This post is part of the Encore Series, posts highlighting Southern Gospel songs of the past that should be brought back.
Poet Voices’ 2001 recording This Changes Everything represented a high-water mark for the group. As it turns out, they were two years away from retiring from the road. The record was the strongest they recorded in the years immediately preceding their retirement. With songs like “It’ll Be Joy,” “Grand and Glorious Savior,” and the #1 radio hit “The Key”—#1 ten years ago next month—it would be easy to overlook “A Wonderful Shepherd.” But don’t!
The lyrics draw clear inspiration from Psalm 23, pivoting to a chorus that focuses on the Good Shepherd’s modern-day guidance of His sheep. The melody is mellow and quietly pleasant. Quartets, which, by definition, attract freaks of nature, often find it a challenge to shift into this soft of a gear and this tight of a blend. To their credit, Poet Voices did a brilliant job achieving the tight blends for this pleasingly subdued track.
Their rendition does not appear to be anywhere on YouTube, but sound clips are available here, here, and here.
This sort of song is on home turf with the tight harmonies of family groups, and one in particular would be a great fit for the song. Sisters—the sibling trio of Kim Ruppe Lord, Heather Ruppe Day, and Valerie Ruppe Medkiff—has some of the tightest harmonies in our genre. A Sisters remake of this song would be sparkling perfection.
If you were to pick a group to bring this song back, who would it be, and why?
This post is part of the Encore Series, posts highlighting Southern Gospel songs of the past that should be brought back.
Danny Funderburk joined the Cathedrals in 1983. His first Cathedrals recording was Distinctively, a table project highlighted by his stunningly rendition of the Bill & Gloria Gaither song “Even So, Lord Jesus, Come.”
Funderburk’s second recording with the Cathedrals—and first mainline recording—was The Prestigious Cathedral Quartet. It was a landmark recording for the Cathedrals. They had risen to the top of the genre with previous tenor Kirk Talley and the albums Something Special and Live in Atlanta. This album established that they were on the top to stay—that Glen Payne and George Younce would be able to maintain everything that made the Cathedrals something special through lineup changes.
The Prestigious Cathedral Quartet was full of career-defining songs: “Somebody Touched Me,” “Build an Ark,” “It’s Almost Over,” “When the World Looks at Me,” and, on the lighter side, “Old Convention Song.” Amidst this admittedly prestigious company, it would be all too easy to miss the lush closing track, “Next Time We Meet.”
The song, written by Bill and Gloria Gaither, is one of a small handful of songs intended as concert-closing benedictional songs. Here is the song on YouTube (regrettably audio-only):
Lari Goss’s magnificent multi-dimensional arrangement brings out both the melody’s sweetness and, at appropriate points, the lyric’s power. Later arrangements—the two Gaither Homecoming renditions, Bonnie Keen’s on Passin’ the Faith Along (2004) and Charlotte Ritchie’s on Jerusalem Homecoming (2005)—bring out the sweetness. But neither captures the lyric’s power with the clarity of the Cathedrals’ rendition.
It’s time for this song to make a comeback. One artist who could do a particularly worthy rendition would be The Talleys. Debra Talley’s exquisite alto is perfectly suited for the lushness of the solo lines, while Brian and Lauren (Talley) Alvey’s harmonies can bring all the vocal power the song needs.
On their 1976 recording Mighty Power, the Couriers recorded a hymn penned by Fanny Crosby (lyrics) and Robert Lowry (melody), “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.” The hymn was originally published in Biglow & Main’s The Brighest and Best hymnal (1875).
The hymn has three verses; there are repeats at the end of the verses, but no chorus (lyrics and sheet music here). The Couriers’ arrangement features unison on the first verse, splitting into parts for the second. The third verse starts off with the trio harmonies; after a brief solo, a return to the trio harmonies builds and swells to a big ending.
Out of 21,748 tracks in my iTunes collection, virtually all of which are Southern Gospel, there is no other rendition of this hymn—and the only other rendition that I can find online that is even tangentially connected to the genre is a rendition by the Old Fashioned Revival Hour Quartet on a self-titled project, and that group tends to be more often classified with sacred music than with Southern Gospel. So the Couriers’ rendition may actually be the only rendition yet by a professional Southern Gospel group.
But this song would lend itself naturally to a number of different settings:
First, it could be done as a gentle, easy-on-the-ears concert opener by a trio with tight harmonies. The Booth Brothers and Jacob Kitson’s new group, Statement of Faith, would be two who could interpret the song effectively with this arrangement.
