Forgotten Albums: Kingdom Heirs – Forever Gold

The Kingdom Heirs have released numerous strong albums over their long career, especially since Arthur Rice joined up with the group in the mid to late 90s.  Albums like Anchored, The Journey Home, and True To The Call have found their place in the genre.  Forever Gold, however, seems to be largely forgotten.  It’s a shame, as this is a great album. It was the first mainline album to feature David Sutton as tenor, and the only mainline release to feature former Gold City member Steve Lacey as lead. Baritone Steve French and bass Eric Bennett round out the vocal lineup on the album.

The album starts of with a jazzy tinged song called “Makin’ A New Start”, that is a decidedly Gold City-esque tune that lets Steve Lacey and David Sutton step out a bit.  I’ve always been a huge Lacey fan, both with Gold City and the Kingdom Heirs.  He had an incredibly smooth voice that I miss hearing in SG.  There’s a very solid rendition of “Lord Do It Again” that again begs a GC comparison, as both quartets recorded this song at about the same time.  David Sutton does a great job on the lead on the chorus, and Eric Bennett, who had only been with the Kingdom Heirs for a couple years, was already displaying his adeptness at bass leads.  Lacey shines on a big ballad called “Let Freedom Ring.”  “Supernatural Man Who Can” is a bit of a gimmicky type lyric, but it’s solid enough.  One of the big highlights is the shimmering acappella “When Jesus Breaks The Morning.”  The harmonies are fantastic, as is the arrangement.  This was probably the smoothest blend the Kingdom Heirs have ever had.

The huge hit on this album was the Squire Parsons penned “I Go To The Rock Of Ages”.  The Hoppers also recorded a popular version of this song, but this one is my favorite.  It’s become a bit of a minor classic as many regional groups started singing the song.  In fact, a certain blogger may have played and sung this with his family a time or two, you never can tell.  🙂 “He Had To Hold To Calvary” is another highlight of the recording, thought it is a bit long at 6:01, David Sutton’s vocal holds you captive the entire time.  Sutton has always been fantastic at tenor ballads, and this is one of the earliest examples.  It’s a terrific song, and a riveting performance by the group.  There’s a laid back version of “Love Will Roll The Clouds Away”, or at least it’s laid back compared to the Kingsmen’s versions of the song.  The recording ends with an acoustic flavored version of the CCM hit by Phillips, Craig, and Dean “I Want To Be Just Like You.”  Steve French does a great job with a touching lyric.  This song has much more meaning to me since I became a father, and with Father’s Day approaching, it would be a good song to listen to again.

This particular lineup of the Kingdom Heirs was fairly short lived, lasting about a year or so.  Arthur Rice succeeded Steve Lacey as the lead singer for the group, and the rest, as they say, is history.  BUT, to this blogger anyways, this recording still stands up as one of the best albums in the group’s catalog.  Pull it out and listen again, and prepare to be impressed.  This is another album that will make you say “I forgot how good this album is!”

Mega Review: Kingdom Heirs – We Will Stand Our Ground

Every now and then, a project comes out that is more highly anticipated than a normal album. Being the debut of Jerry Martin with the Kingdom Heirs, this project falls within that category. As a result, several of us that write blogs decided it was worthy of one of our “mega-reviews” that we started a few years back. Hope you enjoy the novel–I mean–review! 🙂

Reviewers:

Tracks:

1. I’m Not Worried About Forever

Brian: The opening track is the first of several songs on the project that serve as an encouragement for the Christian of the 21st century, with lyrics that are relevant to today’s Christian experience.  There are so many things going on around us that can cause confusion and doubt, but there’s on thing that we as Christians don’t have to worry about, and that’s eternity, which is the only thing that really matters.  The chorus ends with the well-crafted hook: “I’m not worried ‘bout forever, and God’s got me covered today.”

Though the lyrics deal very much in the contemporary (including a reference to CNN), the music draws from the golden era of southern gospel, complete with plenty of major thirds and sixths.   This is a great way to start off the album for the listener needing a little lift.

Adam: When I began listening to this project, I found it odd that this one kicked it off through the first two verses.  Although the vocals are high quality (but then again, this is the Kingdom Heirs and is to be expected), this feels to me like SG easy-listening and I feel it doesn’t give the CD the kickoff it deserved.  I think it would have worked well on down into the project.

Wes: This is a pretty nondescript way to kick off the album.  It’s a decent mid to uptempo number that allows the group to showcase a very smooth blend.  It’s not going to knock your socks but the vocals are well done.  The vocals on the tag are surprisingly light and soft, but that really is keeping with the overall feel of the song.

