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Precious Memories ()

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Ten studio albums into his career, Alan Jackson takes a bit of a breather with 2006's Precious Memories, his first ever gospel album. Not coincidentally, it's his quietest record to date, as hushed and reverent as a Sunday service, with each track boasting little more than a piano, acoustic guitar, harmony vocals, and maybe an organ. There may not be much musical variety to these spare, intimate arrangements, but they suit this set of sturdy traditional gospel classics, and they also suit Jackson, who always has been eager to pay respect to his idols and influences. On most of his albums, this reverence doesn't sound overly reverent since he does sing loose, rocking honky tonk and indulges in a sense of humor, two things that help illustrate his good taste. Here, every song is deliberately calm and consciously tasteful, which may make for perfect music for church, but hardly makes for a dynamic record. As the album rolls on, the similarity in tempo and arrangements gives the album a monotonous, sleepy quality; each individual track is well crafted and sincere, but taken as a whole, it all blurs together and winds up seeming twice as long as its 37 minutes. But even if Precious Memories winds up as something slightly underwhelming, there's no denying that this is precisely the album Jackson wanted to make, one that's consistent in tone and exact in its vision. It may not make for everyday listening, even an album that would be played every week, yet it would make a good soundtrack for a reflective, reverent Sunday afternoon. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi Hide synopsis

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