Southern Gospel, Remixed

The other morning, I was listening to my iPod on the way to work, when The Cathedrals’ “Have You Visited Heaven Lately” came across. While it is a great song, I noticed in listening that the mix was a bit shaky and Danny Funderburk’s tenor vocal is mixed very low throughout most of the song. In secular music, remixes are a fairly common occurrence. I received the newest box set from The Beach Boys for my birthday back in September (it is fantastic, by the way), and one of the big selling points of that set are the remixes on it that bring previously hidden vocals in the mix out front, or to make different instruments more prominent.

Why couldn’t Southern Gospel do this? It would open up the market for compilations greatly. I think that the basic formula that is used by The Beach Boys would work well for Southern Gospel projects. The Beach Boys use a team of three respected producers/engineers that are also fans of the group, and those three guys are responsible for actually doing the remixes, then the final product is approved by the group, whether it is a greatest hits type compilation, a complete album remix, or a large boxed set. This could work well in Southern Gospel. For example, I’d love to hear what Garry Jones and Ricky Free could do with classic Gold City songs or albums. Imagine Jones and Michael English or David Phelps tackling The Cathedrals, or Madison Easter and Michael Sykes remixing classic Oak Ridge Boys material.

The advantage here is that the artist doesn’t have a huge commitment other than giving a thumbs up to the final product, and the actual work becomes a labor of love for qualified, talented people who are fans of the group they are working with anyways. That’s a key point, but it works. The biggest obstacle? While the owners of the masters for these projects aren’t the ones doing the remixing, nearly all of these masters were recorded to analog tape, which means they would have to be digitally converted, which could be a time consuming and potentially expensive proposition, before they were turned over to the engineers for remixing.

Still, I think this could be a pretty successful venture. Who wouldn’t want to hear restored and remixed versions of classics by the Statesmen or the Blackwood Brothers? I’d love to hear a tighter mix of “Have You Visited” that smooths out the blend and brings what sounds like a great high vocal from Danny Funderburk out front so it can be better heard. Who is willing to take the first step?

Michael English Leaves Gaither Vocal Band

Gaither Music just issued a press release dealing with GVB personnel changes.  As reported earlier, Mark Lowry’s exit at the end of the year was confirmed, but the release contained the surprising news that Michael English was leaving the GVB as well.  According to the release, English has already performed his last concert with the Vocal Band.  This news leaves the GVB with 3 members, David Phelps, Wes Hampton, and Bill Gaither.  No word yet on replacements, but you know the position of lead singer in the GVB will be a highly sought position, so there will be no limits on the quality of person that is chosen.  Obviously many Gaither fans will clamor for the return of Guy Penrod, and while that certainly would make for a smooth transition, I’ll be interested to see if Gaither and company find another relative “unknown” that will knock us off our collective feet.  Here is the text of the press release:

Nearly five years ago, when Bill Gaither created an all-star version of the Gaither Vocal Band, the returning GVB members were managing solo careers and added the Gaither Vocal Band’s tour dates, video tapings and recordings to their existing schedules.  Now, after trying to manage both solo careers and Gaither Vocal Band responsibilities, Mark Lowry and Michael English are ready for a new season of life that is not so demanding.

 

“When I rejoined the Gaither Vocal Band in 2009, I figured it wouldn’t be a long-term commitment since Bill was over 70 years old,” Mark says, adding, “That was nearly five years ago and Bill’s bucket list is wearing me out!  But the Vocal Band is a family.  We come and we go, but we never REALLY leave.  I could pop up anywhere at any time!”

 

Mark Lowry will fulfill his Gaither Vocal Band concert commitments through the end of 2013. Michael English has already concluded his last regular Gaither Vocal Band concert as the lead singer, but we look forward to having him join us for Gaither Fest in Myrtle Beach and other future events. We have confirmed Mark Lowry for the 2014 Caribbean Cruise and Family Fest 2014.  Besides those two events, if you want to hear the Gaither Vocal Band with Mark Lowry singing baritone, the concerts remaining in 2013 will be your last opportunity! Check www.gaither.com for upcoming tour dates and ticket information.  Check Michael’s website,www.michaelenglishmusic.com, for solo concerts in a city near you.  And check for Mark Lowry’s solo dates at www.marklowry.com.

