January 2013 is here and as I did in 2012, I will kick off each month with five current radio songs that piqued my interest over the preceding month. 2013 finds Channing Eleton’s first big solo single from his 2011 album Summer Rains Have Gone. You will also find strong singles from Brian Free & Assurance, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Greater Vision and a break through debut single from Canton Junction. Enjoy!
Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row is attempting to find the best and worst Southern Gospel album covers of all time. That is being accomplished through you, the readers. With NQC coverage filling up next week, you will get two sets of covers to rank this week (today and Friday). In the comments section, rank each cover from 1 to 6 (1 being best, 6 being worst). Click on thumbnail to see larger image.
This week’s SWOT analysis takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Greater Vision. Greater Vision is celebrating 21 years in Southern Gospel music.
The group was honored with trio of the year at the Singing News Fan Awards for eight straight years (1999-2006).
Cathedral Legacy: Another group born of the Cathedral legacy, Gerald Wolfe spent over two years as pianist and vocalist with the group. His featured vocal on “Champion Of Love” brought Gerald Wolfe the name recognition that allowed him a solo career following his tenure with the Cathedrals and immediate success with the launch of Greater Vision.
Gerald Wolfe’s Emcee/Comedy Bits: While the emcee work can get a bit winded at times, Gerald Wolfe is one of Southern Gospel’s best emcees. He can set up a song and throw in just enough comedy to keep the audience laughing.
Chris Allman’s Return: Much has already been said of Chris Allman’s return to the group two years ago. Not only his great tenor vocals but his songwriting is an asset to Greater Vision.
Rodney Griffin’s Songwriting: While some may have tired of Rodney winning songwriter of the year, the fact remains that Rodney still pens many big songs not only for Greater Vision, but many other artists in the industry.
Use of Tracks: Still applies. More moments with Gerald at piano and Rodney on the bass would enhance the overall Greater Vision concert experience. I know they do that now but I would prefer at least half of the concert to be this set up.
Rodney Griffin Writing Every Song On An Album: While Rodney’s songwriting is a strength, having an entire album filled with a single writer’s compositions becomes stale and formulaic. It gets to a point where you know what you are going to get and at times that formula get’s boring. That is why having Chris Allman back is a huge plus because now the group can record each member’s compositions.
Another Quartets Recording: One of the group’s most successful recordings was their 2003 recording Quartets. Another one please.
Reclaiming Trio Of The Year: Greater Vision may have an opportunity to reclaim this prize if the Booth Brothers stumble at all. I don’t see it happening this year because the Booth Brothers seem unstoppable at the present moment.
Losing Rodney Griffin or Chris Allman: Either of these gentlemen exiting the group would be a blow to the group’s current popularity. While Gerald would soldier on and re-build the group, the listening audience would have to get used to a new group of singers.
Greater Vision makes sure there is always something new for the listening audience. In addition to their major label releases annually, they also release quite a few custom recordings. The Ones That Got Away is one of those custom recordings. The recording has been available since November 2011, but was finally made available for digital download.
This ten song collection contains all Rodney Griffin compositions that have been made popular by other artists.
“He Had To Rise”, made popular by the Kingdom Heirs, is the stand out track from this recording. Gerald Wolfe turns in a strong vocal performance.
Even on songs that have another group’s touch on them, Chris Allman is able to take a song like “What You Took From Me” and make it his own.
By this point in their career, the listener knows what they are going to get from a Greater Vision recording.
Strongest songs included in order: ”He Had To Rise”, “What You Took From Me”, “I Choose”, “He Lifted Me” and “My Anchor Of Hope”.
There was no re-invention of any of the ten songs recorded. Arrangements didn’t stray far from the original versions and as a result there was no song on this recording that stood out above the original.
While long time Greater Vision fans will enjoy this recording, the casual fan who will purchase a landmark album from the group will most likely not add this recording to their collection.
Weakest songs included in order: ”Temporary Tomb”, “I Am The Water” and “I Know I’m Going There”.
SONG LIST: 1. “He Locked The Gates” (7.5) 2. “Temporary Tomb” (7) 3. “He Had To Rise” (8.5) 4. “Don’t Let The Sandals Fool You” (7) 5. “What You Took From Me” (8) 6. “I Know I’m Going There” (7) 7. “I Am The Water” (7) 8. “My Anchor Of Hope” (7.5) 9. “He Lifted Me” (7.5) 10. “I Choose” (8)
The start of another week will take us half way through the count down of the best albums and recorded songs of 2011. Coming in at #11 among the best albums of the year is The Only Way by Greater Vision. Much has been said about the return of Chris Allman to the group. Evidence of that can be heard in The Only Way.
Not only does Chris add his tenor vocals to the album but his songwriting talents as well. While Rodney Griffin has been awarded favorite songwriter for more than a decade, an album can sometimes become stale when only one writer dominates the recording. The added songwriting talents also sets The Only Way apart from previous Greater Vision recordings. This was the best Greater Vision recording in nearly a decade and #11 among the best albums of 2011.