2. Tell Me Why

DBM: “Tell Me Why” falls in that territory between a fast and medium tempo with a straight country arrangement. I’d have preferred hearing Arthur Rice keep the melody to the very end rather than handing it off to Jerry Martin and it feels like it’s about one chorus too long. Overall, though, this is precisely the sort of song I like to have lifting my spirit when I’m riding in my car.

Wes: This song is a bit more energetic than the previous song.  Jerry Martin really blends well with Arthur Rice.  I’d probably have switched this song with the one before it to give then album a little more of a punch at the start.  Solid tune.

3. I’m A Brand New Man

Steve:  This is one of several songs lately that talks about Zacchaeus.  Jeff Chapman takes the lead on the verses to this up tempo number.  It speaks of Zacchaeus becoming a brand new man after his encounter with Christ and brings that message to the ‘everyday joe’ listening to the song.  While not one of the stronger songs of the recording, it is still a feel good number that Kingdom Heir fans should enjoy.

Daniel: I’d agree, but I would add that it would be one of the stronger songs on many other groups’ recordings. But this batch of songs is so strong overall that this one can get overshadowed.

Adam: I find myself really enjoying Jeff Chapman’s solos as much as his bass part.  He has turned into a great singer, as well as a great bass singer.  Sometimes I like to listen to some of his solos when he was with the Anchormen and then listen to him today so the maturity of his vocals can be appreciated.  Good stuff!

DBM: I know a lot of the focus is on what Jerry Martin adds to the Kingdom Heirs, and there’s no doubt he’s terrific. That being said, Jeff Chapman’s features on this CD are the highlight for me. I’d say this IS one of the stronger songs on this project.

Wes: Jeff Chapman shows why he’s considered one of the best basses in the business on this song.  His vocals are very well done on this driving number.  Again, this song doesn’t really reach out and grab you, but Chapman’s vocals are a definite highlight.

4. If You Give the Devil an Inch

Wes:  This is a jazzy little number that features Arthur Rice on the verses with Jerry Martin taking the melody on the chorus.  The chorus features some nice thick harmonies. The Kingdom Heirs have done a lot of these jazzy type numbers and they always do them well.  Jerry Martin really sounds smooth and effortless on this one, and there are some really nice chords in the chorus.  The lyrics are pretty clever, as you’re expecting the whole “give an inch, he’ll take a mile”, but that never appears, instead it turns on a double meaning of the word “ruler.”

5. Heaven is My Goal

Brandon: “Heaven is My Goal” kicks off with some old time piano playing (in my mind, I can almost see someone tap dancing during the kick off), before settling into the feel of a classic up tempo quartet song.  Arthur Rice handles the lead during the verses and the second half of the choruses, with Jerry Martin taking the step out lines on the first half of the choruses.  Jeff Chapman isn’t the featured vocalists on this song, but he hits some good notes, especially on the end of the second verse and the song’s true ending.

An interesting twist is that the third time through the chorus, the instrumentation drops to just the piano (in the same style as the kick off and turnaround) for a couple of lines.  During this, the piano sounds like it is coming from an old LP or radio, which I think is an illusion due to the style, although it could be an intentional effect.  Either way, it adds to the classic quartet feel.

To me, this track is reminiscent of the group’s hit “I Know I’m Going There” in places.  The transitions between the kickoff and turnaround into the verses  sound a lot like the same parts of the former #1 hit.  This song also features a false ending.  As I mentioned, this song just sounds like a classic quartet song, much like the older song.  I can also see this being just as big a hit as “I Know I’m Going There”.  This is the first song on the project that grabbed my attention and is still my top pick on the CD.

Brian: While listening to the CD the first time through, I found myself saying things like “oh, that’s nice”, “pretty good song”, and “solid performance” during the first few songs.  Then “Heaven Is My Goal” played, and my reaction was “Yes! That’s what I’m talking about!”  Somebody woke up Jerry Martin!  I was demanding that final turnaround on the first listen, and I was happy to hear the quartet oblige.  This is my favorite song on the album, and I will not be surprised if a lot of people feel the same way.  Big hit, all the way.

Daniel: Brandon – I think Jeff Collins doesn’t tap dance! At any rate, I’ve never seen him do it, and he sure wasn’t when playing for this album’s tracking session!

If it wasn’t for the lyrical power of the closing song, this one might be my favorite, too. At any rate, it’s certainly one of the project’s strongest songs!

