From the dept. of “as others see us”

Via NG, an interesting review of the Gaither Vocal Band from the Pueblo Chieftain Online. Money quote:

When I looked for samples on You Tube of the Gaither Vocal Band, I found what I thought was a sanctimonious group of posers, probably using Jesus, who I came to know under a strict Catholic upbringing, like the charlatans who sell indulgences on cable TV to the poor folk in single-wides reading the Book of Revelation like it’s the word of God.

So I was primed for some uptight, preachy, look-at-how-holy-I-am concert at the Colorado State Fair Events Center on Wednesday night. What I and more than 4,000 other souls were treated to was a talented, warm, funny group of excellent singers and musicians who treated their fans to a night of Jesus-inspired entertainment without the fire-and-brimstone blarney.

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  1. cdguy wrote:

    While a very complimentary review of the concert, the guy obviously doesn’t know what he’s writing about.

    Lowry’s been a very successful comedian both with and without Gaither, and the Jordanaires were not black.

    He should do some homework.

  2. RDB wrote:

    Judging by the comments below the article, most of the readers don’t think much of the review.

  3. Kevin wrote:

    I hope Bill Gaither is training someone to carry on Homecoming type concerts after he crosses Jordan! When coworkers and friends talk about gospel music, I often hear “you know, it’s like Gaither music!” It’s a style all its own, that I personally hope lasts for years to come. And thanks to tons of Homecoming videos (err, DVDs), I’m thinking it will. But anyway, please, Bill Gaither, if you or one of your representatives is reading this, make sure you’re mentoring the right people to carry us on with more great gospel music preservation! My collection of every Gaither release is like a library of southern gospel who’s who. Love it.

  4. RF wrote:

    I’ve always said the difference between a Gaither Homecoming Concert and any other sg concert is there’s no politics or controversy. It’s Christian entertainment.

  5. jbb wrote:

    RF; I mean nothing by this, but, “No politics or controversy”, yeah right!
    It is good Christian entertainment. I’ll agree with that.

  6. Tim wrote:

    Good observation RF.

  7. cdguy wrote:

    RF — #4 — But in some peoples’ minds, “no polictics or controversy” is controversial. I’m hoping you meant your comment as positive. IMHO it’s GREAT Christian entertainment.

  8. Joe wrote:

    I may be reading too much into his comment…but when did fire and brimstone get re-classified as “blarney”?

  9. RF wrote:

    yes, it was complementary. The one thing I hate is for a Christian entertainer start bringing politics and/or opinions onto the stage (I’ve said this before on this forum) and alienate some of the audience. You never get that with Billy Gaither. I admire him for that.

    Just got the new, much belated DVD’s from the Nashville sessions a year ago and once again, it’s wonderful Christian entertainment and quality music.

  10. apathetic wrote:

    I think that Jason Crabb will be the next Bill Gaither (in 30 years). He has become one of the regular hosts on TBN and done a great job at that. I can see him doing the Gaither type of thing when he is older. One big difference between the two though, Jason can really sing. LOL

  11. quartet-man wrote:

    I’m not sure Jason has the down home, unassuming, “aw shucks” personality and rapport with the audience that Gaither has (let alone the song writing musical knowledge of arrangements, and business expertise) of Gaither, but he can evermore sing and is charismatic.

  12. KDM wrote:

    Joe, I caught that too. I also noticed his quote about reading the Book of Revelation like it’s the Word of God. Um, I think it IS the Word of God.

  13. apathetic wrote:

    I think by the time Jason is Gaither’s age the song writing, knowledge of musical arrangements and business expertise will have been attained.

  14. 2miles wrote:

    If I wrote a similar article about some heavy metal band or other genre that I’m not familiar with, I would be laughed at hysterically for being so out of the loop. This guy did not do his research and just because he’s an “outsider” we are supposed to find one snipet of a compliment and brag about “how others see us”…I think not…

    I could care less about “how others see us”. “They” obviously see us as not worthy of even a decently written article or a few minutes of research.