Personal favorite songs from this recording include: ”Another Child’s Coming Home”, “I Know A Man Who Can”, “He Didn’t When He Could’ve Passed Me By”, “No Longer Chained”, “He’s The Only Way”, “Eternity’s About To Begin” and “Like I Wish I’d Lived”.
To cap off the first half of the top recorded songs of 2011 is “Jesus Will”. Coming in at #11 “Jesus Will” was recorded on Wilburn and Wilburn’s debut album Family Ties. Penned by Jerry Salley and Dianne Wilkinson, this comforting lyric delivers the message that Jesus will love us no matter what.
I have had already stated that Jordan Wilburn is well on his way to becoming one of the top male vocalists in Southern Gospel music. His performance on “Jesus Will” shows maturity while not over singing the lyric which many young performers have a tendency to do. Listen to the first verse and chorus to the song that lands at #11 among the best recorded songs of 2011.
In this week’s ten on ten feature is Greater Vision. Celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2011, it is only fitting we take a look at the group’s career and highlight their ten best recordings. In looking at the group’s major label releases, their church hymnal series and the many compilations released over the course of the last 20 years this is the final result.
Greater Vision’s top ten albums:
When I See The Cross (1997)
Perfect Candidate (2000)
Far Beyond This Place (1999)
It’s Just Like Heaven (1992)
On A Journey (1991)
Live At First Baptist Atlanta (2002)
The King Came Down (1993)
The Only Way (2011)
Serving A Risen Savior (1994)
Greater Vision was recording top-tier music from the start. The group’s first four major label releases from 1991 to 1994 are all among the group’s ten best recordings.
The 1990′s were a better decade in regards to the music released by Greater Vision than the music released in the 2000′s.
Many regard the 2003 recording Quartets as the group’s best but When I See The Cross from 1997 is what I consider to be the pinnacle recording for Greater Vision. At least of all the albums released to date.
There was not a weak song on When I See The Cross. Highlighted by “Common Garments”, “I Have A Hope”, “All The Way”, “He’d Still Been God” and “When I See The Cross”.
Quartets definitely allowed the listener to get a taste of what the trio would sound like as a quartet. I think it is time for a Quartets 2 album to make its way to retail.
The group had a long dry spell in the release of a really great recording since 2003′s Quartets until the release of The Only Way here in 2011.
The return of Chris Allman at the tenor vocal position was a large part in that return to really strong recordings.
The forgotten gem in this top ten list is the album listed at #10; Serving A Risen Savior. ”He Rose Again”, “God Will Provide”, “A Risen Savior”, “Who Moved” and “God Still Rolls Away Stones” all highlight a really strong recording.
From forgotten gem to the album that should be forgotten. Every artist has an album in their discography that doesn’t match the caliber of their other recordings. For Greater Vision, that album is My Favorite Place from 2005.
Greater Vision has plenty of years ahead of them to change this current top ten list with the release of additional landmark recordings.
Now part 2 of our retro spotlight on the year 1996. Enjoy!
Brian Free & Assurance started hitting their stride as a quartet releasing 4 God So Loved in 1996. The title track has become a classic song for the group. Another hit song from that recording was the song “Jesus Came Out Alive”.
The Booth Brothers were just getting their recording career started 15 years ago. One of the first albums to come out by the group was the 1996 effort Praise God Anyhow. Neil Enloe, of Couriers fame, wrote a song that I enjoyed during this time period titled “Go Ahead And Shout”.
Another group getting their recording career started was the Crabb Family. This family would go on to be one of the biggest family group’s in Southern Gospel history. Their 1996 recording Still Holdin’ On garnered the group their first 3 top ten hits. One of those being the title track “Still Holdin’ On”.
Gold City began their return to greatness among Southern Gospel quartets with the line up of Parrack, Wilburn, Trammell and Riley. The 1996 recording Preparing The Way was the first for this particular line-up. One of the biggest songs from that recording was “He’s Still On The Throne”.
Greater Vision was celebrating their 5th anniversary as a group by the time 1996 rolled around. In addition to their major label release, the group also released The Church Hymnal Series – Volume One. This popular series would generate three additional volumes. Listen to the classic “Heaven’s Jubilee”.
The McGruders were nearing the end of their successful run by the time 1996 rolled around. The group had recording success from about 1989 to 1994 releasing one of Southern Gospel’s all time best live recordings in 1990; Come Fly. In 1996 the group released their last live album/video titled Plugged In Live. Listen to “The Finish Line”.
In an era where live albums were still being released, the Perrys Center Stage Live also came out in 1996. The Perrys were still traveling as a mixed quartet during this time period with both the alto and soprano female vocal parts. Mike Bowling was also traveling with the group at this time. ”Power In Prayer” featured Libbi and was one of the strongest songs on the recording.
To close out our look at 1996 is the Steeles. A family group that hit the scene in 1994 with instant radio success. That radio success eventually translated to concert success. The 1996 album We Want America Back became a landmark recording for the group. It went on to win the Singing News fan award for album of the year in 1997. Listen to “Nothing To Lose”.