Gold City: “The” Lineup?

Well, the results in my Gold City tenors and leads polls  have been very interesting. (And by the way, if you haven’t voted yet, it’s never too late! I’d like to get 100 in each, if possible.)

Anyway, so far there are nearly 80 per, and like I said, the results are fascinating. In the tenors poll, Jay Parrack has carried nearly half of the votes. And Brian Free is a very distant second—interestingly, separated by only a few votes from Steve Ladd.

The leads poll seemed tougher. One way I could tell is that there were a few people who voted in the tenors poll but couldn’t seem to make up their minds among the leads. Still, once again there’s a clear front-runner, and that’s Jonathan Wilburn. Similarly to Parrack, he carries nearly half of the votes. Ivan Parker is a slightly closer second than Free to Parrack, but there are still roughly fifteen votes between them.

As a side note of interest, support for some of Gold City’s more recent lead singers seems strong, with Bruce Taliaferro and Craig West each having snagged five votes as of yesterday evening.

My question today is this: If, as it seems, Jay Parrack is predominantly Gold City’s best loved tenor, and Jonathan Wilburn predominantly their best loved lead singer, then why is it that the lineup with Brian Free and Ivan Parker is widely considered The Classic lineup, the benchmark? It surely can’t be because of the other members—Tim Riley obviously has been a constant from day one, and Mike Lefevre has never had a particularly remarkable voice. He’s certainly not the baritone Mark Trammell is, and Mark came after Lefevre during the Parrack years.

Is it because that happened to be the lineup when they made their best music? Even there I’m still confused, because if I’m not mistaken albums like Pillars of Faith and Acapella Gold both featured Steve Lacey and not Lefevre, yet it’s always Mike and not Steve who is featured in any kind of “classic” reunion. However, I know that a lot of their early hits were first performed by the Free/Parker/Lefevre lineup.

What do you think?


Favorite Gold City Tenors and Leads: The Poll

Well, with the popularity of my Gold City post today, I decided to turn it into an official poll. Here are two polls for you guys to cast your votes in. Go for it:

Your Favorite Gold City Lead Singer… or Tenor?

With the recent flurry of lead singers and tenors Gold City has had, it prompted me to think about all the various talented singers who have filled those two spots over the years. One thing’s for sure, there haven’t been any slouches among them. For me, it’s definitely harder to pick favorites than for some other groups.

Among the lead singers, I’m very partial to Jonathan Wilburn, but more recently I was captivated by Craig West along with many others, and like many others I was sorely disappointed to see him go.

Among the tenors, I could easily go for Brian Free, except that his sound was really nasal in the early years. As many others have noticed, he improved dramatically in the 90s. People will often say they first noticed a change with Assurance, but I could already hear a huge difference on Pillars of Faith. So I might choose him on the strength of some of that later material with Gold City. But Josh Cobb also brought a lot to the table for the short time he was with the group. I was very disappointed that circumstances worked against him and would have liked to hear a project with his vocals on it. He seemed to have matured greatly since his Legacy Five years.

So, what say ye? Am I going to get lambasted for not picking Ivan? Or Jay? For the record, both talented guys too, just not my first choices.

Saturday Survey #5

*At long last, Gold City has released Somebody’s Coming with Dan Keeton and Jerry Pelfrey. From various reviews that have been circulating, and from sound clips, it actually doesn’t sound too bad.

*Burke has spotted a reunion of the Gold City 80s supergroup in Florida. He’s calling for a full-fledged reunion video.

*Check out Phil on Southern Gospel’s review of Signature Sound in England. Here’s my favorite of the video clips he posted. “Walk With Me” with a no-microphones encore. To all those who claim EHSS can’t sing… take that.

*Speaking of Signature Sound, I found a really nice Romanian interview with Ernie and the guys. It’s about 15 minutes long, and you’ll hear some things Ernie’s discussed in other interviews before, but there’s more to it than that. (For one thing, they share stories from the current European tour.) Plus it’s especially charming because the interviewer speaks English as a second language. It’s fun and instructive to watch how Ernie crafts his answers in a way that will be clear and understandable for her. I especially liked his answer to her question about how they muster the energy to perform on nights when they don’t feel like performing. Here’s a good quote from an answer to a different question: “I think our style of music is as worthy as any style of music to be polished, for His glory. So all we do when we’re singing for Him is reflecting Him. And it’s not our talent that brings Him glory, it’s our very best effort that gives Him glory.”

*Finally, the world apparently hit a population of 7 billion the other day. Here’s a moving letter to the 7 billionth baby from the Pyromaniacs’ “centurion,” Frank Turk.