    I’m usually on the band wagon as far as presenting ourself to the world, etc. but this article, if nothing else, shows how far apart southern gospel is from “others”.

    For better or worse…

  15. quartet-man wrote:

    I haven’t read the article itself, just Doug’s and what he placed of it here. However, I think it can be beneficial to see how the world sees us. We shouldn’t replace or change certain things even if they don’t like them, but aside from moral things, some things can be tailored to better reach people. We sort of saw evidence of this in the Bible.

  16. DMP wrote:

    You know, anymore, the GVB seems more like a group doing a bad impersonation of itself.

  17. yeah... wrote:

    I’d think that when Bill ever moves on, his choice would be Mark Lowry. He has been a co-host, after all, with Gloria for most of the DVD’s, and is introduced as such. But, I don’t think he - or anyone else, frankly - will every replace the man whose vision it has been.

    As for the article, which I read along with the comments, it was a weak review. At best, it’s how one non-believer views “us”. That it was entertainment was his logical conclusion. So, for discussion, a question: Do you all think that a Gaither concert misses the opportunity by not directly presenting the Gospel, as one should have to assume that not every one in attendance is a believer? Or, is it to be conceded that the lyrics of many of the songs have enough Gospel in them for people to be saved, and that a low-key (possibly) first introduction to the Gospel is enough?

  18. pk wrote:

    You left out the best quote of the article:
    “But it was entertaining. Now, it was the oldest, whitest crowd I’d ever been to a concert with, without a whiff of weed in the air and a rare beer in hand. Nothing like anything I’d ever encountered before at a show.”

  19. Knows Nothing Much wrote:

    To Apathetic #10
    All the reasons you think Jason Crabb will take over for Gaither,are the same reasons it will not happen.His close ties to TBN will cause the Baptist as well as others to jump ship. Can you say tongues,send money,lack of faith is why you are sick. Read Mark Lowry’s blog

  20. Knows Nothing Much wrote:

    I should have said Mark Lowry’s, By His Stripes We are Healed blog on his web site

  21. CVH wrote:

    On the conjecture regarding who might succeed Bill Gaither, I have to agree with those who don’t think Jason Crabb has what it takes. He doesn’t. Period.

    That’s not to take away from what talent and skill he does have; but keep in mind, Bill Gaither has been involved in Christian music since the mid-1960’s. As the Trio began to gain wider acceptance and his songwriting began to find a wider audience, they catapulted to success in ways most groups today could only dream of. I believe there are two major reasons for that.

    The biggest reason is simply Bill - his gift of melding Gloria’s lyrics with simple melodies, his natural ability with people (which seems obvious on and off the stage), and his entrepreneurial talent - was the right thing at the right time. It’s not that he’s the only great songwriter in Christian music, but he has always had a sense of knowing how to write and market to his target audience. That, and the gradual uptick in production values of his stage shows, carried the majority of the audience along. Diversifying into musicals and other aspects of publishing kept fresh material in front of new audiences all the time. And he has always had a way of capitalizing on his success in a way that other groups didn’t, without losing the down-home appeal (or the ability to project what people perceive to be a down-home appeal, even if it’s a bit manufactured now, like going to a Cracker Barrel restaurant.)

    The second reason is that there was at that time room, not only in the budding Christian publishing and recording industry, but among audiences as well, for a group that did that kind of music and had that kind of approach in their concerts. The southern quartets were strong - the Kingsmen, the Inspirations, the various incarnations of the Blackwoods, etc.; the more progressive groups like the Oaks and the Imperials were finding their way; mixed groups like the Speers were trying to strike a balance between the older styles and the more contemporary styles - and Gaither came into the middle of it with business acumen, songwriting talent and a singular ability to relate to audiences - both as concertgoers and listeners to their records - that no one else had. I doubt it would have happened the same way five or ten years earlier or later.

