The Week in Review #13: Covering Lauren Talley, Grumbling About the Elephant Room, Raving About Wayne Haun, and More…

*Notice the new title for the open thread. This is because I’ve taken to chatting a little about how my week has gone as well as surveying newsy items. “The Week In Review” seems to capture the spirit of things a bit better. Numbering will be unchanged however.

*I’m a little bit excited, because I just downloaded the backup track for Lauren Talley’s “In Christ Alone” yesterday and recorded my own demo of it. That high note is a little bit evil, especially because I can’t just belt it in more or less chest range like she does (and also ‘cuz it’s a nightmare to mix with a mike as sensitive as the one I’ve got), but after a whole afternoon of trial and error, I FINALLY got it. It only took around ten takes or so. Ha. I’m looking forward to sharing it with y’all some time next week if I can get it uploaded to Godtube. Then again, I was a little sharp on at least one note (possibly two), and there were a couple “Sahara desert” phrases (meaning I was kinda dehydrated and it kinda showed)… so I might scrap it all and start over. Can you tell I’m a perfectionist? 😀 But for the first day, it really wasn’t bad at all. I honestly liked it. Which would you rather hear? A more polished cover that took a few days to put together, or the whirlwind first-day take? Seriously, I’m curious.

*Steve Green left a comment on my blog. Did you see it, huh, huh? Sorry. I’m still just a little bit pumped. I bet Buddy Greene sent him the link. If so, thanks Buddy!

*Stay tuned for some exciting news about Poet Voices, coming up sometime in the next few weeks.

*Farewell to the Melody Boys. I say it’s better to retire the name than try to pick singers to keep the name going. Experience has shown that doesn’t always work out too well.

*Newt Gingrich all but comes out and says that if you’re faithful to your spouse you’re, um, weird. Further confirmation of why I just can’t bring myself to vote for the man.

*Well, T. D. Jakes is now a Trinitarian. It’s all over. Not the heretic we’re looking for. Move along. Or maybe not?

*Steven Spielberg has a mammoth Exodus epic in the works. No doubt it will be a fine film from every production standpoint, but this is disappointing news in that he promises to make it as graphic as Saving Private Ryan, which will only give obnoxious Christian moviegoers more to snicker and sneer about (you know, the kind who respond to conservatives’ concerns about violence in film by saying, “Well hey if they ever made a movie of the Bible it would be too violent to take your kids, etc., etc., etc.”). Meanwhile, it’s anyone’s guess who Spielberg will cast in the main roles. I thought Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart would be no-brainers, but I must say Dan Phillips’ suggestion of Ed Asner and Barack Obama may take the cake. Then again, he might play it safe and cast Harrison Ford as Moses. Epic action hero, epic action hero, right? Uh… right?

*Speaking of Exodus, I got bogged down around God’s description of building the Ark of the Covenant in my “read the Bible in a year” project and recently had to do some MAJOR catching up. Helpful Mom: “That’s nothing hon, wait’ll you get to Leviticus!”

*My calculus teacher nearly gave me a heart attack yesterday when he said, “You’re all aware that there’s an exam?” I  blurted out, “Today??” He corrected me “Next week.” Not sure how long it took for my pulse to return to normal. A while. It’s next Friday. If the blog sorta, you know, goes dark for a month or so afterwards, you’ll know I didn’t make it. Tell Wes Hampton I had a crush on him… (JUST KIDDING, JUST KIDDING, JUST KIDDING!!!)

*This is pretty dadgum gorgeous stuff…

Errrrhm, Wayne, about that solo album?

It’s an open thread folks!


CD “Review”: Dreamin’ Wide Awake by Doug Anderson

This is not a normal album review, because I have not yet heard the album I am reviewing. It contains my thoughts on Doug Anderson’s upcoming solo album after hearing the lead single, hearing 30-second samples of the other songs, and reading complete lyrics. This gave me a good enough sense of what the project is like that I realized there were already a lot of things I could say about it. So I decided to share my impressions so far with my readers now. Naturally, this will not be quite as detailed as a regular review. However, hopefully I will still help convince people to go get it. I’m certainly planning to. Enjoy. 🙂

I want to start this “review” by focusing on something that doesn’t often get discussed in CD reviews: the front cover. It’s always interesting to see what kind of “look” is chosen for the main photo. Naturally, it requires a lot of planning, time and effort, since it’s the first thing to catch a prospective buyer’s eye. For one reason or another, I am often left unimpressed by album covers. One reason is the facial expressions artists are told to wear. It seems that the new “rage” these days, even within Christian music, is to take handsome guys and tell them to stare at the camera like thugs, surly teenagers, or used-car salesmen—sometimes all three if there are several promo shots. As someone who appreciates both good-looking young men and good photography, I am invariably left tearing out my hair in clumps when faced with the disastrous final results.