 

Bill Gaither states, “I am grateful that we have had five bonus years with these incredibly talented artists. Thank you, thank you to Michael and Mark.  For those of you who have followed the Vocal Band for the past 25 years, you know that I have worked with some of the most talented male vocalists in our field, and I promise you we are not going to let that standard down in this transition. I am sad to see Michael and Mark leaving, yet I am so excited about the new possibilities we are considering.  So stay tuned for an exciting voyage in 2014!  We will update you when we have made final decisions.”

Mark Lowry Departs Gaither Vocal Band

Yes, I know, I’ve been gone far too long.  Life has kept me away….a new job, 3rd grade homework (why don’t I remember doing this much homework in 3rd grade?), and life with kids who are growing up far too quickly has kept me away.  And yes, I still owe you guys a review of the latest Old Paths CD, I’ll get to it.  THIS news, however, is enough to bring me back.  As was speculated on Daniel Mount’s blog late last week, Mark Lowry announced via Facebook this morning that he is indeed leaving the Gaither Vocal Band at the end of the year.  Lowry cites the need to slow down and a desire to focus more on his solo career as his reasons for leaving.  He will still appear at some of the larger Gaither events, like the cruise and FamilyFest, and will finish out the year with the GVB, but will be embarking on a solo tour with the Martins after the first of the year.

This is interesting.  The five man, all-star GVB has been the talk of the SG world since its inception.  Also, Lowry was the true baritone vocalist in the harmony.  It will be interesting to see how the voices stack now back at a more traditional 4 part lineup.  My gut feeling is that Hampton and Phelps will alternate on the tenor and lead parts more frequently, and that English will assume more baritone duties, with David or Wes stepping to the baritone part when English is featured on lead.

Best wishes to Mark, and to the GVB as they enter their new phases.

Gold City To Begin Work On New Album Next Week

According to Josh Cobb’s Facebook status, Gold City will begin working on their new mainline release next week with their chosen producer:  Michael English.  I’ll be anxiously awaiting to hear how things develop.

YouTube Clip# 18

Here is a new clip of the GVB singing “I Believe In A Hill Called Mt. Calvary” that has been floating around (hat tip, AS and KB) from a recent concert.  This clip should put any questions about Michael English’s ability to step back into the lead part to rest.  He absolutely nails the second verse of the song.  He doesn’t try and copy Guy Penrod, but takes the verse and puts his own spin on it, while showing some really nice range.  His voice seems to be coming back to him now that he is singing with the GVB regularly.  They’ve really started to gel their sound over the past couple months.  Also notable is that Mark Lowry sings his first verse with a power, style, and confidence I don’t think I’ve ever heard from him.  Wow, indeed.

YouTube Clip #15

Well, last week I booked a hotel room and got tickets for the Gaither concert in Greeneville, SC April 24th.  I’m really excited about seeing Mark, Michael, and David back in the Vocal Band again.  It’s been fun looking back at the old videos and seeing them sing together.  Here is a clip of the three of them plus Guy Penrod singing House of Gold.

Michael English’s Take On Rejoining GVB

It’s worth your while to head over to Micheal English’s website and read the statement about the GVB changes.  There is a bit more detail on his site, and some additional quotes from Bill Gaither about the changes.  One of the most interesting is the statement that this all came from an unexpected change.  I really doubt that was Penrod’s departure based on what Daniel Mount has said, so apparently Marshall Hall’s departure was quite sudden and unexpected.  It’s definitely worth a read.  I’m still trying to gather some thoughts together to post my take, and I have at least one other iron in this fire, so stay tuned.

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