The Forgotten Album by the Kingdom Heirs

February 25th, 2007

I haven’t seen a review of the Kingdom Heirs’ last album, apparently a table project called, “Off the Record”.  That’s a shame for many reasons.  The album (or CD, if you prefer) is a tribute to the Statesmen Quartet and having heard the Statesmen in person many years ago, i can’t remember any group accurately following the Statesmen “formula” any better than the Kingdom Heirs did here.

 I don’t have time for a full review (that will come tomorrow or Monday), but the only thing that marred the project was the lack of a strong tenor.  Nothing against Billy, but he doesn’t qualify as Denver Crumpler or Rosie Rozelle.  More on that later. I still giddy that the  Singing News decided to print one of Avery Fineline’s articles.  That goes into the “unbelievable” file immediately.

The Gaither Nashville Sessions

February 16th, 2007

Earlier this month, Bill Gaither decided, after a long period of wandering through different formats, to go back to the basics.  What are the basics, you ask?  Invite everyone in Southern Gospel music to a certain place and sing.  That’s the way the original Homecoming videos were created some 15 years ago.

To keep things fresh, Gaither branched out to include some live shows in different, interesting venues including New Orleans, Memphis, Washington, DC, London, and Ireland.  Then we had the Israel and South Africa Homecomings and interest waned because the same five or six artists performed on all of these.  Many of us wrote the Gaither company to ask for another video (or DVD, if you prefer) where everyone in our genre was represented.  The last such video (or DVD) was in 2001 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis. 

Gaither answered our requests with this DVD (alright, i give up–VCR’s are out of date) to be released next year (why does it take so long?).  It will apparently span four DVD’s, so get your wallets or credit cards ready.  Apparently, it was a great experience to all involved.

I’m mentioning this only because my favorite blogger got into hot water by publishing a pseudo-review of what went on that was negative.  He followed that up with a parody of Chuck Peters’ Southern Gospel Reporter coverage of the taping and the result was one reader piling on him over and over.  Shameful.

Anyway, those of us who are Gaither fanatics (I should pause here to explain why I am a Gaither fanatic.  I have written over and over that my Dad sung in an amatueur group and I was raised on southern gospel.  It was only after Gaither started putting out videos that I rediscovered the genre.  I spent what has to be 25 years without the music and Gaither brought be back with the songs I remembered from my youth and I thank him), apparently don’t like criticism (excepting me, of course).  Yes, Bill is the Lawrence Welk of southern gospel and the old heroes are mostly gone,but the music is still good, if not repetitive and sometime boring.  The Canadian Homecoming package is a good example.  I loved both DVD’s, but I haven’t gone back to them like I do the older ones.  The reaction of the other artists when groups perform is one example.  We were just missing that.

We need a sense of humor about all of this.  Yes, I like the old Homecomings and I know I’m going to love the Nashville sessions.  A lot.  Though the series is now tired and a little passe, I still look forward to each new one, even if I’m disappointed sometimes.  Others feel differently, and that’s Ok by me.  Maybe we just need to respect other opinions on this.  Regardless, Gaither will sell so many more than any other organization in southern gospel it makes no difference anyway. 

The Non-Review of “Get Away Jordan”

February 16th, 2007

I said in an earlier post that I was going to review the new Signature Sound DVD, “Get Away Jordan”.  I’ve changed my mind.  Here’s my advice.  If you like good, tight harmony and a group that hasn’t forgotten their heritage and traditions along with some showmanship, buy the DVD.  If you like all of that, including some pretty good material, but don’t like the showmanship factor, buy the CD.

 Either way, it’s great music and might just bless you too.

The Great Signature Sound Debate

February 5th, 2007

On every southern gospel blog, there seems to be something about Ernie Haase and Signature Sound Quartet.  It’s mainly because they aren’t traditional in look and “the dancing.”  I will not call that dancing because it isn’t, but I will say they are very creative.  Let’s go back 50 years (say, 1957). 