    They built on that formula - packaging their shows, first with the Slaughters, then with background singers and players; Danny leaving and Gary McSpadden joining them; mentoring and introducing budding younger artists; working with other co-writers; switching from Benson to Word and working occasionally with producers other than Bob MacKenzie - all these things and more contributed to the changes that kept them on the leading edge, even when sales occasionally went slack or they hit a creative dry spell. The momentum (and the royalties) carried them through.

    That’s why the entire Homecoming phenomenon seems like a natural outgrowth of what they started doing over 35 years ago. And despite whatever shortcomings may exist (Bill’s not much of a singer, people debate the merits of the composition of the Vocal Band, the packaging has become a bit predictable lately), it still works.

    There have been many other people in Christian music who have played important roles as well, on the artist side, the record label/publisher side and the booking side. But I don’t believe there has been one person in the business in the last 40 years who has contributed as much in so many areas (and who deserves the success he’s enjoying) as Bill Gaither. Sure, a Lowry seems like a safe bet to continue should Bill retire or pass away before the franchise ends. But no one will ever “be” the next Bill Gaither; the uniqueness of the man and the times he grew the business in will never be duplicated.

  22. NG wrote:

    More secular writing on “king” Gaither. This (the complete item) comes from in Tennessee:

    “Think Beatles without the screams. Elvis Presley without the curled lip and swiveling hips.
    In the world of gospel music, Bill Gaither reigns as king. His legendary Gaither Vocal Band has reunited and will bring the Bible via song to Freedom Hall in Johnson City on Sept. 19.
    Expect some hallelujahs and have mercies, but screams and hip swiveling, well, those belong to the Beatles and Elvis.
    Gaither may not appear so large. Yet though soft spoken and certainly not flashy, Gaither leads a vocal band that since the 1980s has led Southern contemporary gospel music with a stripped though often poignant style.
    It’s not exactly music that prompts hysteria, but here they are, Gaither Vocal Band, gospel music superstars.”

  23. quartet-man wrote:

    Yeah, like when a group member leaves, there is no other Bill Gaither, but possibly Lowry would be a good host and Bill could run the business end as long as he could and possibly have his son-in-law carry on the business end.

  24. Auke wrote:

    To DMP…elaborate on that thought….though i love the Vocal Band must say i caught myself thinking the same thing a few times the last couple of months.
    But i think it has soemthing to do with the guys being forced to sing from the ‘old’ overly sung GVB songbook.
    Mark my words, when the 2nd album release in early 2010 the Vocal Band will be really rise above themselves.


  25. BUICK wrote:

    #21 (CVH) - I do not disagree with anything you wrote. But I would add that, IMHO, the biggest reason for BG’s success in SGM is simply his delight in the genre, which is infectious. You can’t watch BG hop-skip-&-jump around the set, beaming from ear to ear, and not get bit by the bug. When he first introduced the GVB during BGTrio concerts and waxed rhapsodic that “there’s just something about 4-part male harmony that’s…spiritual” you knew he was speaking from his heart (with only a hint of humor). When he talked about milking a cow to the strains of the Statesmen, you knew he remembered those days fondly. BG succeeds in what he does because he’s not just a pitch man: he’s SG’s biggest fan who just happens to compose, sing (a little), play (a bit), produce, direct, etc. Clearly he’s making money by living his dream. I don’t doubt he works very hard at his craft. But he loves the music; he loves the culture; he loves the history of SGM; he loves the artists; he loves what he does and it’s as contagious as H1N1. If anyone aspires to take his place, it will have to be someone who has a lot of ability AND is head-over-heels in love with SGM. I don’t know anyone who fits that profile.

  26. cynical one wrote:

    CVH #21 — I think you hit the nail on the head. Bill came along at a unique time, with a wider variety of talents and areas of expertise than just about anyone else in this industry. And any area he lacked expertise in, he has surrounded himself with top-notch people.

    And I think you’re right about Jason’s background being too narrow to be accepted by the widely varied audience Bill has been able to attract.