Adam: Brian, this is my favorite song on the project as well.  Although I thought Billy Hodges was a great fit with the KH, I honestly feel that Jerry Martin is the best SG tenor on the road today.  I can’t wait to see and hear how the group’s sound gels over the next year or so.

Wes:  Now this is what I was looking forward to hearing from the group with Jerry Martin.  This is straight ahead quartet singing that is as good it gets.  I love this song!  The chord progression and the harmony on the line “There’s a longing deep within my soul” is especially nice.  I just wish they’d have inverted the harmony up on the final tag, but we can’t have everything.

6. It’s Real

Brian: Before joining the Kingdom Heirs in 1995, Arthur Rice traveled with Squire Parsons.  Perhaps due to Rice’s influence and as a form of tribute to the Hall of Fame singer-songwriter, the quartet has recorded several of Parsons’ older songs over the years.  Rice has taken the lead on such classics as “Hello Mama,” “He Came to Me,” “More Than I Ever Asked For,” “I Sing Because,” and of course, “Sweet Beulah Land.”  This trend continues on We Will Stand Our Ground with a song recorded by the Squire Parsons Trio and The McKameys in 1995, “It’s Real.”

“It’s Real” is a simple uptempo number with a convention feel.  Unlike the other Parsons songs mentioned above, Rice is only featured in a few step out lines in the verses.  Jeff Chapman handles the step outs in the chorus until Jerry Martin is turned loose (two octaves higher, of course) on the repeat choruses near the end of the song.  The arrangement is pleasantly simple, with a fun call-and-response ending.  This is too good a song to leave sitting on old cassettes, and I’m glad the Kingdom Heirs are helping to keep numbers like this alive.

Adam: This was a fun song to listen to.  It is also among my favorites from the project. Just good quartet singing!

Wes: I miss the days of waiting for what all Squire Parsons songs I’d hear on quartet CDs.  Squire is one of my favorite writers, and this is a very typical Squire song.  I’ll bet this one becomes a concert favorite, and would make a good radio cut as well.  Once again, I wish they’d have taken the last chord up instead of coming back down.

7. When Heaven’s Gates Swing Open Wide

Daniel: When the Cathedrals released “Oh Come Along” in ’94, McCray Dove told its author, Dianne Wilkinson, that it sounded so true to the convention song style that he looked through all his old Stamps-Baxter songbooks before realizing that it was a brand-new song.

“When Heaven’s Gates Swing Wide,” another brand-new convention song from Wilkinson, is another song that has such an authentic convention feel that it could be mistaken for a 75-year-old classic. It’s not a driving uptempo convention song; it is mid-tempo and features a lilting tenor part with lead/baritone/bass counterpoint.

Brian: Count me in the number who still loves this style of music.  Just a piano and four voices, and it does indeed sound like something right out of a 1940’s Stamps Baxter collection.

Adam: Dianne Wilkinson has a gift for writing new “Old” songs.  Songs like this feel like they came off of an old Blackwood brothers or Statesmen LP.

Daniel: I couldn’t have said it better. In fact, that’s what I took two paragraphs above to try to say!

Wes: Much like “Crown Him King” from the New Caravan CD that was recently released, Dianne Wilkinson has perfectly captured the feel of vintage SG quartet music.  I’ll add my vote in as another that still enjoys this type of music.

8. I’m Gonna Hit the Ground Running

DBM: This boogie swing track features Jeff Chapman singing the verses and digging into some massive low notes. The other vocals add a few “doo-wops” and some thick harmonies. It’s in the same vein as some of the songs Palmetto State Quartet used to do when Harold Gilley was their bass: “Jubilee’s A’Comin’” and “No Back Door To Heaven.”

Brian: Chapman shines again on this one, and I love what the rest of the guys do on the second verse to back him.  They let loose on the chorus with the jazzy chords, and end it with the classic sixth.  This one is lots of fun.

Wes: Once again Jeff Chapman hits a home run on this song that sounds like it came straight out of the 50s.  One of the things that stands out to me is the cleanness and bounciness of his solo lines.  Bass singers especially have a tendency to slur from note to note occasionally, but Chapman is very precise with his syllables and pitches.  Another really enjoyable song.

9. No Bones About It

Aaron: If there is one style of Southern Gospel that the Kingdom Heirs have really taken on as their own over the years, it’s the driving, country-style quartet song. This song about the fact of Jesus’ resurrection is no exception. I like the clever play on words that the song uses to make it’s point that the grave is empty: “No bones about it, Jesus isn’t there!” Jeff Chapman’s low note lead-ins to each chorus are reminiscent in sound to Matt Fouch of Soul’d Out Quartet, and indeed, the entire song sounds like something that the young quartet would do, especially with Jerry Martin’s more open tenor tone than the group has usually known. Look for this to go over well for the group in concerts.

