By JASON REYNOLDS
Tennessee Christian News
Creativity and discipleship have long been hallmarks of the music by Phillips, Craig & Dean. The group’s latest album is no exception.
The Christian vocal group recently released its 15th album, “Above It All.” The first single is titled, “Jesus, Only Jesus.” That song has hit No. 1 on the Billboards Soft AC chart, so the group now has 24 No. 1 hits in its career.
The ‘write’ stuff
I had the chance to speak with Dan Dean last week about what makes “Above It All” stand out above all other albums: The writing.
“What makes this one special is that we focused on writing these songs and doing co-writes,” Dean said.
Six of the 10 tracks were co-written by other artists. PCD, as the group is commonly called, used co-written songs in the early days but got away from the practice over the years as life got busy, Dean said.
For “Above It All,” Phillips, Craig & Dean made the time for writing.
“Each of us brought 10 songs to the table, and between us six were selected. It’s always a difficult process trying to pick the 10 best songs for a project. You have to remove your own bias out of the equation; no one ever has an ugly baby. If you give birth to something, you fight for it and want it on the album.”
PCD’s longtime producer and friend Nathan Nockels produced “Jesus, Only Jesus.” For the rest of the album, the group made a big change and went with a new producer, Seth Mosley.
The production behind the scenes is a change as well for “Above It All.” The group worked with a new producer, Seth Mosley for nine tracks.
“Randy (Phillips), my co-partner in singing, met him and in his south Texas drawl said, ‘Seth, you were five years old when we did our first album. I’ve got cheese in my fridge older than you.’”
Mosley is young, but he has worked with some notable albums, including the hit 2011 “God’s Not Dead” by the Newsboys. Now, he brings his talents to Phillips, Craig & Dean.
Changing it up
“There are different sounds on this album than probably we are comfortable with,” Dean said. “That’s a good thing. You’re always afraid of a rut and becoming irrelevant if you do not change your sound. Music changes in an ebb and flow. You have to … have the newer sounds, newer musical flavors without losing your distinctiveness. That’s not easy. You get comfortable with producers. We had Nathan for many albums. He knows you. Good producers are like good psychologists; they do more than record. They have a way of getting the best out of the artist.”
“‘Above It All’ still has the touches of classic PCD harmony,” Dean said. “That’s our strongest trademark. With our voices, generally, the whole is greater than the individual. Seth found a great way of doing that.”
Worship is another classic PCD hallmark. “Jesus, Only Jesus” lifts the Lord up.
“With our albums, you don’t question what the focus is,” Dean said. “It’s very vertical; lifting the Lord up, pointing to Jesus.”
“Jesus, Only Jesus” is not the only song worth your time. Check out “Voices From the Other Side,” written by Randy Phillips and Matthew West. The song was born after Phillips attended Dean’s father’s funeral last January.
“He was larger than life. He was a World War II veteran, pastor, and was shot three times in the war.”
Phillips came up with the song idea, and Dean said he nearly turned the song off the first several times while listening to it because it was so emotional.
The song goes, “I’m tryin’ to carry through in a world without you/And it ain’t easy/No/They say there’s a cloud of witnesses cheerin’ everybody on/And in that choir of angels I know you’re the loudest one/Shouting keep your eyes on Jesus in whatever you do.”
Dean said he is also partial to “If Not for Grace,” which he wrote with his son, Devin, and songwriter Jennie Lee Riddle, who wrote PCD’s smash hit “Revelation Song.”
“None of us would be anywhere without God’s grace in our lives. If we start to think otherwise or be boastful, we will be reminded … we would be so lost.”
“Revelation Song” in August was certified gold, meaning it sold 500,000 units. It was No. 1 for 17 weeks on Billboard’s AC Monitored chart.
It looks like PCD will keep that success track going with “Jesus, Only Jesus” hitting No. 1.
“It’s just amazing we’re still relevant at all,” Dean said. “Getting the right people around us musically, from the producer standpoint and getting really good songs has been key. We’ve captured some really great vocal performances in the studio. Radio has been really great to us. They’ve embraced us for a long time.”