Second, this song would have been right at home on the Gaither Vocal Band’s 2003 a cappella project. The arrangements were created by David Phelps, and now that he has returned to the group, he could use five voices to bring out some rich vocal textures in this song.
Third, if any group were to do an arrangement inspired by the original Couriers version, the Mark Trammell Quartet would be perfect. The first four lines of the second verse would feature Dustin Sweatman, while the first four of verse three would lend themselves well to rich quartet harmonies. A Pat Barker bass solo step-out on lines five and six of these verses would be spine-chillingly perfect. Then, of course, a huge quartet ending would bring the arrangement to a glorious conclusion.
I’m not really sure how this one slipped through, from the Cathedrals’ 1986 release Master Builder. It’s a cleverly crafted, beautifully executed up-tempo piece with a bit of a bluegrass flavor. Die-hard Cathedrals fans probably know the song. The production is driven by banjo and fiddles, giving it that country/western air. It’s tough to write an up-tempo SG song that manages to be substantial and meaningful at the same time, but this one is. It uses vivid metaphors to describe how much we need God—we are the man in the desert thirsty for a cool drink, the cold child longing for a fire to warm him. And we are the prodigal who tried to tackle life on his own and lost everything he had. Indeed, we cannot “make it by ourselves.” Here’s my favorite couplet:
A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do
But he doesn’t have to do it alone.
It seems that “I Just Can’t Make It” got lost in the shadow of more popular up-tempo numbers like “Can He, Could He, Would He?” This is a shame, because I like it even better than some of those more instantly recognizable tunes. Because it’s a forgotten gem, I’m not going to advocate a radical re-working of the arrangement here. If someone were to bring this back “like new” while sticking pretty close to the original, I wouldn’t complain.
So who should do it? Well, Signature Sound would have been a natural fit, but understandably this one didn’t make it onto their tribute project. My first thought was actually the Booth Brothers when I heard this song, but ultimately, I settled on the Mark Trammell Quartet. Who better to revive it now than MTQ, since the song even featured Mark originally? Pat Barker could handle George’s bass step-outs capitally, and Mark could take the lead. Who agrees with me that this is an obvious candidate for being dusted off and that the MTQ is the obvious group to do it?
Gold City fans will most likely recognize the song “Hide Me Behind the Cross” from their 1999 release Signed, Sealed, and Delivered. However, it seems that once Jay Parrack left the group, this song gradually fell out of their regular set. The only Youtube I’ve been able to find of the group doing the song is from a Gold City reunion, where Jay carried it as on the studio cut.
I personally think this is a shame, as the song is beautiful and certainly doesn’t deserve to fade into obscurity. For those who don’t know the song, it is a prayer that God would take our imperfections and clothe them with His righteousness, so that we are hidden in the brightness of His glory. The idea is clearly taken from what Paul says in Galatians about how we are crucified with Christ, nevertheless we live. And yet at the same time, it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives through and in us. “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Compare with the chorus of this song:
Hide me behind the cross,
Where my gains become as loss.
And only Your glory is in view.
Your power will be revealed
The more that I am concealed.
Hide me behind the cross
So the world sees only You.
The entire lyric is exceedingly thoughtful and well-crafted, full of truth and meaning. The music complements it perfectly.
It would be truly sad if this piece were to die with the singer who initially popularized it. Therefore, since Gold City appears to have retired it, I propose that it be brought back.
Who should do it? My suggestion might surprise some readers, but I think Signature Sound could take this song and give it a truly lovely treatment. As for the arrangement, I personally would love to hear Ernie Haase put his stamp on it, but some might argue that this would be too similar to the initial cut. So an alternative would be to start the song in a lower key and have Doug Anderson lead the first half of it. The combined strength and tenderness of his voice could communicate the lyric very convincingly. But after the first chorus, it might work to have a sudden key change several steps up (as opposed to the half-step key change in the Gold City cut) and hand over the lead to Ernie, who would then carry the second verse and chorus. This could be very powerful and would certainly raise the roof performed live.
Another excellent possibility would be the Mark Trammell Quartet. Since Mark is himself a former Gold City member, it would be very natural for him to begin incorporating the song into his group’s repertoire. However, their version would no doubt be very similar to the original… unless they gave it to Pat Barker, perhaps?
I started the encore series several months ago to revisit songs that are too good to be forgotten.