Not so here. And thank goodness. Doug is just about the sweetest looking guy you can imagine, and that’s exactly how he looks on the front cover. He looks like himself—kind, friendly, and very trustworthy. In fact, that goes for all the photos chosen for the liner notes. Particularly sweet are the shots of him with his beautiful wife and two little girls. It is obvious that Doug is a family man first and a singer second, as great a singer as he is.

Now for the music: Doug told me that the style would be “pretty eclectic.” I would broadly categorize this project as pop with country overtones. A couple tracks feel like they’d be at home on the latest Rascal Flatts, while others are more like your typical adult contemporary fare. The country flavor doesn’t surprise me, since Doug has expressed a strong liking for the genre. Country done right is a good thing, so from my perspective, this is a good thing.

The song selection, I will be honest, was a pleasant surprise. I was hopeful that “Jesus is Holding My Hand” was indicative of the rest of the project’s quality, but at the same time I wondered whether it would be. Although not every song on the album rises to the same level, the selection is solid overall with several standouts.

So let’s break it down:

1. “Jesus is Holding My Hand” (Rowell/Wills) has been a great choice for the first radio single and probably would have been my pick as well.  The lyrics are simple and moving, and the melody is sweet. For anyone going through a troubling time, this song carries a message that is sure to bring comfort. Doug’s delivery is characteristically warm and tender. I would say that this is the highlight of the project.

In fact, I liked this song so much that I felt like giving it my own spin on the piano. You can download an mp3 of my rendition here. (For those of you unfamiliar with Rapidshare, see a few helpful tips here.) [Update: I’ve decided to switch to 4Shared, which is much simpler than Rapidshare. Now all you have to do is simply click on the link to go to a page and hear the mp3 streaming.]

[Further thoughts after hearing the album: Even after hearing all the songs all the way through, I remain convinced that this is still easily the best.]

2. “Smile it Through” (Tharpe) is a bouncy gospel tune that will probably have you tapping your toes in spite of yourself. As the title implies, it also addresses the topic of walking through troubled times, though obviously with a far lighter touch than the last track. Of particular note here production-wise is the b-3 Hammond—very cute! This song features a guest appearance by Jamie Dailey of Dailey & Vincent.

[Further thoughts after hearing the album: This song was an instant favorite with me, and Doug was clearly having a ball. You can even hear him chuckling at the end. I like how they made this song continue seamlessly into the next one.]

3. “Some Say” (Haase/Haun/Lindsey) is another catchy song, but a different kind of catchy. This is 80s catchy. Come to think of it, it’s actually rather reminiscent of Steven Curtis Chapman’s younger days. It describes the various ways Jesus is seen by non-believers, and the lyrics really hit the mark. They sound all too familiar. You will constantly see people who describe Jesus as “a great teacher,” or somebody who left us with some nice morals, or somebody who meant well, but as C. S. Lewis says, he has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.

4. “Closer” (Haase/Haun/Lindsey) strikes me so far as one of the project’s weaker moments. It has a swaying pop/jazz sound to it which doesn’t seem to complement the emotional lyrics. And heartfelt as the lyrics are, they lean a little too heavily on stock phrases like “feel so alone,” “beat of your heart,” “sadness…madness,” etc. This combined with the style of the instrumentation and the background vocals all keep it from having the impact it could.

5. “Only Here For a Little While” (Holyfield/Leigh) is one of those straight-up country tunes I mentioned, and it’s sounding like a definite highlight that should be one of my favorites on the project (it’s one of Doug’s, incidentally). The lyrics open by describing a funeral which gives the singer a new perspective on the brevity of life. He resolves to live every moment to the fullest, unlike the dead young man who was always “puttin’ off until tomorrow the things he should have done.” It’s an inspiring message that will encourage you to treat every day as a gift and an opportunity to carry out God’s work in this world. This track features a guest appearance from the rest of Signature Sound. (By the way, I could be wrong, but it sounded from the sample like Tim Duncan was singing the bass part. If so, this would be the very last thing he ever recorded with the group. I will have to confirm that when I get the whole thing. [Update: I asked Ernie, and he told me that the bass singer on this song is Matt Fouch of Soul’d Out Quartet.])

[Further thoughts after hearing the album: The production is really awesome on this one, with a sparkling harmonica part. Just one more reason why this is one of the best cuts on the album.]

Gonna hold who needs holdin’, mend what needs mendin’

Walk what needs walkin’, though it means an extra mile.