Daniel: The song was co-written by Kingdom Heirs drummer Dennis Murphy and Dianne Wilkinson; Murphy had the idea and the chorus, and Wilkinson finished the song.

Wes: Chapman really drags the bottom on the chorus on this country flavored tune.  Another solid tune, but to me isn’t quite as strong as the previous few cuts.

10. Where’s John

Aaron: Jeff Chapman steps out front to deliver this chilling new song. Daniel made the comment earlier in a discussion that this song would find a place on a list of the “Top Ten Creepiest Southern Gospel Songs,” and that statement would be correct!

The song is written from the perspective of an unsaved man who is looking for his brother, John, who has mysteriously gone missing. While the Rapture is never directly mentioned, the listener can tell that it is the setting for the story from various lines, which refer to the cemetery being robbed and “open graves all over the place,” as well as “many people missing.” The storyteller mentions the fact that John told him over and over about Jesus’ eventual return, but he just laughed it off. The chorus reveals his despair as he cries out to God asking, “Where’s John?”

Aside from the fact that the song’s lyrical content is attention-grabbing in and of itself, Chapman’s performance is no slouch either; indeed, it may be one of the best of his career. His tone is smooth throughout, and the very tangible emotion in his delivery helps propel the lyric. He displays quite a vocal range for a bass as well, topping off on the bridge with a high B (maybe some of the more musically educated among us can tell me the exact term for that note!) and then ending the song in “Tim Riley territory.” All in all, this song will be one of the most talked about when this project hits stores.

Daniel: I would have to agree, this song is easily one of the definitive performances of Jeff Chapman’s career. In fact, I will go farther: I could not point to any other performance that better shows the spectrum of his abilities.

Aaron, technically it’s a B3, but in our genre, someone says B3 and we think “Hammond Organ”! So maybe we could just say “the B a note below middle C.”

Aaron: Thanks, Daniel. I was thinking about going ahead and calling it that, but figured I’d better see if there was a technical name to put first!

DBM: Aaron, you could just say it’s MIDI note number 59. LOL

Brian: Lyrically it reminds me of “The Last Sunday”.  Vocally it reminds me of Chapman singing “Good News From the Graveyard”.  Musically it sounds like something from Carlos Santana.  This is definitely the most outside-the-box song on the project, but it works.  Chapman absolutely delivers the goods here.

Adam: I really like this song.  Hopefully they will sing this at Dollywood and maybe some people will ponder on the message behind it.  I think this song could be a great witnessing tool for the group.  The vocals are cool enough and good enough to grab your attention and the message in the lyrics is powerful.  I loved it!

Wes: This is a pretty unique cut, done totally in a minor key.  It almost has a little bit of a Latin feel, the comparison to Santana is probably as close as I could guess as well.  I don’t know that the song would make a big radio hit, but it’s definitely different.  I have a feeling that there won’t be much middle ground on this song.  You’re either going to like it or not.  I like it.

11. Just Preach Jesus

Adam: In a quartet, it is often the singers instead of the song that grab our attention.  This song gives us the best of both.  The vocals on this cut are excellent, but even more impressive to me are the lyric they sing.  Although there is a simplicity to the hook of the song, it speaks volumes in just the 3 words alone “Just….Preach….Jesus”. Too many times I’ve heard preachers chase rabbits from the pulpit about opinions and denominations. This is a message that needs to be stressed to a lot of preachers in our day.  Don’t focus on church politics, worldly influences or man’s opinions….Just Preach Jesus!

Daniel: I had the opportunity to be in the studio on tracking day, and when I heard this song, I thought it would be the big hit for sure. Though I revised my analysis slightly when I heard the final track, this is still one of the project’s strongest songs and would go over well both in radio and at concerts.

Brian: I like how the song takes its title and theme straight from scripture: the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.  Phillip opened the scriptures to Isaiah 53 and preached to him Jesus.  What a great precedent!  The second verse takes us directly to Acts 8, making this one a great candidate for my Songs from Scripture series.

Adam: Yes….this is a scripturally sound song and one of my favorites from the project!

Wes: This a return to straight ahead quartet style, and it’s probably placed in a good spot here after the “what was that??” factor of the previous song.  The Kingdom Heirs have always excelled at singing straight ahead traditional quartet music, and this song is a good example.

