Roll over Beethoven and make room for … Lari Goss?

Apropos our discussion below of the recent Daniel-Aaron-Wes-Brandon-Nate-Phil megareview of the Booths’ Declaration, reader RDP catches something I’d missed:

In an effort to display his ability to show over-the-top enthusiasm for what is doubtless a well-produced album, Daniel suggested that Lari Goss deserves to be placed along-side Mozart, Beethoven and Bach as a great composer. Having been on a classical music kick of late, I found this comparison somewhat ignorant. Not to belabor the point, but what the aforementioned composers were doing was far more disruptive and foundational to western music than anything Goss is doing. Actually, the jobs are entirely different, so comparing them or mentioning them side by side isn’t even fair. Surely there’s ways to praise a producer’s work without making over-the-top comparisons that don’t stand up to scrutiny - that are evidently ridiculous to someone with a rudimentary knowledge of music history.

Just so. It reminds me of that old game from childhood … one of these things is not like the other … one of these things does not belong.

I give Mount a lot of friendly grief among bloggers for his love of the list and his Norman-Vincent-Peale brand of rose-colored blogging, but there’s no real harm done by these aspects of his approach. On the other hand, the sort of ahistorical hyperbole that RDP justifiably calls out here really is problematic. Mount’s outrageous comparison participates in a larger trend in southern gospel fueled by how overlooked and under-appreciated and misunderstood southern gospel is among outsiders, secular and sacred alike. It takes vigilance not to let sg’s marginal status drift into latent grievance-based thinking that in turn leads to vastly overstating the music’s achievements.

Southern gospel’s powerful and abiding impact on its many fan is not diminished by its second-class citizenship in the history of American sacred music, and asserting untenable claims - like floating a Lari-Ludwig connection - really only reinforces the perception of the music as a backwater world of pseudo-artistry dominated by a certain unserious knowing-nothingness.

I don’t know Mount well, but the few interactions I’ve had with him left me with nothing if not a palpable sense of the earnestness of his thinking about the music. So while I won’t speak for RDP, I can say for myself that I wouldn’t want my comments here to be read as a disparagement of Daniel’s intentions. He’s among the music’s most tireless promoters online. But yeah … a deep breath or two and a few steps back before hitting the PUBLISH button really are in order when the rhetoric gets blown so discreditingly out of proportion.

Update: For the record, Daniel Mount responded to my post in an email this morning:

I had a good laugh over today’s post. It doesn’t bother me if someone disagrees with my views. But before you pass a final judgment on Lari Goss’s skills, get the original breathy, CCM-praise-band version here (get the whole song) and compare that to Goss’s orchestral masterpiece. I dare to predict you’ll change your mind.

I guess I must not have made myself clear above that there is simply no amount of evidence currently available (nor will there ever be, unless Goss is a very late bloomer) that would warrant the comparison Daniel made. Then again, at this point,  it’s seems pretty clear Mount either doesn’t get why the great masters of classical music he summoned up for his original comparison are important in  music history, or it doesn’t matter to him for the purposes of what he’s trying to achieve (nuclear powered superfandom?). I dunno. This seems like a pointless discussion to draw out much further, though comments remain open of course. If you think rearranging a mediocre CCM P&W number - or over-orchestrating a southern gospel album - is a legitimate basis on which to say someone belongs on a list of the most influential figures in western music and art culture, it’s probably a belief you hold for reasons that don’t submit to debate. Why it’s not enough for Lari Goss to just be really uncommonly good and often great at what he does remains unclear to me, but then this is blogging. So unclarity is a default position.

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  1. SaraBeth wrote:

    Harmless, yes, but it does sort of knock the wind of credibility out of his sails, doesn’t it?

  2. A Critic wrote:

    Comparing Lari Goss to Ludwig, Bach, Etc… Is like comparing apples to oranges it just is not possible… And it is not fair…
    Mount posted another comparison today… In his review of a recent Mark Trammel Quartet/Danny Funderburke concert. He actually said that a quintet of Mark Trammel, Joel Wood, Dustin Sweatman and Pat Barker along with Danny, is better than the current Gaither Vocal Band… Talk about over enthusiastic about his favorite group… The only singer I would give you comparing those two groups is Pat Barker over Bill… And MAYBE Mark Trammel… Daniel is a great promoter of this music online, but lately his comparisons have been a bit over the top… Your right Doug, he needs to take about 10 steps back before hitting that publish button…

  3. Brian wrote:

    Why are Daniel’s opinions any less valid than yours? I’d listen to something arranged by Lari Goss every time over something by Beethoven or Bach. I’d also rather listen to Mark Trammell sing something than anybody on the Gaither Vocal Band. I guess I don’t have any credibility either…

  4. Brian wrote:

    And another point I want to make…to me it’s refreshing to read someone who has a positive, enthusiastic attitude about southern gospel music, because that’s the same attitude I have. 90% of the posts here by the author and readers are constantly lamenting how bad southern gospel music is. If it’s so terrible, why listen? It’s nice to go online and see southern gospel music fans making their opinions known without the persistent inferiority complex I see here. It’s not a crime to say that you like SG music and that SG artists are good. Lighten up!

  5. Nashville Phil wrote:

    Daniel, Don’t do the “comparisions”…It can’t work…Everybody is different! Lari Goss is one of the most gifted Talents in Nashville. Daniel, I think you’ve come down with a case of Gospel Gherrmitis. Know, it is treatable! Gerrming is not healthy…The cure? Cease.

  6. RDP wrote:

    I recognize that Daniel is enthusiastic, sometimes overly enthusiastic, and never apologizes for it. Let’s just say I don’t find a Lari Goss production and a Beethoven symphony interchangeable. Two very different experiences indeed.

    But I think I can forgive Daniel for not caring much what I think.