In that year, I was nine years old.  Dad was a gospel singer in a non-professional quartet called “the Midland Trail Quartet”.  They had made records (one of which was a great song called, “I’m Riding the Range for Jesus”) and were very popular around the local Greenbrier County, WV area.  Of course, the Statesmen were the talk of all the groups.  Many felt that Hovie Lister’s group was simply going too far.  They danced (sort of), sang spirituals (really taboo in 1957), and wore flashy clothes.  That honky-tonk piano style that Hovie played was simply “of the devil”.  I heard of lot of that as a kid.  How could they win souls doing all of that?  It was simply entertainment and “nothing of God”.

Flash forward to today.  Isn’t EHSSQ criticized for dancing, wearing flashy clothes (and hair), and entertaining rather than saving souls?  Not to say that Ernie’s boys are comparable to the Statesmen (because they aren’t musically or in any way as good as showmanship), but it just seems the comparison is eerie, at least to this aging man.  Isn’t it much ado about nothing?

Going back to 1957, even though the conversation continued at my house, Dad bought Statesmen albums, they sang Statesmen songs, and even went to Statesmen concerts (where I got to meet Hovie and Jake).  Today, they are considered the best of the best.  Wonder if that’s in the cards for EHSSQ?  Time will tell.

I have a review of the latest video from “Ernie and the boys” ready to post soon, but it’s for another day.  I might refer you to www.southerngospelblog for one opinion while you’re waiting (if anyone can find this blog).

Kingsmen Review – “Good Good God”

January 8th, 2007

I’ve never been much of a Kingsmen fan for some reason.  Many tell me it’s because I’ve never seen them in concert, and that may be true.  But for some reason, they just didn’t strike my fancy.  Oh, I enjoyed the late-nineties album “Shelter” and their appearances on the Gaither videos, but a fan would be stretching it.

Then about a year ago, Tim Surrett quit the group and they hired Tony Peace as their baritone.  That interested me.  I’ve been a Tony Peace fan for a long time since his days with the Palmetto State Quartet.  He has a distinctive voice that I enjoy and blends well with a quartet.  I was interested to find out if Tony would be the major player he was with Palmetto State.  If you remember, Tony sang most of the leads for the PSQ as well as emceed their events.

In this album, you can hear Tony and his influence, but he hardly is the whole show.  For whatever reason, including Tony being on the session, this is a fine album with some fresh material.

The album begins with the title track and ends with “To Count for Jesus”, but some musical magic is made in between those two songs.  All the songs include tight harmony and great musicianship.  The country-flavored opening song features lead singer Phillip Hughes with Tony taking the lead halfway through the song.  It then reverts back to Hughes.  Well done.  The second song has Peace taking the lead on “God Can Save Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime.”  The song has a funky beat to start and then goes into some old fashioned quartet humming and the traditional country beat.

“Finished Indeed” is next featuring tenor Jeremy Peace followed by “Jesus My Lord” with Tony and Phillip trading the lead back and forth.  This song is bound to be a favorite in concert as it has an almost secular sound to it, resembling a folk tune.  After the black gospel influenced “Jesus Knows My Name,” featuring Hughes, we get “A Story that Shall Never Die,” featuring Hughes.  It’s a traditional medium tempo southern gospel quartet song.

“I Found Mercy”, the next cut on the album is the show-stopper on the album.  Featuring Jeremy Peace, it’s an emotional song with an interesting chord progression, a great Milton Smith arrangement, and a winning chorus.  Tony Peace gets his vehicle with “Longing to Go There.”  Taking the lead and making what might be a mundane song, Peace turns it into a show piece.

The album ends with the rockabilly beat of “Don’t Look at the Water” featuring Tony again, and “To Count for Jesus”, a song that shows off their sound and features Ray Dean Reese.  Although Reese sometimes has pitch and diction problems, he carries this off well and it is a fitting end to the album.