12. We Will Stand Our Ground

Daniel: I’ll have to admit that this song didn’t blow me away the first time I heard it. But that’s only because I was on such a five-star song overload after songs 5-11 that I was tuning everything out! The album keeps building throughout, and this last track is no exception.

The second time I played through the song, I was paying attention. That time, I was so blown away by the power of the lyric—and the delivery—that I honestly ran out of words to describe it. “Monumental” came to mind, but somehow that didn’t seem strong enough. “An anthem for a generation of American Christians” was closer.

It took me weeks to come up with a term I think is fitting: This song is signature song caliber. This should be for the Kingdom Heirs what “Champion of Love” was for the Cathedrals, what “Midnight Cry” was for Gold City, and what “Four Days Late” was for Karen Peck and New River. This song has the confidence, authority, energy, and lyrical power of a breakout hit. It’s one of the strongest songs Dianne Wilkinson has ever written.

Brian: I too find myself loving this song more every time I hear it.  I can see this being the song the Kingdom Heirs end every concert with as long as they exist.  I’m excited to hear what it will sound like live, because to me the quartet voices get lost a little bit at the end amid the background vocals.  But this song is about the lyrics, and this is one of the most powerfully relevant songs I can remember hearing.  This is a message the world needs, and southern gospel music needs.

Adam: This is a good song, but I find myself skipping it on most plays.  Vocal quality is top-notch, but this song reminds me of “Truth Is Marching On” which was recorded by what seemed to be every major SG group and run into the ground.  I wasn’t a fan of that song and I’m not much on this one either.  I prefer to hear the quartet sing and this song is filled with stacks and choir background vocals.  This song is just too over the top for my tastes.

Wes: It’s interesting that they only recorded one ballad, and stuck it at the very end of the CD.  It’s a great lyric, strong performance, though I’d have rather not had the choir backing up the group and just kept it as a quartet vocal only.  My only concern is that with so many similar sounding songs in tracks 1-11, this song won’t have the listener’s full attention that it deserves.    I don’t know that I agree with Daniel, I don’t think it’s quite up to “signature song” quality, but it’s a strong song, to be sure.

Summaries

Daniel: This is the strongest collection of songs the Kingdom Heirs have released yet—for my individual song ratings, only three songs (two through four) got four stars, and the rest of the album was one five-star song after another.

The vocal and instrumental arrangements are solid enough that they would propel other projects to five-star status. But they’re not the stars of the show here; that distinction would certainly fall to the songs. The Kingdom Heirs have been criticized before for cutting mostly Dianne Wilkinson songs. But more than ever before, this is the album where that pays off. Ten of the twelve songs are written or co-written by Wilkinson, and it should be safe to say that she has never had a stronger bevy of cuts on a single project of new songs. Average song rating: 4.8 stars (of 5). Album rating: 5 stars.

Brian: This is a very strong overall collection of songs, with really only one song that has me reaching for the skip button.  Individually, Jeff Chapman turns in three of the best performances of his career in his feature songs, including what should be his signature song in “Where’s John?”  Chapman shows off a terrific singing voice and huge low notes, a combination only rivaled today by Tim Riley himself.  Individually, he’s the star of the project.  The rest of the quartet don’t stand out much individually; Steve French has zero solo lines on the project, Jerry Martin only sings a solo verse once, and Arthur Rice handles the rest.  But the quartet blend is as good as it’s ever been for the Kingdom Heirs, and might be the best in all of gospel music today.

The title track is the only slow-tempo song on the project, but there’s still enough variety of styles in the other songs to keep the listener on his toes.  Really, almost every song on the project could go over very well on the radio, so it will be interesting to see the choices for singles.  “Heaven Is My Goal” should be a big hit, and “We Will Stand Our Ground” is the showstopper.  The rest of the songs are very even and enjoyable.  I’ve been listening to the CD in my car for a while now, and have not had a desire to stop yet.  We Will Stand Our Ground gets an easy 5 stars from me. Album rating: 5 stars.

Steve:  Have we forgotten the kind of music the Kingdom Heirs can produce?  I miss Arthur’s big power ballads.  Songs like “Forever Changed” and “He Had To Rise” are missed on We Will Stand Our Ground.  With the exception of the title track all other 11 songs are in the mid to up tempo range.

Strongest songs on the recording are “Heaven Is My Goal”, “Just Preach Jesus”, “It’s Real” and “No Bones About It”.  Kingdom Heir fans will no doubt love this collection.  I was expecting something more.  Average song rating:  3.75 (of 5).

Adam: Since this is the first project with Jerry Martin, I knew that the Kingdom Heirs would have a different sound from all of their other recordings.  I have long felt that Martin is the top SG tenor on the road and this CD is (hopefully) just the beginning of great things to come for the group.