  7. KDM wrote:

    I think the main point here is that you really can’t compare Lari Goss to the classical masters. For one, although he has written numerous songs, he’s not really a composer. He’s an arranger, and a top-notch one at that. He does really fine work, but he’s mostly arranging other people’s music, not writing his own.

    For another thing, although Goss’ work is of the highest quality, it can’t really be considered ground-breaking. The thing that made Beethoven and Mozart so astounding was that they were cranking out stuff no one had ever heard before, or even tried. They each became a gold standard in their era for creativity and innovation. Goss makes great arrangements, but he’s not inventing new musical styles. The comparison is simply inaccurate.

  8. Mr. Big wrote:

    I have to agree with Brian when he says “Lighten Up”.

    I find this akin to a 12-year old boy writing on his Detroit Lion’s fanblog that Matt Stafford is as great a quarterback as Unitas, Starr and Marino, then a writer from lambasting him for his lack of knowledge about the history of the game. Unintended ahistorical hyperbole is common in wet-behind-the-ears fandom. But sometimes it is refreshingly sweet and shouldn’t be shot done by the super-informed.

    By the way, I know an easy way to avoid Daniel’s comparisons if you don’t like them. STOP READING HIS BLOG!

  9. Eugene McCammmon wrote:

    After having listened to gospel radio most of yesterday afternoon I am still convinced that a third-rate song with first-rate production yields a third-rate song.

  10. Eugene McCammmon wrote:

    Until a demand for quality songs sufaces big production is not worth much.

  11. RDP wrote:

    So Mr. Big, you think Daniel Mount is a wet behind the ears fanboy? I hope we can hold him to a higher standard than that.

    A better comparison would be a would-be sports columnist saying that Kobe Bryant is as great as Pele. It’s a comparison that makes no sense . . . and a would-be sports columnist shouldn’t really be talking like that if they want to be taken seriously. If they want to be seen as an overly enthusiastic fanboy, then they should keep right on . . . but they shouldn’t expect to be taken seriously.

  12. jim wrote:

    You genius! Excellent SG analogy!

  13. Butch wrote:

    Daniel has passed avery is blogosphere world. Consistent, good stuff, makes sense, isn’t enamored with himself, and “straight”.

  14. cynical one wrote:

    Mr Big — point well taken, but this was not from some 12 year old writing on a fanblog. This was from from a review we are supposed to trust, so we might know whether we should invest in the cd for our out collection.

    Not really the same thing.

  15. quartet-man wrote:

    #14 cynical one, is an out collection one you no longer keep in the closet? ;-)

  16. Irishlad wrote:

    Since a Southern Gospel arranger and a historical classical composer are as far apart as the “East is from the West”, who in their right musical mind would contemplate making a comparison? The last time Mr Goss visited Belfast i asked him who was currently in SG the best pianist,not surprisingly the reply was Anthony Burger.I then asked him if he had heard of Barry Douglas the Belfast born (1960) classical pianist - who won outright the 1986 International Tchaikovsky Competition, the first non-Russian to do so since 1958 - he said no.I was taken back since Mr Douglas is still touring the world, including the US, with every major orchestra.This spoke volumes,but then again it’s apples and oranges, there’s no comparison ,classical musicians are on a totally different level from SG artists or even the very best country players for that matter.

  17. Bud Alexander wrote:

    Unless you are the greatest composer ever of Western classical music, you should not be critical of Beethoven. He was a wonderful person and does not deserve this kind of destructive discussion.

  18. Odeliya wrote:

    @14 i, for one, :) usually just judge to buy a cd by listening to sound bites. Reviews are fun and educational, but unless you test it…its like restaurant reviews. Tastes in food or music vary, one likes, others dislike the same thing.

    I enjoyed Daniel’s comparison. Lari Goss is a Bach of Southern Gospel sounds nice, kind, and very christian, are we not to encourage and unlift each other? If we go “over” a bit with a compliment, so what? Much better then underestimate one another.

    Precisely because they are of a different music genre it sounds more of generic literary maneuver, a publicist’s find, a little spark in the review.
    Not an actual direct comparison.

    Comparing one artist to another precisely is hard and usually ungrateful , for good ones are very unique in their styles.I once said in private conversation with another gospel lover that Vestal Goodman is Monsserat Caballe of Southern Gospel. Both sang beautiful soprano, and looked very alike, but in a way they are worlds apart…

  19. Wade wrote:

    13… Funny some body named BUTCH is such a “HOMOPHOBE”!!

    AND so wrong…I do not know specificz but I bet click counts are way HIGHER HERE!!

  20. cynical one wrote:

    Actually, Daniel didn’t say Lari Goss deserves to be placed along-side Mozart, Beethoven and Bach as a great composer, as RDP states in the quote DH posted. Daniel’s exact words: “Goss deserves to be named in the same breath as Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. It would take a talent of that level to take the original and give it this level of treatment.”

    I’m sure Daniel will correct me, if I’m wrong, but I believe he was referring to Lari’s ORCHESTRATING skills, not his composing skills. These are 2 totally different things. And although those 3 classical composers also did their own orchestrating, Lari is not, for the most part orchestrating his own compositions.

    And I didn’t take Daniel’s remarks to be saying there was necessisarily any connection between those composers’ music and modern day s/g, or that Lari’s material would last for centuries.

    But who else could we compare a great modern orchestrator to? Stan Kenton? Benny Goodman? Ralph Carmichael? David T Clydesdale? (Talk about over-orcestrating! David T is the best in that department.)

    Now Ralph Carmichael. . . . HE was the king of the orchestra, as far as I’m concerned. Everything I hear, orchestra-wise, I compare to Ralph.

  21. Mixer wrote:

    After listening to a small clip of it, I feel like the arrangement loses the melody. Just me.

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