6. “That’s How Much I Need a Savior” (Lindsey/Wood) is another definite highlight (and another favorite of Doug’s). Good things happen when you have Joel Lindsey and Tony Wood in the same package, and this song is no exception. The thought-provoking lyric explores the magnitude of our sin and our need for redemption. I think songs like this are important, because in a world of “feel-good theology,” there can be a tendency to downplay things like sin and guilt. But to do so undermines the very purpose of the cross. As this song says, our faults, failures and mistakes could fill rivers and oceans. It is only by the grace of God that we are made new. This song features a sweet guest vocal from Charlotte Ritchie.

I thought this was previously unrecorded, but I just discovered that it was first done by the new trio Beyond the Ashes.

[Further thoughts after hearing the album: This track features some of my favorite production on the CD. The acoustic guitar and strings have a very tender, graceful sound together.]

That’s how much I need a Savior

To take the guilt that brings me to my knees.

7. “A Savior Saves” (Garinger) makes three highlights in a row (yet another favorite of Doug’s…) The 6/8 tempo gives the music an uplifting sound that matches the assurance of the lyric. The only misstep in the lyric is the line, “It’s just who he is.” That falls a little flat. But it wouldn’t stand out so much if the rest of the lyrics weren’t so good. This track features a guest appearance from the Collingsworth family.

Every beat of His heart pleads forgiveness

And every line of His scars offers grace.

8. “I Love That About Him” (Black/Rowell/Smith) is something of a guilty pleasure. Musically, it’s very catchy and fun to listen to, with a gospel twist. But the lyrics… well, if I can borrow an analogy from Simon Cowell, it’s a little like putting eleven spoonfuls of sugar in my coffee. They teeter rather too close to a “Jesus is my BFF” mentality for my preferences. But admittedly, it should make for great repeat singalongs in the car when nobody’s watching…

[Further thoughts after hearing the album: Thinking about the song’s main hook, “He loves that about me/I love that about him,” it struck me that the thing about a song like “Take My Life,” which also discusses trusting and surrendering to God, is that this is what we aspire to be like. It’s not always what we are like. To say, “This is what I’m like, and he just loves that about me” is number one a bit simplistic and number two comes off unintentionally like self-congratulation. To make an analogy, suppose I’m a housewife, and I do things for my husband that are really good housewifely things, like ironing and folding all his shirts, going to a lot of trouble to prepare his favorite meals, etc. How would it sound if I went around talking to my friends about our marriage by saying, “My husband and I have such a great relationship, and he loves that I do x, y and z for him. He just loves that about me.” Wouldn’t that sound kind of odd, even if I then also went on to describe the ways I love my husband? I’m not saying anyone meant for the lyric to sound like that, this is just some food for thought after further consideration on my own part.]

9. “I’ll Take What’s Left” (Haun/Lindsey) is another touching ballad about redemption. Anyone with a painful past should be able to relate to this song and be comforted by it.

[Further thoughts after hearing the album: This is easily one of the project’s prime cuts. It has a classic piano and a really heartfelt delivery. Just beautiful.]

10. “Dreamin’ Wide Awake” (Haun/Lindsey) finishes it off with pure country twang. It’s reminiscent of “Sundays Are Made for Times Like These.” Joel Lindsey and Wayne Haun have beautifully captured the story of Doug’s life, and his delivery radiates contentment. This is the sound of a very blessed man. My only quibble with the lyric is a curious grammatical slip: One line reads, “I wouldn’t trade a kingdom for my two girls and my wife,” when taken literally, this is actually saying the opposite of what it’s intended to mean. Of course, the intent is obvious.

I’m standing here in showers of sweet blessing

When the best that I deserved was a drought.

Closing thoughts: This album will definitely be a home run with folks who have followed Anderson’s work with Signature Sound, and that is a large part of what it was designed to be. Those who enjoy his energy (“He Made a Change”) will find energy here (“Some Say,” “Smile it Through”), and those who love his delivery on a sweet ballad (“Thank God for Kids”) will find many similarly sweet moments here (“Jesus is Holding My Hand,” “Only Here For a Little While,” title track, etc.). But this project could also be appreciated by non-SG/inspo fans. Granted, CCM fans who go for the really heavy, thudding stuff might be disappointed, but folks who appreciate a gentler, more substantial and old-fashioned kind of CCM could definitely get into this. I would certainly love to see it reach a wider market than just SG. There may not be anything by way of song selection that Informed Critics would call “groundbreaking” or “creative,” but if you’re like me you don’t really care about that kind of thing as long as it’s good music. Lord knows this is several notches and then some above your typical K-Love mush.