There are some great songs on this project like “Heaven Is My Goal”, “It’s Real”, “Where’s John?” & “Just Preach Jesus”.  The title track, while not one of my favorites, should be a great radio release for the group.  After listening to this project several times, I feel it’s a great beginning for what I feel could be one of the greatest vocal lineups that SG has ever seen.

Steve French remains an underutilized member of the group as far as features are concerned and this project is evidence of that statement.  I miss songs like “Now I Am On My Way To Heaven” where all parts are featured.  Sure, the other three parts are fantastic in this group, but for me something seems to be missing.  Maybe next time…

Overall, I think that this is a good CD from the Kingdom Heirs, but I am left longing for true ‘4-part’ harmony so I can’t give this CD a true 5 star rating. However, I am positive that anyone that listens to or buys this project will enjoy it.  Album rating: 4.5 stars.

DBM: This is my favorite Kingdom Heirs CD in several years. The addition of Jerry Martin has given the Kingdom Heirs a “punch” on the top end, and we can always depend on Arthur Rice, but the real story here is Jeff Chapman. My quartet had the opportunity to open for the KHs several weeks ago, and he sounded HUGE that night. The studio did a great job capturing his energy for this CD.

It doesn’t bother me in the least that Arthur Rice and Jeff Chapman have the lion’s share of the features, or that this CD is slim on ballads. Those are the two guys I most wanted to hear, and I’ve never cared much for CDs that drag! Album rating: 5 Stars.

Aaron: After the release of When You Look At Me, the group’s previous project, I was left wanting something more, as that project was not my cup of tea. The song selection was overall unremarkable and did not quite measure up to the quality of True To The Call, in this blogger’s humble opinion. When the group announced the departure of tenor Billy Hodges and the subsequent hiring of Jerry Martin, my interest piqued for the next project. However, there was the underlying sense that the new lineup’s undoubtedly stellar vocals would be mired in ho-hum songs.

We Will Stand Our Ground delivered in every way.

Obviously, the biggest draw to this project for fans of the Kingdom Heirs is the aforementioned hire of Jerry Martin. Martin’s tones give the quartet a great boost; his is a more open sound than that of his predecessor, and his effortless higher range is given a workout on this project. Arthur Rice’s lead is given several great features, as is Jeff Chapman’s bass, which has developed into a well-oiled singing machine over the years. Baritone Steve French gets zero features throughout, but that did not occur to me until several listens through, proving how fine a job the others did. We Will Stand Our Ground is sure to go down as a career project for the Kingdom Heirs. Album rating: 5 stars

Wes: When you see a new CD by the Kingdom Heirs, you pretty much know what to expect. Traditional quartet singing that is performed well.  This CD is no exception.  There are 3 or 4 tracks that are standouts, especially “Heaven Is My Goal” and “It’s Real” that should leave the crowds at Dollywood begging for more.  The addition of Jerry Martin skyrockets the potential of this vocal lineup.  Martin fits the group like a glove, and his voice blends extremely well with that of Arthur Rice.  Arthur Rice is basically a computer when it comes to lead singing, you know exactly what you’re going to get from him every time.  Jeff Chapman really shines on this disc as well.  This is a solid start, still, there seems to be some unfulfilled potential in this recording.  Album Rating:  4 stars.

Brandon:  I may be one of the only ones, but I am disappointed with this project.  Maybe my expectations were too high, but I find much of the recording boring and too formulaic.  It sounds too much like the group’s previous two CDs.  When I first listened to this CD, in my mind I was matching songs from this project to songs from previous CDs.  Of course, this may just be a case of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

On the positive side, Jerry Martin adds a lot vocally to the group.  That isn’t a slight towards Billy Hodges.  Jerry would add a lot to any group.  Also, this recording shows Jeff Chapman at his very best.  I don’t think Jeff has ever sounded better.

Even though I’m disappointed, I will say this is a very good recording.  Vocally, the Kingdom Heirs are one of the very best quartets in the business.  Musically, I would have liked something that didn’t strike me as too similar to their older material. Album Rating:  4 stars

Kingdom Heirs Win It Before You Can Buy It Contest

The Kingdom Heirs are running a contest called “Win It Before You Can Buy It” to promote their new CD that is due to be released soon.  There are 10 prizes of varying levels, and you can get more entries into the drawing by interacting with the group on various social media sites.  For example, you can get additional entries by retweeting them on twitter.  You can get more details, and also enter if you don’t use social media, on the group’s website.  It is an intriguing way to try and get more people involved with Twitter, Facebook, and the like.