I highly recommend this album.  The addition of Tony Peace seems to have given this group its sea legs.  I’m looking forward to what they have in store for us in the future,

Gold City’s “Revival”

January 7th, 2007
Originally posted October 9, 2006
Danny Riley, the new leader of Gold City, the legendary quartet from Alabama, promised a new sound from the group when this album was in it’s early stages. In fact, we are told that Doug Riley, Danny’s brother who perished earlier this year in an auto accident was committed to this also. somehow the boys pulled together this album, but did they accomplish what they set out to do?

Gold City has gone through a lot of changes since 2003. So many that it’s really not the same group anymore. Mark Trammel left as baritone in 2003 to be replaced by Danny Riley. In 2004, long-time tenor Jay Parrack left to be replaced by Steve Ladd and group owner and founder Tim Riley was replaced by Bill Lawrence. Only Jonathan Wilburn remained of the group that took the stage through most of 2003. How has Gold City faired?

As much as I admire Mark Trammell, the group didn’t miss a beat when he left and was replaced by the owner’s son. In fact, the new group produced one of the best recordings of 2003-2004 with “Walk the Talk.” Exciting new songs and great production produced a great album. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there.

Shortly thereafter, Jay Parrack quit to stay closer to home and Tim Riley, facing health problems, retired. Bill Lawrence replaced Riley. This was a very big error, in my opinion. No matter what you think about Tim Riley, his voice was Gold City. Yes, Jonathan Wilburn is the lead singer, but Tim was the lower than low voice that made Gold City what it was. and to tell the truth, Parrack was the other extreme. Ladd was a better fit to replace Parrack than Lawrence was to replace Riley. The union didn’t last long. Lawrence left the group to spend more time with his trucking business.

Lawrence’s voice was raw and lacked intonation. Tim Riley thought he was getting a similar bass singer so that Gold City’s sound wouldn’t suffer, but the smoothness just wasn’t there. I don’t know all the particulars about Lawrence leaving, but the album that followed “Walk the Talk” was simply two or three steps below the standard set by the earlier album. Many thought the songs were meant for Tim Riley and that was the reason, but a table project called “Heaven,” obviously not devised for Riley was not much better.

When Lawrence left and Doug Riley passed away, many of us feared the demise of Gold City, but Aaron McCune, a former neighbor of mine (in a neighboring town) was plucked from Palmetto State Quartet to replace Lawrence after the retired Tim Riley filled in for some time at concerts. This has proven to be a stroke of genius.

When you put the CD in your player, prepare for some changes. My son, a big country music fan, heard the first bars of the first song, “Ain’t That What It’s All About,” and thought it was the new George Strait album. It’s that country. It’s an old song, but the addition of McCune makes a difference. His rhythmic bass takes this song to higher ground. “Preach the Word” is a Steve Ladd vehicle and it shows how much Ladd has improved since his start with Gold City. The first time I heard him on the NQC DVD, I thought his voice was thin in the Brian Free and Jeremy Peace vein, but his voice is fuller here and he does an outstanding job. Two down and a couple of winners, to be sure.

The third song, “Look Who Just Checked In,” is a new song by Gaitherites Stephen Hill and Daryl Williams that has an edge and features Jonathan Wilburn. Once again McCune improvises and makes the song special. It’s in the vein of “This Little Baby” on the “Walk the Talk” album with a bluesy sound (which Wilburn always shines on) and will be a show stopper. “Truth Is Marching On,” is a song recently recorded by Legacy 5, but listen to this version. With an arrangement by Steve Mauldin, this one is the best of the two.

Marcella Garrett’s “That’s What I’m Talking About,” once again features Wilburn with a bluesy feel and once again featurs some fine bass work by McCune. With a rock and roll beat that reminds one of a lot of former Gold City songs. My son thought it sounded like Signature Sound.