Monuments occupies a unique place in Legacy Five’s discography. Though Roger Bennett would go on to record four more projects with the group—an a cappella album, a studio table project, a live table project, and a live project of new songs—Monuments was the group’s final studio album with Bennett at the creative helm.
The project was anchored by the title track and by two Bennett solos, “Out of My Darkness” and “Whispers in the Night.” The latter song, coupled with Bennett’s powerful testimony as he was entering into what would be his final battle with cancer, brought the house down at NQC 2004.
Though this project marked an end in one way for Legacy Five, it was the start of another: Monuments introduced Frank Seamans to Legacy Five fans. He would go on to stay longer at the tenor slot (five years) than any L5 tenor before or since. Seamans’ personality would lead him to take an active role in concerts; he would give his testimony each night. For the first two years or so, it would lead into his big feature from this project, “Calvary Reminds Me.”
His other solo waited quietly at spot eight for its turn in the sun. But though the group did sing it here and there (video), “Not That You Died” was never really used to its potential.
This Belinda Smith / Tony Wood collaboration starts simply enough, musing on the familiarity of John 3:16. The chorus highlights our personal response to salvation:
It’s not that You died for the whole world
That humbles my heart, brings me to my knees
Not that You died for the whole world
But Lord, that You died for me
The second verse paints a picture of the crucifixion scene, and builds into the chorus’s response. There is no bridge; after a modulation and another chorus, the song comes to a close.
This song was effective as a big ballad, but now that it has been down that route, a group revisiting the song would do well to go another direction. The lyrics are more reflective, more meditative than typically found in anthemic big ballads. So while the big ballad treatment brings out the power of the melody, a simpler, acoustic easy-listening version, perhaps with a light jazzy touch, would bring out the power of the lyric.
The perfect fit for an encore of this song would be Legacy Five’s good friends, the Booth Brothers.
This post is part of the Encore Series, posts highlighting Southern Gospel songs of the past that should be brought back. When I launched the Encore Series, this was part of my original short list of six songs that spurred the concept.
Unless you are a longtime Nelons fan, chances are you’ve never heard the song “Medals, Crowns, and Trophies.” And that’s a shame.
The Nelons cut the song on their Get Ready project in 1988. But the group’s vocal prowess—on par with the best in that era—is only one-third of the forumula that makes the song a classic. The other two thirds are the producer, Lari Goss, and the songwriting team, Phil & Carolyn Cross. Goss and the Crosses were fresh off the success of the previous year’s blockbuster radio hit “Champion of Love” (Cathedrals).
The similarities don’t end with the songwriting / production team or the arrangements: Both songs are based on a metaphor, and “Medals, Crowns and Trophies” uses a metaphor at least as stirring. “Champion of Love” is overtly based on the metaphor of a wrestling match—a sport not followed by most Southern Gospel fans—while “Medals, Crowns, and Trophies” is based, albeit more subtly, on the more familiar metaphor of a race.
This song was a big ballad back when a Lari Goss big ballad was the new thing, long before an era where many try and few succeed at even coming close to the skills of the dean of Southern Gospel orchestration. The arrangement can actually be heard on YouTube here, though with one vocal change. On the album version, Kelly Nelon sings both verses, while on the otherwise unreleased version found on YouTube, Jerry Thompson sings the first verse.
Especially compared to its far more famous cousin, “Medals, Crowns, and Trophies” is largely forgotten. But it shouldn’t be.
Group Suggestion: Greater Vision. We already know that Gerald Wolfe’s voice is a perfect fit for delivering a Cross song of that era. And in the hands of the same producer, the song would be as good as new—or, likely enough, even better.
This post is part of the Encore Series, posts highlighting Southern Gospel songs of the past that should be brought back. All the entries in this post were appreciated and considered, but when my mom suggested this one, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for.
After over a decade off the road, the Statesmen returned in 1992. This was due (at least partly) to the Homecoming videos reawakening interest in the legends of the genre. This is not a historical stretch, either, since Bill Gaither himself produced Revival, a 1992 project reintroducing the group.
Revival drew criticism from some long-time fans for introducing more instrumentation than the Statesmen were known for in the 1960s. But it was far less a change from the instrumentation on their 1970s recordings, and the tracks were unmistakably rooted in the Statesmen tradition. However the project may have struck the years of a fan of the 1960s lineup who hadn’t heard the group since, the album’s sound stands the test of time and sounds fantastic now, almost two decades later.
When the Statesmen hit the road again in 1992, they did so with an all-star cast. Legends Jake Hess and Hovie Lister returned to reprise their roles at piano and lead. Johnny Cook sang tenor, Biney English sang baritone, and Bob Caldwell sang bass.