Vocally, Doug sounds very, very comfortable on this project. This is his style and his kind of music. As I discussed in my review of Wes Hampton’s solo album, it’s vitally important that a soloist find a stylistic niche that fits him well and brings out the best in his voice. In Wes’s case, there were some great moments, but overall the project fell short of what it could have been because the production tended to utilize a wall-of-sound CCM feel that overpowered his voice. But Wayne Haun has given Doug’s voice the perfect setting while still leaving that voice front and center. (As you can see, he was also involved in the writing process for nearly half of the songs.)

The bottom line is that Doug Anderson is  one of the best Christian vocalists on the road today, and I would put him against anybody winning awards in CCM right now. He’s one of the most critically respected baritones out there and easily my personal favorite. He certainly has fully deserved his Dove nomination for Male Vocalist of the Year. Will his solo career skyrocket on a Michael English level? Only time will tell, but at the moment my take is that he could certainly have a successful solo run, yet still belongs with Signature Sound. This is not to take anything whatsoever away from his extraordinary talent, but I just think Doug is at heart a quartet man. However, I look forward to following him wherever God chooses to take him.

Idea: Wayne Haun solo album?

Just to clarify so no rumors get started, this is ONLY an IDEA. I have no information to the effect that Wayne Haun is planning to make a solo album in the near future. This is all coming out of my head.

Okay, now that we’ve established that, I was musing on this the other day when I found a 2-year-old online streaming episode of Ann Downing’s Reality Check with Wayne Haun as the guest. My favorite parts were when Wayne sat down at the piano and played/sang something he had written. I discovered the song “I Will Find You Again” this way, because I hadn’t heard the Perrys sing it. So the first time I ever heard the chorus was when Wayne told the story behind it and then sang it himself. I was intrigued. It had such a classic sound, almost a bit of a contemporary sound, but good contemporary, if you know what I mean. When Wayne sang it, it had kind of a Scott Krippayne feel, like the kind of stuff Scott used to do before he started getting weird and artsy. And it was just plain beautiful. (Of course I was at my keyboard later trying to finger out the chords, and I’m still trying to find exactly how that one chord goes…ever have that feeling where you’ve got most of it, but you’re missing the one final thing that will make it as rich as it needs to be?) But anyway, I just fell in love with it instantly.

So then of course I looked up the Perrys singing the full song, and I thought it was great. But there was still something about the way Wayne had sung the chorus, just right there with him and the piano. It just wasn’t the same when the Perrys did it.

Now that he’s  recorded his own version of a popular Cathedrals song, his abilities as a vocalist are beginning to attract more attention than before. So I have a proposal for StowTown Records: A Wayne Haun solo album, featuring Wayne’s own takes on some of the best songs he’s contributed to. “I Will Find You Again” would naturally be a must, as would the likes of “Grace” and “I Wish I Could Have Been There.” “Reason Enough” would make sense since he’s even already sung it at Signature Sound concerts. Another great recent pick would be “Love Came Calling.”

But what about you? Would you be interested in a project like this? Because I know I would—as long as he really picked his BEST songs, of course! One thing that would be fascinating is if he went and found a couple songs that didn’t become hits, but that he’s always just liked and thought were strong.

CD Review: George Younce with Ernie Haase and Signature Sound

Some voices are what you might call cookie-cutter voices—if you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all. Not George Younce. You could peg that voice a mile off. Why? Because even when George wasn’t talking to you, he was talking to you. His voice was like that of an old friend—warm and welcoming. In the words of Statler Brothers bass Harold Reid, “It said hello to you.” And once you heard it, you never forgot it.

This project features ten of George’s best solo performances from his post-Cathedrals years. With one exception, they have been given entirely fresh instrumentation, and Signature Sound has recorded full quartet backup vocals on each cut.

I wish that I had George’s original arrangements handy so that I could compare them with these new ones, but from what I can hear after scouring around for samples, Signature Sound has preserved the flavor of the originals without directly copying them—which no doubt is exactly what they were aiming to do. And what arrangements! Dear readers, here is my assignment for you: Read my review, then buy this album as soon as it comes out. Once you have heard it all the way through, taking time to appreciate each nuance, I want you to say out loud to yourself three times, “Wayne Haun is a genius. Wayne Haun is a genius. Wayne Haun is a genius.”

Got it? All right then. On to the review.

