Rediscovered: an ocassional aria on some forgotten favorite

This is more of an ambling free-association but hey .. it’s my site. Anyway, I had to spend some time in the car this evening and I took the Perrys, This is the Day album, along with. Gosh, what a fantastic cd. I wish I had listened to it again before I reviewed Life of Love, because I think what I would have said about the latter had I (re)heard the former was that rather than not establishing a coherent Perrys style on Life of Love, the Perrys were actually trying in their own way to expand their stylistic palette, building on the solid ground of This is the Day. I’m still not sure the Life of Love attempt worked as well as it might, but no matter, This is the Day joins albums like Gold City’s Preparing the Way (1996) as a recording with an enviably low dud quotient - I think I’ve said before that it’s possible there’s only really one dud on Preparing the Way, that being “Every Moment.” There are more duds on This is the Day (those with bass leads do nothing for me, for instance), but the album makes up for its duds in depth - which is a rather vague way of saying that few recordings manage to capture as this one does the sense of artists stepping up to microphones and letting fly with first-take precision and vitality. It’s not just the big hits off the project - “Calvary Answers for Me,” “Damascus Road” and “I Wish I Coulda Been There.” “Until I Start Looking Ahead” - and especially the bridge and last chorus - could be said to summon the very presence of God, and “The Blood of an Old Rugged Cross” channels the force of those old come-to-Jesus numbers that demand to be reckoned with - listen to that reprise at the end … the car tonight, I could just hear a crowd going bananas when the chorus is turned round with the sound of the final note still ringing in the ear. Seriously, This is the Day creates its own emotional weather pattern.This is the kind of recording that makes artists claw each other’s eyes out to get a Kyla Rowland or Joel Lindsey or Wayne Haun tune on their next recording. And indeed you see these names (along with Rodney Griffins and a few others) on a lot of projects these days exactly because songs like “Calvary Answers for Me” and “I Wish I Coulda Been There” and “Damascus Road” seem to be bottomless wells of success. Yet listening to This is the Day made me nostalgic for and impatient of better song selection on the gospel albums I’ve heard lately. How can this be? Why aren’t there more projects like This is the Day if the song writers who were central to its success (and other writers of that caliber) are in greater and greater demand?

The answer, I suspect, has to do with a faulty song-selection process common among groups - namely, the “I want a [fill in the blank of top-tier songwriter such as Lindsey, Griffin, Rowland, Sue Smith etc] song on our next project.” Which is to say, many hit songs have been written by Lindsey, Griffin, Rowland, Smith etc., but not all songs by Lindsey, Griffin, Rowland, Smith etc are hits. This may seem self-evident, but then if it that’s the case, then it bears repeating in an industry that’s so often obsessed with the trappings of success rather than success itself. For many artists, having Joel Lindsey’s or Rodney Griffin’s or Sue Smith’s name on their liner notes is more important than what the song sounds like. The value comes in being able to say to other artists or industry types “yeah we were in the studio this week working on that new Sue Smith song we’re recording.” But honestly (and all due respect to songwriters, whose work I deeply respect), big flipping deal. The real deal is in the writing: What does the song sound like? How well is it written? How about the hook? Cause even the most talented people lose their way occasionally. Remember Kelly Nelon Thompson and Legacy?

The better way to pick tunes would be to demand a blind submission process and song-review: listen to and make song selections for projects without knowing who wrote the song. I’ve only heard of one CCM group doing this, though I’m sure (or at least I hope) there were others in other genres. The advantage of this method should, I think, be obvious. And I want to be clear that I’m not bemoaning the fact that good or successful songwriters get frequent cuts. In fact, a blind-review method would probably end up landing established writers at least as many (and maybe more) cuts than they already get. This is not only because good writers are good because they write consistently good songs (to be somewhat tautological) but also because blind-reviewing would eliminate the need for writers to work on volume basis, which inevitably means writing a higher percentage of throw-aways and duds. Volume-writing is a fact of life in sg song-selection as it is practiced now … both for new writers, who have to blanket the earth with submissions hoping someone will take a shot on a no-name with so many big names in the mix, as well as for established writers, whose success means lots of people want more songs from them than they can possibly produce without sacrificing something. But there’s a better. Don’t believe me? Don’t think you’ll ever lose by betting on a name? Just ask Kelly Nelon Thompson and Legacy.

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