Concert Review: Greater Vision

Greater Vision was in concert last night at my church, East Memorial Baptist in Prattville, AL. Turnout was pretty good, my guess is about 500 or so in attendance, maybe more. Heaven’s Harmony, a mixed quartet based in our church, opened the concert with two songs before Greater Vision hit the stage.

Set List:

  • Search Me Lord (Heaven’s Harmony)
  • Happy Rhythm (Heaven’s Harmony)
  • You Were Faithful Yesterday
  • Walls Come Down
  • Paid In Full Through Jesus Amen
  • For All He’s Done
  • Why Me Lord
  • He’d Still Been God
  • I Know A Man Who Can
  • God Doesn’t Care
  • My Name Is Lazarus
  • Still

Intermission

  • Put Out The Fire
  • Rolled Back Stone
  • The Lighthouse
  • I Know He Heard My Prayer
  • God Is So Good
  • God Wants To Hear You Sing

It had been quite a while since I had seen Greater Vision in concert, and this was my first time to see Jon Epley along with Gerald Wolfe, Rodney Griffin, and Chris Allman. They sang for about an hour and a half, and focused on well known songs from the group’s long history. GV has long been one of Southern Gospel’s top trios, and last night’s concert was a prime example. Their vocals are superb, the concert was paced very well, and Gerald had a great rapport with the audience as an emcee. It’s very obvious the influence of George Younce on Gerald’s emcee style, but to his credit Gerald does not attempt to imitate his former boss, but rather has his own style.

Jon Epley was featured on two songs, Why Me Lord and The Lighthouse. He did a great job on both songs, and really brings a fresh sound to the group’s blend. Especially in his mid and lower register, he has a sound reminiscent of Mark Lanier, the former baritone for Perfect Heart. Jon is a true baritone, much like Mark, and adds a fullness and depth to the sound of the group that it had never had before. He really fits in well with the group.

Chris Allman continues to shine in his role as the group’s tenor. He has such a smooth and clear voice, and provided a couple of highlights of the concert on For All He’s Done and I Know A Man. He has continued to bring an added dimension to GV with his songwriting, as his material has a different feel than Rodney’s. I really enjoy Chris being back with Greater Vision.

Speaking of Rodney Griffin, he is a model of consistency, both with his songwriting and his vocal abilities. Vocally he sounds the same now as he did 20 years ago. While he is frequently the target of Gerald’s jokes and plays the role of goof very well, he also shared a very touching testimony about his father in law and God’s faithfulness.

Gerald played piano and served as the emcee for the evening. He only sang on one song, a great arrangement of I Know He Heard My Prayer that is more of a traditional power ballad as opposed to the oft imitated Statesmen arrangement. I Know was definitely the biggest highlight of the night. I definitely miss hearing Gerald sing, especially on the big ballads like There Is A River or Till The Storm Passes By.

Greater Vision has really been a consistent group since Griffin joined 25 years ago, and even with Wolfe stepping away from vocal duties and Epley coming on board to handle the baritone spot that consistency is still present. Their blend is very smooth, and has seemingly gotten more so with Epley. Their material is top notch, though I will say I was a bit surprised at how much the set list was weighted toward their older material. Epley really seems to have found a nice niche and home with GV, and as he continues to grow into his role, I’ll be interested to see how their sound and arrangements evolve. If they are in your area, do yourself a favor and go see them. Tonight was a great night of worship and singing with a top tier group. Thanks guys for a very enjoyable night!

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Everything Changes, and an Upcoming Concert

Greetings from the great state of Alabama! It’s been quite a while since I posted anything here, so let’s catch up!

You will of course notice I said the state of Alabama, and you may recall from previous concert reviews that I lived in the Memphis area. That all changed late last year as I took a new job and moved my family from the Memphis, TN area to the Montgomery, AL area.

New job, new house, new church, but through it all God has been faithful and blessed us beyond what we deserve. We miss family and friends in TN, but we are very happy in our new home.

As a means of getting back into this thing called blogging, any of my readers in the Montgomery or Birmingham areas, let me invite you to a concert this Sunday night at our new church. Greater Vision is in concert at East Memorial Baptist Church in Prattville, AL at 5:30 PM this Sunday evening, August 5. A concert review will follow on the blog for the first time in quite a while. Come out and enjoy a night of gospel music!

Top 5: Greater Vision on Greater Vision

I’m starting a new series of posts that are called Top 5 Artist on Artist.  These posts come from me polling current and/or former members of iconic groups and asking them the best 5 albums ever released by said group.  Up first is Greater Vision.  All three of the current members responded to my request (thanks guys!), so without further ado, here are the top 5 Greater Vision albums as seen by the members of Greater Vision:

5 Live At First Baptist Atlanta (2002)
4 Everything Christmas (2010)
3 Quartets (2003)
2 Take Him At His Word (1995)
1 Hymns Of The Ages (2006)

I find a couple of things interesting. First of all, the similarity in all three responses is incredible. Out of a possible 15 slots for albums to be named, there were only 9 (and Gerald’s list had 6, as he had a tie for 5th).  It really shows the unity and similarity in the way these three gentlemen think.  Also, Gerald nailed the top 5. In order.