David Bruce Murray thought the old Stuart Hamblen song, “Teach Me Lord to Wait,” was out of place on this album. Calling McCune’s voice choppy, he dropped it a half star in his rating of the album. If you listen to his reading of this song, i will only refer you to his recent work on the latest Palmetto State album in which he did some solo work. There is no comparison. The production crew did something and McCune just shines. Backed by a string section that recalls the old Ernie Freeman Dean Martin arrangements, it’s a joy. You might say it’s Gold City’s attempt to appeal to its longtime fans.

“Not Anymore,” a song penned by The Perry’s Joseph Habedank and Matthew Holt, it’s a tradtional Gold City Song led by Ladd and Wilburn. Old fans will be pleased. “Mercy Came Running” starts out with a Signature Sound beginning (or a Booth Brother’s, for that matter). It’s almost a CCM song (in the vein of what SSQ does) led by Danny Riley. It’s a great preformance and a good bridge song between the old Gold City and the new.

The album ends with the old song that Jessy Dixon has trademarked on the Gaither videos, “I’m Rich.” I’ll just say one thing. Jessy should be envious. I can just hear Tim Riley beaking lose on this one. Of course, it’s McCune who is singing bass, but Jonathan Wilburn shines. And McCune show his obvious talent at singing that rhythmic bass he does so well.

Did Danny succeed in moving Gold City in a new direction? Yes and no. Yes, this is a different Gold City, but a better one from a vocal standpoint. Ladd is improving so much that many may forget Jay Parrack. McCune is probably going to become the premiere bass in the industry with his adlibs while singing and his enormous stage presence. On the other hand, the album is pure Gold City. It’s a worth comeback album (and they needed one) that is listenable and musically pleasant at the same time. If only they had concentrated on more new material, but this material is fine. Was it the breakthrough album the group needed? Yes. Attaboys all around.

Get Them While You Can

January 7th, 2007
Originally posted August 14, 2006
One of the great treats that anyone who loves gospel music has had over the last few years is the group Garry Jones put together in about 2003 called Mercy’s Mark. Jones, who played with some of the best as pianist and arranger and founded Signature Sound with Ernie Haase, put together a group that did some wonderful things from its inception until last year. The original group of Josh Feamster, Anthony Facello, Chris West and Jones put out one major album that was self titled. I don’t remember when a debut album was so good (with Signature Sound’s “Stand By Me,” also created by Jones being close).

Unfortunately, not much else was released by this combination before they split up. You can buy the “Remembering the Greats” CD or DVD from NQC 2004 for a couple of tunes, but outside of that, you’re sunk. Late last year, West and Facello left the group to supposedly form another group which has not come to pass. I haven’t heard the new group, so I can’t pass judgement, but that sound and those arrangements can only be heard in two other places.

I stumbled onto what I was told was concert CD last year. It was called “Southern Selections, Vol 1.” Great stuff with Facello singing that distinctive tenor and West rivaling Aaron McCune as successor to the Big Chief of Statesmen fame. Recently, i discovered that there was a second volume and it’s only available on MM’s website, www.mercysmark.com. It’s Volume 2. Get it before it’s gone. You won’t be disappointed if you are a MM fan or like good, creative southern gospel music.

By the way, I do not know Garry Jones, nor am I on his payroll. I just like it and thought you might too.

GVB Video is fantastic

January 7th, 2007
Originally Posted August 14, 2006
Those that know me would say that I’m a sound fanatic. Nothing upsets me more than poor recordings. When I was a teenager, I was heavily into the instrumental music of Billy Vaughn and other artists. When a recording came out sounding really bad, I used to send it back to the manufacturer and get a new one. One such recording was Vaughn’s “Nashville Saxophones.” The sound was almost unlistenable, so I sent it back. They sent me anotherone that was equally poor. It was the engineering, plain and simple and really rare for Dot Records at that time. I put it far away from my playing albums. I’m like that.

