Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (Open Thread)

I am off on vacation until Jan. 2, so I will probably not be posting over the next week or so, though I will check in to moderate any comments occasionally. I will instead be playing endless choo-choo and stacking blocks with my kids, and I couldn’t think of anything better. If you hadn’t noticed by now, family is extremely important to me, and this is the time of year when family is celebrated moreso than any other. Just remember that as you go through the rigors of the holidays, the birth of the Christ child made us a part of God’s family, so don’t exclude Him from your celebrations. I’m going to try to keep my two still long enough to read the Christmas story from Luke to them on Christmas Eve, but they may still be too young to sit still for more than 2.5 seconds, we’ll just have to see.

Consider this your playground until I get back.

I wish all of you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. I’m looking forward to more blog fun in 2008!

Christmas Hidden Gem: The Martins – “We Have Seen His Star”

Here’s another cut from the Martins Christmas album.  This is a midtempo tune that has a very catchy hook.  It almost has a bit of an island feel to it.  There is some really nice harmony in this song, the Martins were experts at it.  This song features all three of the vocalists at some point or another.  Again, there isn’t anything really flashy on this song, it’s just a good solid tune with nice lyrics and a very smooth, harmonic performance by a group that was a master at this type of song.

Christmas Hidden Gem: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound – “Who Do You Think?”

Since this is my last day of posting until after the holidays, I’m going to highlight a few last Christmas hidden gems.  This one was originally recorded by the Statler Brothers, and was covered on the EHSS Christmas project.  This is a great lyrical story song, which is very typical of the Statler Brothers canon of work.  Tim Duncan actually sings lead for all of the song except the last chorus, and does a magnificent job.  This song gives him a chance to showcase his range.  Duncan is one of the best going at singing melodic bass solos.  Actually the song is sung almost entirely by Duncan, Doug Anderson, and Ryan Seaton as a trio.  Ernie then takes the lead on the last chorus and Tim switches back to a standard bass part.  There’s nothing flashy about this song, but it is a nice solid song with some really smooth harmony.   This is some of the best pure singing I’ve heard from EHSS.

Christmas Hidden Gem: Gold City – “Angels We Have Heard On High”

Here’s another wonderful cut from the Voices Of Christmas project. Brandon at Coomer Cove loved the track to this song in his review of the project. I’ll go a couple steps farther and proclaim this the capstone arrangement of this song. It does have a fine intro with a driving keyboard and drum intro. This has a very pop flair to it, especially for the late ’80s. The vocals are arranged fairly traditionally, though the harmony parts to the chorus are totally different from what you’ll find in a hymnbook. If you are familiar with the Young Messiah concept of the traditional vocals of Handel’s work backed by contemporary accompaniment, that pretty well describes this version of the classic carol. The song builds to a nice high ending on the tag. To me, this is one of the prime examples of Garry Jones’ arranging genius. Just a flawless performance all around. Listen to it, then listen again, and again, and again, and…well, you get the idea.

Trammell – Brown Engagement

Congratulations are in order for Nick Trammell and Jessica Brown, as they announced their engagement.  The SG blog world and message boards have all been awash with speculation about what this means for their respective groups.

I respectfully submit that there is plenty of time for such things later, for now, these two young adults have taken a big step in their lives.  It is an exciting, anxious, and sometimes scary thing to realize that you are at a point where you can serve God better together as a couple, than individually.  Their singing careers should not steal the thunder from this important, life-changing milestone.

So I say, congratulations Nick and Jessica, my advice is don’t agree to any MTV reality shows.  :-)

Parity – The 2007 Singing News Top 40 and College Football

You faithful readers will know that I am a sports nut, and anyone with even a passing interest in sports realizes what a crazy regular season was just concluded in college football.  Something like 6 #2 teams lost to unranked opponents through the course of the season, top-5 Michigan lost at home to a 1-AA school, and traditional powers struggled while previously second-tier programs like Missouri, Kansas, and South Florida saw the lights and glitz of top 5 rankings.  This season showed a lot of parity in college football.

Now before you go thinking this is another sports post, let me submit that I have noticed a similar situation in Southern Gospel music this year.  It is shown in the Singing News top 40 chart for 2007.  Like Ohio State and LSU, the big names are still there as expected.  For example, the Hoppers sit at #2 with “He Erased It.”  However, there are some groups that haven’t been traditionally upper-echelon groups with strong showings on the chart.  The Dove Brothers at #1 and The Whisnants at #3 are similar to what West Virginia was to football, a team that can argue that it competes regularly with the big boys, but for some reason still not regarded as one of them.  The SG versions of Kansas and South Florida?  Try The Browders at #20 and The Shepherds at #25.  I must confess I was not familiar with either group, and so I googled them just to find out a little bit about them.  How about some perennial powers that finished a bit lower that normal, like say Tennessee, Michigan, or USC?    How about Booth Brothers at #21, Greater Vision at #24, and Gold City at #30.

Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not complaining about either the football season or the SN chart, I thought this was one of the best football seasons ever, and it’s nice to see new blood get some recognition in Southern Gospel as well.  I just find it to be an interesting parallel between two very dissimilar things.  Truly 2007 is a year of parity in more ways than one!

PSQ Upheaval

From the “Deja-vu all over again” department:

There is this press release about the PSQ (thanks NP).  Seems as everyone but Kerry Beatty is gone and Beatty has merged in with the Classic Sound Quartet.  While I fully understand the appeal of singing with your brother, (I sing with mine, as a matter of fact), it is all still very interesting, to say the least.  (Anchormen, anyone?)  As I said in an email to reader NP earlier, while change is constant in SG, I cannot seem to remember a year to have as many massive changes to so many big name groups.  A vocalist here or there, maybe, but never the total upheaval like we have seen this year (Mercy’s Mark, McRaes (and permutations), Anchormen, now PSQ, etc.).  I’m not saying that these changes are not for the better, maybe they are, maybe they aren’t.  Only time will reveal the quality of the changes, I’m simply amazed at the sheer number of major changes we have seen.  Here I caught myself thinking last week that the SG news world was slowing down for the holidays.  How silly of me.

Upcoming Concert: Perrys – Jan. 13

We booked the Perrys last week for Jan 13, 2008 at my church.  Any of you readers who live in the Memphis area, check out www.faithbaptist-atoka.org for more info, and please come out and see them.  This news excited me when Dad called Friday afternoon to let me know.  I saw the Ps back in September, and it was the first weekend, and actually, Tracy said the first night, they had staged songs from Look No Further.  As such, there a couple, not many, but a couple of the typical first time performance nuances (lyrics, entrances, etc.)  The concert was thoroughly enjoyable, and they did a great job on the new material overall.  Having said that, it will be interesting to be able to hear it now that they have had time to become comfortable with the material.  I think it will also be intriguing to see what songs they have decided to keep on the program, and if any of the songs they staged back in the fall are no longer being done live.  I will of course do a concert review with set list included, and may even try and convince Christy to post her thoughts as well.  Stay tuned, same bat-time, same bat-channel.

Gaithers and NQC – Reunited

No, I’m not going to spontaneously break out into Peaches and Herb, but it is good to see that Gaither and Co. are back at NQC (thanks, AVFL).  I think that this will go a long way to help NQC attendance.  The year I was in Louisville was before “The Rift” developed, Gaither was there, in fact, I believe there was a mini-Homecoming concert on Saturday night, if memory serves me correctly.  The Gaither booth was by far the busiest when I was there.  I didn’t spend a whole lot of time over there, nor did I catch a glimpse of the GVB members, but their booth was always crowded.  I do find it interesting that it is just GVB and EHSSQ, and not the full Gaither entourage that are coming.  Anyways, it’s good for both entities to get this thing figured out and move on.  Kudos to both Gaither and Co., as well as Beasley and Co. for getting Gaither back where I feel he truly belongs.

Christmas Hidden Gem: Gold City – Christmas Medley (1988)

Our next hidden gem comes from Gold City’s Voices Of Christmas album. This is a medley starts with an uptempo, peppy Good Christian Men Rejoice, then moves to a broad, majestic verse of Joy To The World. Up next is one of the finest solos of Mike LeFevre’s tenure with the group on O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The chorus has a loud, majestic “Rejoice, rejoice” followed by a soft and smooth rest of the chorus featuring nice group harmony. The medley ends with the chorus to O Come All Ye Faithful, and builds to one of the most powerful endings ever recorded, with a nice chord progression on the tag. The overall arrangement is pretty pop sounding, especially for 1988, in fact, it almost sounds like it could be found in a Christmas cantata. Garry Jones did a marvelous job with the arrangement on this medley. To me, this is the single best track on the project. As much as I love this project, second only to the Cathedrals acappella Christmas album, sometimes I can’t help myself and skip right to this song after the great arrangement of “Angels We Have Heard On High.” Brandon over at Coomer Cove has some great comments on this track in his review of this album here. This is the classic Gold City at their finest.

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