So what do you readers think? You’ve seen what the guys of Greater Vision think, do you agree?

Greater Vision Releases Digital Downloads

In their latest newsletter, Greater Vision has announced that they’ve made their out of print albums available for download in a new digital store.  You can access the store here.  Albums are $9.90-$11.99, single songs are $0.99, which is pretty typical for digital downloads.  It’s good to see these albums made available, and it’s a good way to complete your GV discography.  Here’s hoping that other groups follow suit.

NQC Coverage, and Day 1 Summary

Once again, the NQC train is passing me by.  However, I was able to catch a couple of hours of the broadcast via enLighten.  Those of you who follow the blog on Twitter will notice I was doing some tweeting as I was listening.  I will attempt to continue to do so the rest of the week, though most likely not Wednesday or Thursday (church and my son’s soccer practice, respectively).  If you’d like to follow along, you can get to the blog’s Twitter page here.

Of the limited sets I heard last night, the highlight was definitely the Perrys, and specifically Tracy Stuffle singing “Plan Of Salvation.”  What a touching tribute to Tracy’s hero, George Younce, and Tracy more than held his own singing George’s bass lead.  I’m glad I was able to hear it.

The next best set I heard was the New Gospel Singing Caravan.  You can really tell those groups are having fun on stage doing their set, and they were joined in a surprise appearance by the Nelons.  My wife made the statement while we were listening to their set that the Caravan CD was probably her favorite of the CDs I’ve forced her to listen to while I was reviewing them.  🙂

Greater Vision had some sound issues, at least over the radio feed, but once they got them done they turned in a very credible set, with one outstanding performance: Chris Allman singing “I Know A Man Who Can.”  Chris has made that song his own and he absolutely nails it.

Highlights that I didn’t hear personally, but have noticed on Twitter include Karen Peck and New River singing “On The Banks Of The Promised Land” and Karen’s version of “The Star Spangled Banner”, Gold City’s set overall and debuting a new song “Peter, James, and John”, and the sets of the Collingsworth Family (again, they were the major buzzworthy artist last year as well) and Brian Free and Assurance.

That’s about it for day 1.  Follow along on Twitter tonight, I’ll do my best to post some more comments.

Review: Greater Vision – The Only Way

While not the first Daywind CD from Greater Vision since Chris Allman rejoined, this is the much anticipated first album of (mainly) new material of the Allman era, part 2.

Tracks:

