutsy, soulful rock and roll vocal style, Darrell Mansfield can go toe-to-toe with the best of them – and if you don't believe me, let your ears prove it to you with The Darrell Mansfield Ultimate Series Collection.
5 discs: 78 tracks
In the annals of 'Christian rock' there aren't a whole lot of artists who can go up against the big boys from the other side of the fence and come away wiping the blood off their hands and smiling. You know what I mean – we're not talking about Bill Gaither here. Wielding a nasty blues harp, a smokin' band and a gutsy, soulful rock and roll vocal style, Darrell Mansfield can go toe-to-toe with the best of them – and if you don't believe me, let your ears prove it to you with The Darrell Mansfield Ultimate Series Collection.
The five discs that make up the collection total no less than 78 tracks broken down into the Live Collection, the Rock & Blues Collection, the Delta & Gospel Blues Collection, the Hard Rock Collection, and the Soft Hits Collection – don't be fooled by that last one, by the way, since Mansfields's 'soft' hits are closer to 'hard pop' than what the title might imply.
A true pioneer and icon of the Jesus Rock movement, Mansfield has often found himself on the outskirts of the more accepted community of Christian artists, and that just might be because of the authenticity of his blues-based hard rock style – a style that most CCM labels certainly shied away from and, frankly, a style that few artists were able to really acquire in their musical arsenal. Mansfield, though, kept it real. Maybe too real for Christian radio.
Even for fans of his work, it's been hard keeping up with Darrell's releases, so this collection is a real fan's treasure. Here you have the best of Mansfield in the studio and (thankfully) live. Nicely remastered, Mansfield's harmonica snarls through the speakers and his too-often overlooked vocal work shines with enhanced fidelity and minus the snap, crackle and pop of the vinyl releases. The only audio glitch here (on my set, at least) happens on the Hard Rock CD, where there's a puzzlingly abrupt end on "Heaven Southwestern" followed by a 30 secong gap before the last track, the blazingly energetic rocker, "Bible Study."
Mansfield and his band roar through tracks that straddle blues, hard rock and even metal (can't you hear Stryper covering "Jesus Shall Reign?"). The live tracks in particular thunder with energy and power – the players are all stunning (and, unfortunately, not detailed in any liner notes), and if the majority of the guitar shredding is by Eric Turner... well, he should've been a household name a long time ago. In fact, it would have been a real benefit to have included a detailed booklet with liner notes, but there's always Wikepedia, I suppose...
The Darrell Mansfield Ultimate Series Collection is a primer on blues and rock & roll – and, of course, on Darrell Mansfield – a consummate practitioner of both. Even the Soft Hits Collection – which I put off listening to 'till last (me being a rock & roller at heart) – was a wonderful listen. Mansfield's pop work is fun and thoroughly enjoyable, and his 'softer' vocals have an interesting mix of tone and phrasing that reminded me of B. J. Thomas and Edgar Winter! This is blue-eyed soul at its best.
By all means, this collection is a must-have for fans of Darrell Mansfield and should be required listening for anyone interested in the early roots of the Jesus Music movement. Thankfully, most of what you'll hear is not irrelevant or dated, since the blues will always be the blues and – from what I can tell – the heart of rock and roll is still beating. If you have any doubts, they'll be gone after you listen to this collection.