So many times, southern gospel artists put out “projects” (why do sg artists call them projects and not CD’s or albums?) that simply do not sound good. That is especially tue of DVD’s. The “Walk the Talk” DVD by Gold City was so bad that I haven’t watched it but a couple of times. Bill Gaither’s video and DVD projects always offer us a good sound, with the notable exception of “Ryman Homecoming,” which was part of the Nashville Network’s live program of a few years ago and Gaither can be excused for that.

The Gaither Vocal Band’s new DVD called “Give it Away,” gives us the new GVB (Wes, Marsh, Gy and Bill), Signature Sound, Gordon Mote (their new pianists and a tremendous artist in his own right), and Larry Morbitt in concert at the Indiana Roof, the scene of many of Gaither’s best DVD’s (Freedom Band, Journey to the Sky, Harmony in the Heartland, etc.).

It is energy-filled and the vocal band does most of its new album, which though uneven, is a fine recording. The bonus is the energetic crowd and one Gordon Mote. Mote is a great singer and tremendous piano player who also happens to be blind. He fits in well with the vocal band and the music and the sound is wonderful. His rendition of “The Old Gospel Ship” raises more than the Indiana Roof and proves that there is some new talent in our genre that doesn’t fit the mold of what we consider “normal,” something that is frowned upon in sg. He also does a love song to his wife, “If They Could See You Through My Eyes,” which is simply beautiful. Find that on another sg DVD or album.

Being one who wishes Gaither would get “everyone” together again at the Indiana Roof for a songfest, he does pay tribute to the past with an interview with the Jordanaires’ Gordon Stoker, but one can tell that the future is less artists in Gaither’s future concerts. Many will love this, but I’ll miss the mass choir.

Pick this one up if you can. It’s fantastic.

BF&A — The Trip to NYC Must Have Made an Impression

January 7th, 2007
Originally posted May 10, 2006
Brian Free and Assurance, the southern gospel group that has taken the genre by storm is very good. It’s a four-part harmony group (as is the custom and rule in southern gospel) that has above average singers at every “position.” They just released a new album titled, “It’s So God.”

A little over a year ago they released an album recorded at Brooklyn Tabernacle–sort of an interdominational church that has become famous due to the choir they present to their congregation and the fact that Daywind Records has released a few albums by them. So all the really hip groups want to record at the church, which is fashionably (in these days) one of those non-mainline groups that caters to everyone who likes a good show short on meat and potatoes religion, but big on entertainment. Of course, that’s not fair and my hangup of feeling that such churches pretty much do what they want without any rules taints my opinion of them. Nevertheless, the choir is good, the venue is hip and BF&A recorded their album to much acclaim. Out of it came “Long as I Got King Jesus,” an old James Cleveland song. They even produced a video of the concert which is entertaining, not so much for the music, but for the mannerisms of the choir behind them.

I bring this up because I think BF&A liked their experience in NYC just a little too much. Why? One listen to thier new effort might give you a clue. From the outset, it sounds like the Brooklyn Tabernacle album without the choir. Lots of black influenced material, jazzy arrangements, and the feeling that you’ve heard this all before.

Not that this is not a good album. It is. Very much so. In fact, it’s a permanent fixture on my iPod playlist. I can recommend the excellent, “Jesus Will Pick You Up.” Led by bass Keith Plott, it mysterously sounds a whole lot like “King Jesus,” but with a twist. Instead of Free (the tenor in the group and the group’s owner for those who don’t know) getting all the leads, it’s Plott’s versatle bass voice. That’s a relief from past albums when Free’s thin tenor voice usually filled the album with most of the solos (which is his right as owner, i guess). Free’s voice to me is typical of a lot of tenors in southern gospel music. His voice is so high it doesn’t sound natural–like he’s singing in falsetto all the time. Give me Anthony Facello (formerly of Mercy’s Mark), Wes Hampton (the new tenor for Gaither Vocal Band), John Rulapugh, or David Phelps. I like my tenors to be able to belt it out with a strong voice. But, that’s just me. Sorry I got off track there.