  1. He Didn’t When He Could Have Passed By – Written by Rodney Griffin, the album kicks off with this uptempo number that has a bit of a Cajun feel to it.  The group sings the first verse and chorus together, then Gerald Wolfe takes the second verse as a solo.  After another chorus, the key changes and Chris Allman takes the lead.  Allman keeps the melody through the next chorus which lends for some really low harmony on the first half of the chorus.  After taking the key up another half step, Rodney takes the melody for the first half of the chorus which is a better overall sound.  There’s a moderately high tag to end the song.  It’s a very upbeat song and a great opener.  9.5/10
  2. Safe Within His Arms – One of the advantages of Chris Allman rejoining the group is found with this song.  It’s a slower, midtempo tune penned by Allman.  Having another songwriter in the group will pay (and already is paying) dividends in that it will keep their projects from falling into too much of a rut, as has been mildly criticized about Greater Vision in recent years.  Allman keeps the melody all through the song, and there is just something special about hearing a songwriter perform a song that he or she has written.  There is a genuineness and a care paid to the delivery that someone who didn’t write the song can’t hope to convey.  This is one of the stronger songs on the CD.  9.5/10
  3. No Longer Chained – This song, written by Rodney Griffin, pulls a major fakeout on the listener.  The intro to the song will make you expect a big ballad with huge orchestrations, then the last line of the intro reverts to a mid to uptempo light tempo.  DBM correctly pointed out in his review that the chorus of this song is nearly identical to “He’s Still Waiting By The Well”, but where that song was an in your face barn burner, this one is given a much more mellow treatment, even if the rhythm and tempo are similar.  The song tells a story of a Roman soldier that is assigned to the apostle Paul in his later years, and serves as a metaphor that sharing our testimony can cause others to be freed in Christ.  It’s a solid song.  8.5/10
  4. I Know A Man Who Can – Wow.  All I will say is Jack Campbell and Jimmie Davis’ classic is absolutely lit on fire and scorched by Chris Allman.  Nothing else I say will aptly describe this.  Can I give it a 15? 10/10
  5. He’s The Only Way – This is an uptempo number penned by both Griffin and Allman.  On an album where uptempo songs are a bit scarce, this is a good one.  Lyrically it pulls no punches, plainly stating that Christ is “the only way to life everlasting.”  In a world of so-called “tolerance, acceptance, and open-mindedness” the song serves as a much needed dose of truth.  It starts with two iterations of the chorus before the group takes the first verse together.  The second verse is done by Rodney Griffin.  After the subsequent chorus, the key changes and Chris Allman takes the third verse before surrendering the melody back to Griffin on the chorus.  A little interlude with each member taking solo lines a la “My Name Is Lazarus” precedes a key change and Allman taking the melody.  This is really good song and would make a good single for radio.  9/10
  6. Like I Wish I’d Lived – Penned by Rodney Griffin, this is the first single from the project.  Like others have said, the choice puzzles me a bit.  The song itself is fine, it’s a ballad that is sung by Chris Allman that calls the listener to live a holy life, or a life “like I wish I’d lived in the past.”  It’s a good message, and a good performance by Allman, but it seems really subdued for a radio song.  Still, a good song with a great message.  8/10
  7. But God – Rodney Griffin and Twila LaBar wrote this song that was originally recorded by Legacy 5.  Gerald Wolfe takes the lead on this song and turns in a typically solid, workmanlike performance.  Wolfe is one of the most consistent performers in SG, you know exactly what you will get from him, and you know it will be good.  This is another ballad that features good solos on the verses from Wolfe and some nice smooth harmony from the group on the chorus.  Though Wolfe tends to take the baritone part more often these days, Greater Vision still sounds REALLY good with Gerald on the lead and Rodney on baritone.  Another solid song.  8/10
  8. We Still Have To Pray – This Rodney Griffin ballad comes with an interesting message, but a good one.  Even when we are staying in a close walk with God, we still have to pray and keep that close communication open.  Prayer isn’t just needed in the hard times, but when things are going well too.  Griffin gives a tender and poignant vocal on a really strong set of lyrics.  There’s not anything flashy here, no high ending, no “fancy” harmonies, just good singing that puts the focus squarely on the lyrics of this song.  8.5/10
  9. Eternity’s About To Begin – Chris Allman wrote this song that picks the pace back up a bit after the previous three ballads.  This one has a bit of a black gospel feel to it.  Rodney Griffin takes the melody after Allman gets things started.  This is a really catchy tune that would probably do very well as a single.  9/10
  10. Heaven Can’t Be Far Away – This Steve Hurst penned tune was done previously by the group and is revived here.  Gerald Wolfe reprises his lead vocal from the original.  It’s a solid cover, but not quite up to the original.  8.5/10
  11. Another Child’s Coming Home – The disc ends with this ballad from Chris Allman.  It’s a take on story of the prodigal that Allman sings very tenderly.  Like Wolfe, Allman is a great communicator of a message in song, and he shows that ability on this song.  Like “We Still Have To Pray”, there’s not a whole lot of flash or pizzazz to this arrangement, but it’s a good lyric that is presented very well by Allman and the group.  8.5/10

Overall:  9  Since Chris Allman returned to Greater Vision, fans have been waiting for their new “mainline” style project to see what kind of an influence Chris would have in their future direction.  That has been settled with this project.  The group has been given a breath of fresh air, and Gerald Wolfe produced a tremendous album.  Wolfe is one of our most recognizable voices, and carries his part with an air of precision and excellence.  Rodney Griffin gets a lot of attention for his songwriting, and deservedly so, but Griffin has developed into quite an effective vocalist in his own right, and as the years have gone by, he’s taken more and more of the higher lead notes while Wolfe has deferred to the baritone part.  Rodney is a solid singer as well as one of our top songwriters.  As I have said previously, Chris Allman stepped out of a time machine set on about 1995.  He has seemingly lost none of his range, and if anything his voice has matured and improved over the last 15 years or so.  He really brings a fresh energy to the group, almost as much for his songwriting contributions as his vocals.  I do wish there had been more uptempo songs included, as the project seems to drag some after “The Only Way”, but that’s a minor complaint.  Greater Vision fans, and SG fans in general, do not want to miss out on this project.  It’s a great effort that will provide a lot of listening enjoyment and some timely messages.

The Original Greater Vision Revisited

A couple of videos have surfaced of rehearsals by the original lineup of Greater Vision for the reunion concert that was recently held.  (h/t, DJM)  I can’t stop watching the clip of “Sailing Away”, it’s just that good.  I love Pat Barker’s reaction in the background when Gerald, Mark, and Chris just effortlessly nail the cascading harmonies to the inversion on the second chorus.  These videos reinforce my belief that the combination of Chris Allman, Mark Trammell, and Gerald Wolfe was the greatest male trio SG has ever seen.  Wow.  The scary thing is they sound just as good, if not better, as they did 20 years ago.

Sailing Away

Jesus Is Here

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