History of Oversinging

Kyle Boreing has 20 years worth of Gold City performing “Midnight Cry,” from 1987, 1997, and 2008 (which is Ivan Parker, Jonathan Wilburn, and the new guy with the unpronounceable name on lead, respectively). Check it out. My favorite:

Kyle offers this and the two other videos as “three generations” of a great song. And I guess it is that. But taken as a longitudinal study in sg male lead vocal stylings, this collection could also just as well pass as a brief history of oversinging in southern gospel. If you skip to around 2:00-05 on each recording, or about the place where the first chorus ends, and listen to each guy render the second “big” verse, you’ll hear what I mean. In 1987, Parker delivers his lines with simple, dignified authority - using tone colors, breath support on some improvisational passages, and mostly the authority of his image as The Leading Man to sell the verse without rewriting the melody much at all. Ten years later, Wilburn relies on more histrionics and vocal filigrees to sell the song. By the time Taliaferro inherits the song, he’s pretty much got to wail his through it to get the job done. In isolation I probably never would have noticed this progression, but taken alongside its predecessor, each of the two later videos feels like an exercise in trying too hard, as though the vocalist oversings in disproportion to the southern gospel’s fading fortunes in the mass market.

They’re fine vocalists, all (at least they’re all in fine form here). And which version you find superior is probably mostly a matter of a taste. But when viewed alongside the degradation in venues over time (from theater, to church, to multipurpose room); the (d)evolution of instrumentation (from three-piece band, to live band and tracks, to band track with a little live piano, assuming Josh Simpson is somewhere off to the right of the video frame); and the erosion of recording quality (from professional live video shoot to bootleg camcorder), the videos feel like a time delay record of the rise, peak, and decline of southern gospel quartet music.

Less fancy talk: any fan of southern gospel has to wish a group with as much talent as GC in 2008 didn’t have to (over)sing with canned tracks in a college multipurpose room.

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  1. Larry S wrote:

    In fairness to JW, his predecessor, David Hill, sang the 2nd verse of “Midnight Cry” very closely to this on the “Classics” project. I think that a lot of it is just trying to NOT sound just like the last guy - not that it would be a bad thing to sound like Ivan.

  2. Steve wrote:

    I love it. Well, I’m a bass singer, so I always watch the bass. My favorite part was in the clip of the current GC lineup. I skipped to the second verse, as I was told to do. :) Pretty nice job. But the best was as the group came in on the chorus. Aaron did a patented Richard Sterban move. It’s at about the 3:00 mark.. Hey, no shame in it. I adopted all of Richard’s unique hand motions, too. Fans of the Oaks will know what I’m talking about.

  3. Joe wrote:

    Thanks to Doug and Kyle for letting us take a trip back in SGM history, and once again, listen to Brian, Ivan, Mike and Tim sing.

    IMHO, the 4 best voices ever to join together in male quartet.

    That was, once again, a thrill.

  4. Angie M wrote:

    Thanks for reposting these. My problem isn’t so much with the individual renditions of the verses, but with the tendency to draw out certain sylables at the expense of others. I see this in a LOT of live SG performances. I guess they’re trying to give the fans something different from what’s on the CD. It’s particularly evident here in the 1997 version. At the end of the first chorus, when Jay(?) and (searches memory, comes up empty…maybe it would help if I could see the video instead of just hearing the sound–and also, this was during my decade SG hiatus) Other-Guy come in, we get something like, “Aaaaat theeee miiiiidniiiiiiight crywhenJesuscomesagain.” This is one example of a technique that’s used a lot in that particular version of the song. Having said that, all the vocalists are really in fine form. I recognize this might be just one of my pet peeves, and maybe others like this style of live singing. I don’t necessarily think live performances should sound just like the CD, but it’s disconcerting, not knowing where those familiar notes are going to land. I did enjoy hearing all three versions, though.

  5. C.W. G. wrote:

    Wow - what ever happened to just enjoying the song or the moment - way too analized for me.

  6. matureman wrote:

    Angie #4, bless you. I thought I was the only person on earth that really paid attention to our pet-peeve, which makes me turn the CD or radio off at times.

    I believe that peculiarity started in the 60’s and 70’s when we popularized groups that were untrained and leaned Country/Bluegrass. “..not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

    It has long been my firm belief that in concert, a group should sing any song as close to the arrangement as possible… (if nothing else but to prove they can do it) then, perhaps take their liberties on the encore.

    Thank you for mentioning this (?) ..would you call this ‘over-singing’, as well?

  7. Rod wrote:

    I like the new new guy a alot…Still…the old Gold City was CLASS…Smooth and very listenable…Is that a word? Probably not…They (Old GC) were much easier on the ears and they didn’t walk all over each other…The blend was perfect, no stacks, canned music, just plain flat footed singing. Not even close in my opinion.

  8. Bari-Tone-Def wrote:

    Brian Free sportin’ the ‘Fro’. Thats great …

  9. Robert wrote:

    I’m with Joe (#3). Brian, Ivan, Mike, and Tim in my opinion were the best quartet ever.
    I think Jonathan is a talented guy and sings other songs great and proved himself as being one of the top leads in SG during his tenure with GC.
    The other guy has some work to do to be on Jonathan’s level and may never be on Ivan’s level.
    Midnight Cry is not a good comparative song because no one will ever be able to sing it like Ivan. JMHO.

  10. not a grammarian wrote:

    CWG (#5)
    That is the most hilarious alternate spelling I’ve ever seen

  11. matureman wrote:

    #10… It didn’t get by most of the astute readers here. Surely, it was intended as written. Good candidate for Webster’s.

    Good shot, #5 C.W.G.!

  12. brad wrote:


  13. Trent wrote:

    I think we all just need to give the new guy time to blossom and find his own way with the group. It’s early yet. I’ve got a hunch that he’s going to be outstanding a year from now. He’s already quite good.

  14. Brett wrote:

    Ivan’s version is best barnone. The others sound contrived.

  15. Trevor Haley wrote:

    Seeing that old DX7 brings back a lot of memories for me. No keyboard player could be without one in those days.

  16. Leebob wrote:

    Perhaps this could qualify as oversinging, but NOTHING compares to oversinging like any version of The Star Spangled Banner. I am not sure why but accomplished musicians feel like they have to put their spin on a national treasure as if they are going to make it their own. I cannot tell you what the more senior people within my family call it so as not to offend but let’s just say a certain nationality has messed it up according to them.

    This may be an answer as to why SG singers feel they have to place their own spin on songs that have already been sung as if to say this is my song sung the way nobody else can.

  17. wackythinker wrote:

    This is reminiscent of Simon Cowell dogging a contestant one week for not making a song his/her own, then the same thing next week for changing it up, TRYING to make it his/her own.

    You can’t have it both ways.

  18. C.W. G. wrote:

    I guess it goes to show you I don’t know my y’s from I’s or is it the other way? Just kidding.

  19. Grigs wrote:

    I prefer oversinging to undersinging.

  20. Joey M wrote:

    Ivan, Brian, Mike and Tim… were there any better?? I don’t think so.

    I wish they would do a reunion of sorts… they could sell out a huge stadium, I’m sure of it. Ivan’s STILL popular, Brian has his own group, and Tim is still widely regarded as one of (if not THE) best bass singer ever.

  21. Kyle Dowden wrote:

    LOL! Hey Doug, thanks for pointing folks to that college multi-purpose concert video. That was KWFC’s 39th anniversary concert. Had about 2,500 people in attendance.

    Love it!

  22. LW wrote:

    Ivan Parker is by far the best. He still does this song at Gaither Homecomming concerts.

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