Back to the subject at hand, “Man of Sorrows” is another winner as is “Under Cross Examination.” These guys are talented, but do they deserve all the accolades? No. At times on this album, they sound suspiciously like Gold City of a few years ago. The individual talent is there, no doubt, but there doesn’t seem to be enough original thought in the last two albums to grant them that “special” label. Individually, Free, Plott, Bill Shivers (lead), and Derrick Selph (great young baritone) are almost a dream group. If and when they pick material worthy of those voices (and I’m sorry–adding a bunch of black gospel styled songs to add to, with a few exceptions, pretty mediocre material), they may reach that level someday.

The good news is that this album (or CD or whatever you call them these days) is pretty good. But I listen to these guys and want for more. Maybe someday.

Gaither Goes to Canada and NQC Salutes Youth – 3 new DVDs

January 7th, 2007
Originally posted March 3, 2006
Bill Gaither has just released his latest Homecoming tapes. I gave you a brief explanation a couple of weeks ago and in it I said they were different. I have since found that Gaither is using a high definition camera in the last three (Signature Sound and the new Homecoming DVDs). I don’t own a HDTV, so I’ll have to take their word for it. The content is very good and reminiscent of older Gaither projects, that is totally different from the Israel DVDs of earlier in 2005. And that’s a good thing for Southern Gospel fans. 

I’ve always called Gaither the Lawrence Welk of gospel and that he is. The old jokes (courtest of Kevin Williams in this one) flow and the songs are mostly repeats, but it is lavishly produced, the sound is good (I wish they had left the echo out, though), and the program is entertaining (my apologies to those who consider sg music a ministry and not entertainment). I liked the Toronto DVD better than the Canadian Homecoming, but only slightly. Both will sell like hotcakes and there are some memorable performances.

This DVD is the video debut of Wes Hampton, the guy who replaced David Phelps in the Gaither Vocal Band. The initial verdict among those of us who haven’t been to a Homecoming concert since Phelps left is good. Hampton is not as showy and certainly doesn’t have the sheer power and range of Phelps, but he’s good. Real good. He has the kind of tenor voice I like–full and controlled. Phelps was like that, too, but Phelps tended to push his considerable range for effect. This is not the case with Hampton, who just sings a solid tenor without the flair. We’ll see how Homecoming fans warm up to him. If the mail over on the Gaither.com boards are any indication, he’s already part of the family.

Sadly, the DVDs mark the last recorded performances of Anthony Burger who passed away last month. It was fitting that his last performance was a tremendous rendition of “I’m Getting Ready.” Already, folks are speculating who will replace Burger and I’d be shocked if it’s not Stan Whitmere. We’ll see.

The other new DVD is from Daywind. During the National Quartet Convention, Daywind always does some fine showcases and this year they chose to feature the rising stars of southern gospel in a show called “Torch.” All the perfomers were under 30 years of age and under the direction of Mike Speck showed that this genre has a healthy future ahead of it.

Loren Talley, already a star of sorts, is featured first on a new song called , “The Race.” Despite the strange faces she makes when she sings, Talkley is unique and very pretty. She’s going to be a star someday. After that, it gets even more interesting.

Three unique quartets (Speck noted that quartets singing four-part harmony were the backbone of Southern Gospel) really kept me interested.

First out was Jeremy Peace (Kingsmen), Josh Feamster (Mercy’s Mark), Derrick Selph (Brian Free and Assurance), and Jeremy Lile (Crystal River). This quartet, maybe because of the material–“Stand Up”) iddn’t blend so well, but was pleasant. Peace has the kind of tenor voice we see so often in this genre. It’s thin and almost weak. I’ve heard him on other occasions and have not been too fond of his performances. Feamster is a high lead. Selph is a fine baritone and Lile has the potential to be a great bass singer. Together they sounded like four men singing a song and didn’t blend well. They did a fair version of the Kingsmen classic.