  27. DMP wrote:

    Hmmmmm…. Anyone see this? This is interesting. If the vocal band every gets too crowded, I think we just found a home for Wes Hampton. I like it…

  28. CVH wrote:

    BUICK, cynical one - great points and I agree with you. You’re right, BUICK, his joy for the music is infectious. He’s as much fun to watch as anything.

  29. Nate wrote:

    DMP, perhaps you should actually go hear the GVB before making such a ridiculous statement. The group is locked in, blending and sounding it’s very best. Get a clue!

  30. AnnD wrote:

    You said it soooo well, #21

  31. weber wrote:

    #19 Your absolutely right, Jason Crabb supports TBN, a network that continually fleeces the flock on a daily basis.

  32. DMP wrote:

    Thanks Nate, but I’ve seen them many, many times. Thanks for being rude though.

  33. Nate wrote:

    DMP - You have seen the new GVB many, many times? Why would you pay such a high ticket price to see a group you don’t even like? They haven’t even been out there a year yet. Funny!

  34. DMP wrote:

    What I had said was that it feels to me like the GVB looks and sounds as though it is doing a bad impersonation of itself these days. It’s reminiscent of a returning Michael Jordon, or an Eagles reunion tour. They still have talent, and they are still better than many, but something is wrong. Like many aging artists, they fall into the trap of trying to sound like themselves, 20 years ago. Lowry is still funny, I’ve been to many of his solo shows and GVB concerts, but what used to come so natural for him seems as though it is more work now, and I’d say that is because it IS more work now. English has been given the impossible task of replacing Guy Penrod’s solos on many of the songs they do now. The problem is, he’s no Guy Penrod, and quite frankly, he doesn’t sound like the Michael English we all came to love 20 years ago either. Phelps is still an amazing talent, but is forced to sing the same old material over and over. And when he doesn’t, it’s a little awkward (Nessun Dorma isn’t a real great fit for a southern gospel concert, though it does sound wonderful). Wes Hampton is probably their best bet at sounding new, I really, really like the guy, but they hardly let him sing most nights. When I see the GVB these days, it feels like I am watching a GVB cover band with a suitcase full of tracks. They sing the right notes and go through all the right motions, but in the end, it feels just like that. With any luck, the new CD will pull them out of this phase, and that may be all it is, and awkward phase after an unexpected member change.

  35. Leon Houston wrote:

    This DMP guy is hilarious. Guy Penrod could never carry the shaving kit of Michael English on his worst night, the Eagles sound better now than at any time in their career, and Lowry’s material is better than ever (he doesn’t use all that Hyperactive Hype).

    Most of the songs they do now are songs that DMP’s beloved Guy had try to sweep up behind English with. Active word is try. So, yeah, it has been back to the future for the first year for the new group to get their bearings. But anyone who heard them here in Carolina last weekend knows the GVB finally has a real vocal blend again, without all the screaming, hand waving, hair products, faux cowboy gear and fingerpointing of recent years. Not to mention a huge influx of real heart!

  36. DMP wrote:

    Really my friend, you think David’s hair does that naturally?

  37. cynical one wrote:

    Why do we think we have to compare one singer over another, when we all know they are both great, just different?

    Yes, we may have our favorite singers, or our favorite combinations of groups from days-gone-by, but this business of who’s worthy of carrying whose shaving kit is stupid, IMHO. It’s all subjective, and nothing that can be proven, one way or another.

    Why can’t we just enjoy the fantastic groups that are presented to us today, and enjoy our recordings of our faves from the past, and stop the childish bickering?

    And for the record (pun intended), vinyl was the superior medium. (Does that sound oxymoronic — superior medium?) What are we going to do when our digital machines all crash, and we lose our downloaded files?

  38. DMP wrote:

    I completely agree in most cases about comparing singers. However, there is an exception. In this case, we have singers performing the exact arrangement and track sung by another singer. In many cases, the song was arranged for that person. I think it is obvious that Worthy the Lamb has lost its punch with out Penrod. But, I never thought Guy did Give Up justice either. English however did a tremendous job on it. Penrod had a very precise, booming style that was always the epitome or articulation, while English leans on the soulful and improvisational They both have unique talents, and are great in their own right, but I think we can compare when they are doing the exact same material.