“Midnight Cry”: Craig West’s Farewell

Hat tip Josh. We all hoped Craig West would sing “Midnight Cry” with Gold City one last time at NQC. What a moment that would have been! Fortunately, even though that didn’t happen, we do have footage of one of his last performances of the song, just weeks before at Silver Dollar City. I have now seen the new guy do this, and while he has a good voice… nobody could touch Craig. I think he was probably the best lead singer they ever had. His power and range… almost Penrod-like at times. Just unbelievable. Goodbye, Craig. We’ll miss you:

Jerry Pelfrey Joins Gold City

I saw it first in a blog comment, then Keith Waggoner pointed out Brandon Coomer’s official announcement. Gold City has hired a lead singer from a regional group—somebody I’ve never heard of before. However, Brandon has a couple clips of his voice, and he does sound promising. He’s got even more of an Ivan Parker than Craig West (though I think I still prefer Craig). But this could work out. Here’s hoping for the best! I still want them to just release Somebody’s Coming with Craig’s voice on it.

Sing it Again: All That I Am

Recently fridaynightrevival put up a post highlighting a forgotten gem from Gold City’s Standing in the Gap called “All That I Am.” Written by Terry Franklin with his wife Barbi, it’s a quietly majestic piece with powerful lyrics and a melody reminiscent of Danny Boy:

FNR said he believed somebody should bring it back, and I agreed. However, instead of coming up with my own idea of who should revive it, I decided to ask Terry himself. He actually had a couple of suggestions. First he said that he thought Wes Hampton could do a great job on it. This hadn’t even occurred to me because it was originally carried by a lead singer (David Hill). However, I immediately saw that he was completely right. Wes could infuse a lot of expression into the lyric. Raise the key by a step or two, and he’d bring the house down.

But Terry’s other suggestion was even more intriguing: Debra Talley. I could absolutely hear this working as well, although the arrangement would probably be a little quieter and more nuanced. Debra has a very rich voice that would also capture the song’s essence quite beautifully.

Do I hear more ideas from my readers?

Lost Nuggets: “Beneath This Armor” by Gold City

[Apologies to Wes Burke for blatantly ripping off his “hidden gems” series. Sorry Wes… but it’s just such a good idea I had to get a piece of the pie!]

Somebody has posted Gold City’s entire Pillars of Faith concert video to Youtube in five parts. A thousand blessings on his head, because that most excellent video has sadly been long OOP. [Update: I’m wrong! Thanks to Steven and Brandon for informing me that this video has been made available as part of a box set here.] Recently I had the chance to sit down and enjoy the concert piece by piece. It was all excellent, but there was one song in particular that really moved me in a way it hadn’t before.

I first heard the song “Beneath This Armor” on Brian Free & Assurance’s At Your Request project of Gold City covers. At the time, I thought it was nice, but it didn’t really stick and struck me as less well composed than Twila Paris’s very similar classic “Warrior is a Child” (which could easily be covered by someone in SG, by the way). Some time passed until I found Brian’s live performance of the song from Pillars of Faith. When he began setting it up, I was deeply affected by what he had to say about putting our trust in human beings who can fail, something I coincidentally had just been writing about myself. The concert was taped in 1992, just after the Michael English and Sandi Patty scandals had broken. Brian refers to them without mentioning their names and talks about the great tragedy of all the people who were let down as a result of their heroes’ fall. [My goof. I didn’t make sure of the dates and just assumed those were the scandals he was referring to because they were so well known. Perhaps he had somebody like Marsha Stevens in mind.] But from there he moves to point out that the human race as a whole is frail and broken, and the mere fact that he stands behind a microphone doesn’t render him any less susceptible to temptation than the people in his audience.

When I realized he was setting up “Beneath This Armor,” I decided to give it another shot. I found myself nearly on the verge of tears by the time the song was over. “Warrior Is a Child” is definitely catchier and flows better, especially the music. But lyrically, “Beneath This Armor” digs more deeply into the same theme. The chorus alone is remarkable. And Brian sings it all with such incredible poignancy that I hang on every word. I think you hear a real maturity in his voice on this song. Watch the video. It includes the setup and the song, as well as the number they did right after it. (I couldn’t find a video with just “Beneath This Armor,” so forgive the extra song. It’s a fun toe-tapper, but it kind of ruins the mood, so I recommend just stopping the vid at that point.)

It’s the Chipmunks!

Yesterday while trawling Youtube, I came across a video I had forgotten about, and it made me laugh all over again. It’s from the 1992 team-up of Gold City and the Kingsmen, captured on live video and named King’s Gold. (The videos were OOP for a long time but have recently been re-released on DVD.)

So naturally they had to include a bit of dueling on “Looking For a City.” Neither Brian Free nor Gary Shepherd attempts to go as high as Johnny Cook (thank God!) but things still get pretty ear-piercing towards the end. It’s pretty funny to watch Ivan Parker rubbing each of them down while the other one has his “turn.” Brian puts on some great facial expressions as he watches Gary disdainfully and prepares to “up” him. And I have to admit…I have never been the world’s biggest Free fan, but listening to Gary always reminds me that it could be a lot worse. As somebody in the comments put it, “I think he sounds like he sucked helium, but hey, he made Brian look awesome sooo…”

And when they both come together at the end… well, look out! It’s the Chipmunks! 😀