Though most of Revival stayed within the classic Statesmen style, the second-to-last track, “Every Eye Shall See,” is a monumental ballad featuring tenor Johnny Cook. The liner notes mistakenly credit the song to Bill and Gloria Gaither; according to BMI, Bill Gaither’s co-writer was Robert Farrell. (Bill and Gloria did co-write another song by the same title, a praise chorus recorded on the original New Gaither Vocal Band project.)
The song addresses the a topic is so relevant that it’s a wonder more songs haven’t addressed it. The first verse introduces the problem:
You may live like there’s no tomorrow Be your voice of authority Make your claim how the Gospel is failing Speak your mind while speaking is free
“While speaking is free” implies that speaking won’t always be free, and sets up this magnificent lyric in the pre-chorus
For the day is coming when school will be out There’ll be no more discussion and no more doubt For the sky will open and Jesus descend with a shout
Every eye shall see Every knee shall bow Every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord
The second verse introduces and rebuts a specific criticism:
Some may say God’s Word is outdated His commandments are all passé But what they say, it won’t make much difference When He returns with the last words to say
This leads into the second pre-chorus, using the familiar metaphor of a hammer and anvil to describe God’s word and its detractors:
For His truth is an anvil that’s righteous and fair And many a hammer’s been broken there So hammer away with a vengeance—just as long as you dare
This leads into the final choruses.
The magnificent lyric encapsulates one of the biggest problems facing the church, attempts by liberal theologians and academics who would seek to undermine the faith from within (or, in the case of a Bart Ehrman, from without). But the lyrics only introduce that to set up the heart of the message—that skepticism will not last forever, and Truth wins in the end.
The soaring melody was perfect for a legendary voice of Johnny Cook’s stature. Later renditions of the Statesmen continued to stage the song, as evidenced by this YouTube video [EDIT, 4/9/13: Broken link removed.] featuring Cook’s and Hess’s replacements, Tank Tackett and Jack Toney. Even though that later rendition doesn’t quite measure up to the original, it’s still worth a listen if you have never heard the song.
Group suggestion: A group like Triumphant Quartet would be a perfect fit for this song. Even before I realized that the Statesmen’s original rendition featured Johnny Cook, from the minute I first heard the song I was thinking “David Sutton.”
Other than an evidently little-remembered performance by Cindy Epstein, I cannot find any other instances of this song being cut. Have there been any other renditions? And does anyone (I’m looking at you, D.A.) have footage of the original lineup’s version?
UPDATE, 4/8/13: A reader notices that a version with Johnny Cook has now been posted to YouTube:
If I have a great idea for a column, I’ll just name it and start it. But since I don’t have a good idea here, I thought I would open the floor for ideas.
I am planning on launching one or two columns with occasional entries on (a) forgotten songs from Southern Gospel that a group should bring back and (b) songs from other genres (CCM, Praise and Worship etc.) that would work well in ours.
Here’s the hard part: I’m looking for a one or two word column name—and three at the max.
Joseph Habedank leaves The Perrys (41) Anom: Youre welcome ! Yea I mean it’s hard to tell some days his brain is still healing. Olaneljonoisleje: @Brian I just saw that David will be filling in with the Perry’s until June 9th. I guess we were on the right track. Jeffrey: What would absolutely be tremendous is if a couple of temporary, yet well known “free agents” could come on board with the Perry’s for the rest of the year. Obviously a...
David Ragan leaves The Inspirations (16) Del Hughes: Sorry to see David leave. He was a good asset to the Inspirations. I have had the privilege to introduce the Inspirations in concert over the years in the Searcy, AR area. I have been a...
Saturday News Roundup #173 (6) Daniel J. Mount: No problem! Guy: Thanks, that makes sense. sorry i missed it. Daniel J. Mount: I said that in the main post, the one to which I linked here. For a quick summary – where, to match the length of the other headlines, I could only pick one of the two... Guy: Roger “and Kirk” Talley’s father died this week. Daniel J. Mount: Davie, Thank you for the encouragement!
Glenn Dustin leaves Legacy Five (136) Jeffrey: I’d just like to say to Glenn Dustin, if he’s reading these posts, that he is loved and extremely missed by this fan in particular and the entire Southern Gospel fan base in... Jeffrey: Let’s be clear on one thing….there is no bass singer…. I mean NO bass singer out there today that could match George Younce, JD Sumner or Big Chief Jim Wetherington....