After a reprise of the old Nelon song “He shall Wear a Crown,” featuring Rex Nelon’s grandaughter Amber Thompson and others and a new version of the old Gold city song, “Midnight Cry” featuring the Crabbs, and the kids of Southern Gospel stars singing the Hemphill standard, “He’s Still Working on Me,” we get to what I consider the best performance on the DVD.

Putting John Rulapaugh (Palmetto State), Lance Moore (Paid in Full), Josh Singletary (Monument Quartet), and Aaron McCune (Palmetto State) together is a genius. Of course, it was Mike Speck who did this, but this old quartet fan took notice.

First of all, all of these men are the real deal. Rulapaugh is a full, strong tenor with great instincts. Moore is the best kept secret in the business. As a lead, he is the Jake Hess we’ve been missing since Jake died (interestingly enough, Jake Hess helped bring along Moore’s group before he died). He has personality and he can sing. Josh Singletary is a great baritone, again with the personality and stage prescence to match (his vivid red hair and strong facial expressions just make him stand out). Aaron McCune, my neighbor of some 20 miles away, is simply the best young bass in the business. In fact, he may be the best overall, but that’s open for debate. They knocked my socks off.

My father always told me that you could determine if you had a good group within the first four notes they sang. It was all in how they blended. These guys blended well. Where the first group sounded like four singers, this group sounded as one with all four parts. They hit the stage on the second verse of the song mentioned earlier, “I’m Getting Ready to Leave This World.” If Rulapaugh and McCune didn’t have a great quartet to sing in and Moore and Singletary didn’t have equally good gigs, they should hit the road tomorrow and never look back. They were that good.

The next notable performance came from the choir and three very talented young people. Speck configured a medley of two songs, Rusty Goodman’s “Who Am I,” Squire Parson’s “He Came to Me,” and “OH, What a Savior.” Kathy Peach, formerly of The Steeles led off by singing the Goodman song. Peach is simply a wonderful singer with great range, power, and tremendous pronunciation. She gave way to the Perrys Joseph Habedank. Habedank is a strong baritone and he gives a stellar performance. I think Habedank is a little too dramatic (he even used a Vestal Goodman hankie while he sang), but he’s young and with his pipes he’ll do well. Rounding out the solos was Jason Waldoup of Greater Vision. Even with his mechanical expressions, Jason is a strong, confident tenor. Like Rulapaugh, he reminds me a great deal of the late Rosie Rozelle. Rosie just sang without pushing the envelope. This was a fine performance.

Finally, Speck marches out Anthony Facello (Mercy’s Mark), Josh Garner (Florida Boys), Scott Inman (Triumphant), and Chris West (late of Mercy’s Mark) to sing “Boundless Love.” Facello is at the top of Southern Gospel tenors even at his young age. Along with Rulapaugh and Waldroup, the top three tenors in the business might have been on state. Garner is the very talented lead singer for the Florida Boys. He just seems to know quartet music and impresses me with his range every time I hear him sing. Inman is a good baritone and has great stage prescence. He’s very young like Habedank and will be around a long time. West, though he’s left Mercy’s Mark, is excellent. Someone should coax him back on the road. His knowledge of this genre (shown in his singing) and great bass voice needs to be on stage.

This group was only a notch behind the Rulapaugh-Moore-Singletary-McCune group, but they had energy and blended well.

The program ends with an all-Crabb song (I’m not much of a fan of the Crabb family as you can see, and I know they are quite popular and Daywind’s premier group, but their performance indicidually or in groups did nothing extraordinary) and the obiglatory How Great Thou Art Medley and the new song, “My Generation.”

Nothing compares to those two quartets, though.

My advice is to buy all three of these. Like the Gaither video, the Torch video has great sound. The production is not so good, but the performances make up for it. The Gaither DVDs are simply the best you can buy. They’re entertaining, funny, and enjoyable–just like Lawrence Welk’s show.

So, with these three DVD’s, you get the young of the business and the (somewhat–if you don’t count Bill Gaither and Ben Speer) old of the genre. I liked both and you will, too