Before such innovative artists such as Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary, there was Commissioned, a band that broke new ground in gospel music during the mid-1980s. Their songs had a distinctive R&B flair, but pulled no punches with their uncompromising message of Jesus Christ. Keith Staten, Marcus Cole, Michael Williams, Maxx Frank, Karl Reid, Mitchell Jones, Marvin Sapp, and of course, Fred Hammond, were part of the group at one time or another.

A number of Commissioned's founding members now have their own ministries, but they've come together with current group members for Reunion Live, a live 2-CD set spanning a decade and a half of the group's most popular tunes.

The beautifully harmonic Strange Land and the Keith Staten-led uptempo You've Got a Friend can't help but bring back fond memories. I'm Going On and You Keep On Blessing Me are included, as are the funky Back in the Saddle and the pleading Lord Jesus Help Me (Help Somebody Else).

New arrangements give the familiar songs a new sound and bring the group into the new millennium. The celebratory Let Me Tell It and the upbeat Victory are strong, but Commissioned isn't known just for rhythmic, head-bobbing hits. Slow, heart-wrenching ballads like The City, Cry On, Love Isn't Love and 'Tis So Sweet are the true highlights of this collection. The Fred-Hammond-penned Running Back To You, perhaps the group's most beloved hit, is also included.

The 29-song CD, produced by Fred Hammond, doesn't miss a beat. The improvisational stylings of the lead singers bring an extra flair to this already exceptional collage of songs. I had the opportunity to attend the Commissioned Reunion Tour recently, and I have to say, it was moving to hear thousands of people singing every word of the songs. Just another testimony that Commissioned's legacy is secure.