Jerry Martin Joins Kingdom Heirs

The Kingdom Heirs have announced via Facebook that Jerry Martin will be the new tenor vocalist, replacing Billy Hodges who resigned recently due to vocal problems.  Jerry’s first date with the group will be January 20, 2011 in Oak Grove, LA. (hat tip, Kyle).  This is a move that has been rumored for quite a while now.  Martin will fit in perfectly with the group, and should really take them to another level.  Best wishes especially to Billy, and prayers that his vocal problems will be able to be cleared up.  Meanwhile, this is sure to be an exciting era in the story of the Kingdom Heirs.  Congratulations Jerry!

Singing News Curse 2010

One of the common jokes about SG is that we have our own version of the NFL’s “Madden Curse”, the “Singing News Curse.”  With just one cover left for the year, let’s review the status of the curse for the year, shall we?

  • January: Dixie Echoes (Pat Barker departs)
  • February: Crist Family (no changes)
  • March: Brian Free & Assurance (Randy Crawford departs)
  • April: Greater Vision (Jacob Kitson departs)
  • May: Hoppers (no changes)
  • June: McKameys (no changes)
  • July: Mark Trammell Quartet (no changes)
  • August: Gold City (Roy Webb, Josh Cobb depart)
  • September: Blackwood Brothers (no changes)
  • October: Kingdom Heirs (Billy Hodges departs)
  • November: Booth Brothers (no changes)
  • December: ????

Unless my math skills have dulled over the years, that’s 5 out of 11.  It’s interesting to note of the groups that haven’t had changes, 3 are primarily family based groups, which tend to experience less turnover by nature, and one has been in existence less than a year (Mark Trammell Quartet).  That leaves us with two established non-family groups that have been stable since their cover appearance, and 5 that have experienced changes.  I’d say the curse is still alive and well!

NOTE:  This post is solely intended to be read in a good-natured, tongue-in-cheek manner.  If you have not read it as such, please check the batteries in your sarcasm meter.  🙂

From The “Are You Kidding Me??” Department

So are we getting PC to the point that blatantly Gospel lyrics are going to classify an album as “Explicit”?  Check out this Amazon listing for the Kingdom Heirs I just ran across while looking for album art…

Forever Changed [Explicit]

Review: Kingdom Heirs – When You Look At Me

This is the latest project from the Kingdom Heirs lineup of Billy Hodges, Arthur Rice, Steve French, Jeff Chapman, Andy Stringfellow, Kreis French, and Dennis Murphy.  Their last CD, True To The Call, was released in 2007, so they took their time in releasing another major label project, and it shows.

Tracks:

  1. On The Gloryland Way – Midtempo traditional quartet tune written by Dianne Wilkinson.  This song features some nice smooth harmony.  The chorus starts with some dueling lead lines by Billy Hodges and Jeff Chapman.  This is classic Kingdom Heirs, playing to exactly what has made them one of the most solid quartets in the business.  The key changes for the last chorus with some harmony inversions on the end of some of the lines, leading to a nice high tag.  Solid, solid song.  8/10
  2. Biblically Correct – This Dianne Wilkinson/Rusty Golden tune has a nice jazz/swing feel to it, and features some smooth modern harmonies.  Jeff Chapman sings most of the second verse solo, with a line of the other 3 voices as a trio thrown in for good measure.  Chapman does a great job, and is one of the better bass singers on the circuit.  There’s a nice jazz chord on the end of the song.  I really like this one.  9.5/10
  3. He Locked The Gates – Uptempo traditional quartet song penned by Rodney Griffin.  This is the debut single, and is a great choice.  It features a nice trade off on lead lines between Arthur Rice and Jeff Chapman.  Rice and Bill Shivers of Brian Free & Assurance may be the two greatest, yet overlooked, lead singers on the road.  I like the way the vocals steadily climb on the last two lines of the chorus.  Rice sings the second verse and turns in his typical solid performance.  The key changes and Hodges takes the lead, then the key jumps up another half step.   I love Arthur’s suspend on the last chord.  This one should do very well on radio for the group.  9/10
  4. Help Me Lord – Another jazzy number, this one is a bit slower and features Jeff Chapman on the lead.  This is another cut from Dianne Wilkinson.  Some nice harmonies highlight the chorus, and Chapman shows off some his range, going from some nice higher notes back down to his typical bass range.  This would have sounded at home on a Statesmen album from the 50’s.  Arthur Rice takes the lead on a couple lines of the last chorus.  There’s a nice unison line with a key change as well.  Hodges takes the lead on the tag, and the last chord is great.  I like this tune.  9/10
  5. Fire Away – This is one of the more progressive songs on the disc, and featured Billy Hodges on the verses.  Again from Dianne Wilkinson’s pen, I concur with other reviewers that the chorus hearkens a bit back to Assurance’s recent hit “Praying Man” and features some nice bass work from Jeff Chapman. It’s a different lyric, but a good message about not watering down the truth in Scripture.  Solid tune.  8/10
  6. Turnin’ Loose – This is a bluesy tune from Joseph Habedank and Matthew Holt.  Arthur Rice is featured on this song, and he drills it.  He’s an incredible singer and proves it here.  8.5/10
  7. As Good As I Can Be – One staple of the Kingdom Heirs albums is a country/mountain flavored song that features Steve French, and this tune from Dianne Wilkinson fits that bill perfectly.  This style really fits French’s voice, and he always turns in a good performance.  This is no exception, and the lyrics are strong about the power of God to change lives.  The chorus features the quartet singing lines that surround a couple of solo lines from Steve.  Solid song.  7.5/10
  8. Steppin’ On Stars – The slow jazzy feel returns again for this tune from Dianne Wilkinson.  This song starts off very slow and deliberate.  These guys can do some thrilling modern harmony, and it shows on the chorus to the song.  Really tight jazz harmonies lead to a couple of solo phrases from Arthur Rice before the quartet comes back in.  Rice sings the second verse and milks it well.  The song to this point gives a feel of building up to a climax.  At the second chorus, Hodges drops below Rice for the first couple lines.  The song continues to feel like it’s building, and crests with a really high tag to end the song.  8.5/10
  9. When The Story Of My Life Is Told – This song, cowritten by Dianne Wilkinson and Scotty Inman, returns to the traditional quartet stylings that the group does so well.  The lyric provides a nice challenge about what our legacy will be when we leave this world.  The second verse features some nice solo lines from Jeff Chapman before the quartet comes back in.  This song should definitely please the male quartet fans out there.  8/10
  10. Jesus Showed Up – Another bluesy tune from Dianne Wilkinson that starts out with an interesting duet between Arthur Rice and Jeff Chapman that allows Chapman to go subsonic before the quartet comes in on a repeat of the chorus.  Arthur Rice sings the verses, and shows he can sing the blues style without blinking.  Rice also shows some range and emotion on the second verse, his vocals on the tag are stellar, and I love the way the quartet builds the tag individually.  Another nice solid song.  8/10
  11. When You Look At Me – This song starts with some smooth quartet harmonies with just piano and keyboard accompaniment.  The accompaniment stays very subdued and simple throughout the song, which allows the vocals and lyrics to shine.  There are some nice vocal harmonies in this song.  This song has a great message from Dianne Wilkinson about what God sees when He looks down at us.  Incredibly, this song clocks in at six and a half minutes!  It sure doesn’t seem like it’s that long.  While the length will most likely prevent it from being a radio single, this powerful “message song” should do very well for the group in concert.  Arthur Rice sings the second verse solo, and absolutely nails it.  This song has some high harmony in it.  Really good tune.  9/10
  12. The Empty Tomb Says It All – This Daryl Petersheim number was the winner of the Singing News sponsored songwriting contest last year.  This song moves along at a nice midtempo 6/8 time.  It’s easy to see why this song won the contest, it’s a really nice song with a great message.  The Kingdom Heirs give it a great, smooth treatment.  Billy Hodges sings the second verse solo and does a fine job.  Rice joins him for a couple of duet lines, with the full quartet coming in for the last two lines of the verse.  Good song.  8.5/10

Overall: 8.5 The fans of the Kingdom Heirs have come to expect good, solid, traditional quartet singing from the group, and this album doesn’t disappoint.  Arthur Rice and Jeff Collins produced this project, and did a fine job.  Dianne Wilkinson either wrote or co-wrote an astounding 9 of the 12 songs found on the project, and she seems to really be in tune with the type of material that fits the Kingdom Heirs sound.  This album doesn’t have a song that really blows your socks off, but it also doesn’t have anything that will have you reaching for the skip button, either.  Even the title track with it’s unusual length holds the listener’s attention for the entire time.  You’ll find yourself wondering if that really was over six minutes, because it sure doesn’t seem that long, which is a credit to the writer and the arranger(s) in keeping the song interesting.  This is a very solid addition to the Kingdom Heirs discography, and one that fans of the group and quartet singing in general will not want to miss out.  Good job by all involved!

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