  39. JLL wrote:

    No, the reviewer for that Colorado paper didn’t know what he was talking about, and I think he freely admitted that. It does seem as if he was won over. Someone unfamiliar with (and prejudiced against) SG music left that concert surprised and pleased. Sounds like a success.

    I see the Gaither concert everytime they come to my hometown–including the GVB in its various incarnations. I usually go with my parents (who are in their seventies), but Dad passed away earlier this year so it was just Mother and me this time. Truthfully, I wasn’t really looking forward to it–I did it for Mom. I always thought David Phelps was kind of a show-off, Bill was hokey, Michael English had seen better days, Wes Hampton was just filling in for somebody, and that Mark Lowry was going to be bug-eyed and irritating all night long. Well, I must admit that I enjoyed this last concert much more than I had expected. I still think Phelps is a show-off, but if I had those pipes, I’m not sure I wouldn’t be, either. Sure, Michael English’s voice (or the ever-expanding rest of him) isn’t what it used to be in his “In Christ Alone” heyday, but we all age, don’t we? For someone who spent quite some time in the Valley of the Dolls, I thought he sounded quite good (apparently painkillers are more detrimental to one’s butt than one’s voice). Plus, the disgrace/redemption thing works for him. MY mom teared up, anyway. I always thought that Mark was an underrated singer, and I felt the same way after this last concert. The comedy I can take or leave (Kevin’s actually better at that) but let Mark just sing and he’s so good. I’ve read some negative opinions of him here, but I thought Wes Hampton was really good too, even thought they don’t let him do enough. Now, the sound was pretty overwhelming, but I’m going to blame the venue, a notoriously bad one in my town. I’m not sure the best sound tech could solve that place’s problems!

    Hasn’t every beloved SG group changed personnel over the years–more than once, usually? GVB seems to do it regularly. I think everybody just got used to Guy and now they’re having a hard time dealing with his not being there. This new line-up sounded pretty good to me. I also noticed that the flashlight keychains (so effectively used during those “sing along with us” moments in a crowd probably devoid of lighters) were FREE! The last time I went to a Homecoming concert, those babies were $3 a piece! Glory!

  40. yeah... wrote:

    DMP, I’m with you. We may be unpopular, but I’ve heard a lot of people share our sentiments. And, cynical one is right, in that one persons’ preference is theirs and so on, and these things will always be subjective.

    I never cared for Michael English 20 years ago, and to me, his vocals are painful now. Penrod spent 14 years showing why he was in such demand for studio and road backup work prior to his GVB days. He’s precise, possesses a massive range, superior breath control, and sings a song as it was intended to be sung. Basically, for my money, I just described everything English is not. I do believe that over time, Wes Hampton will go elsewhere, and that will be a sad day. These vets who have been doing solo work will blend well together again. At least I hope they will. But it’s not there yet. I doubt that I’ll go to see them any more, frankly, and that saddens me more than I can say. They once made it all look effortless, but now, to me, it’s all just awkward.

  41. DMP wrote:

    Well put. Not bad, just…Awkward.

  42. harold wrote:

    I do love the tone deaf arm chair SG experts that wax eloquent on this page.

  43. DMP wrote:

    Not tone deaf Harold, just honest.

  44. Melvin Klaudt wrote:

    Since when is it important what the world thinks of us. I thought it was all about, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit? Based on what I am reading, it looks like we should be like the pharisee standing on the corner praying for the world to give their approva of usl. Jesus is controversial. The Holy Spirit does convict. And the message of Christ is to seperate the water from the oil. And the book of Revelation has never been for the world to understand, but that the Saints to be blessed by reading it. The Bible is the handbook and procedure manual for believers and not agnostics. The writer went for entertainment and received it. But just pray it planted see.

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