Love Was In the Room: Hear that? That’s the sound of my keyboard calling me to come pick out the piano part on this new arrangement. “Come on…you know you can’t resist…come on…” The gentle, cascading ripple of piano notes that flows through this cut is a lovely twist on the more guitar-driven sound the Booth Brothers gave it. Signature Sound also adds some variety in the vocal arrangement as they sing behind George. Ernie mentioned in his recent interview with me and Daniel (conducted when I was still New SoGo Fan) that he got to sing a duet with George on a song, and this is the one. They sound great together, but then they always did.

Lyrically, this song has always reminded me of, interestingly enough, a Keith Green song called “Your Love Broke Through.” They both use the metaphor of the stone being rolled away to describe the act of God’s love reaching a sinner. It’s certainly a striking and effective image.

I’ve had trouble deciding whether overall I prefer the Booth Brothers’ version or this version, and really they’re both so beautifully done that I can’t decide. I do think that the Brothers’ reworking of this song on the album 9 was a marked improvement over their own original, so to make it fair I would have to pit that new version against this new version…which means it’s a score draw. The Brothers bring a unique sound, but so, obviously, does George.

(Oh yes, and my keyboard is happy now because I went and found the piano intro on this cut. Insert contented sigh here.)

At the Cross: The excellence continues with this haunting take on a classic hymn. I was immediately struck by the spareness of the acoustic guitar here as it fingers its way over some dark, rich chords. There is one surprising twist in particular that I do know was not on the original: Basically (for any music theory geeks who might be reading) imagine that you’re in the key of A, and you’re walking down the melody for the line, “And did my Sovereign die?” However, instead of landing on the V7 right away, you suddenly change key and play a G major on the word “die.” If you play an instrument, try it out. I’m actually starting to play this arrangement on my keyboard too. It sounds so good that I would recommend Wayne adapt this for solo piano and play it at Signature Sound concerts. It would make a beautiful, quiet moment in the vein of what Roy Webb used to do with “Softly and Tenderly.”

I find it fascinating to see how many different directions one can take with a hymn. On one hand, this hymn has been done a la GVB powerhouse, complete with David Phelps histrionics…er, I mean gymnastics. Yet here it barely rises above a whisper.

George’s voice aches with sad beauty. Also worth noting is the fact that Ian Owens’ voice comes through particularly clearly here, and his upper register is so smooth that you might briefly mistake him for George in places.

Beyond the Sunset: Because George’s only appearance on this track is a poetic recitation, Signature Sound carries all the vocals. If you had any doubts as to how well the new lineup would gel, they should vanish away once you hear this cut. The group sounds as good as ever. This would be a natural for inclusion in live concerts.

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow: This track begins with an answering machine message from George to Ernie—a priceless little bit of history, and a great way to set up this song as George tells Ernie, “Don’t worry about nothin’.” This message returns at the end.

The new soundtrack complements George’s voice absolutely seamlessly here. One could almost forget that this is a completely fresh instrumentation. As with the last track, we hear a good bit of Signature Sound as they carry the chorus. They sound like they could be on the radio in the 1950s. It’s an utterly beautiful sound.

Room At the Cross: This has always been one of my favorite “harmony hymns.” It was one of the first hymns for which I learned the alto part when I was developing an ear for harmony as a little girl. So of course the harmonies are very rich on this one, with some lovely and surprising chord shifts. Listening to this arrangement, it’s difficult to imagine how it could possibly get by with nothing but generic BGVs. What the full quartet sound adds can’t even really be described: It must be experienced.

Suppertime: This song holds a special significance for Signature Sound, because it was the song they sang with George for his final NQC appearance. Obviously George’s voice sounds much stronger and more confident here. I never get tired of hearing him sing this. Also, he’s pretty much the only singer from whom I can tolerate a mid-song recitation. Anyone else just leaves me impatient to get on with the music, but George compels me to listen, like he’s having a conversation with me.

The piano accompaniment on this track is worth noting. It almost seems like they were trying to capture a Roger Bennett sound, because the piano really reminds me of the way he used to approach a country number. Another subtle little thing I noticed (and maybe this is just a coincidence), is that the very first few notes of the intro are identical to the beginning of the chorus for the Perrys’ “I Will Find You Again,” which Wayne co-wrote. I don’t know whether that was pure chance or not, but it stands out enough that I just wondered.

You’ll Get Your Reward Some Day: This was the only upbeat song chosen for the project. Literally every other track is low-key. So naturally, it’s the project’s first radio single. It’s also probably one of the few new soundtracks that really gives away its age. It sounds great, but you can tell that it’s been given a modern update. A driving electric guitar works to smashing effect with a growling b-3 hammond and some irresistible piano licks. The end result is hard-hitting, gritty, and oh, so catchy. Once again, you might do a double take as Ian’s voice falls on the ear like a young Younce himself.

Journey’s End: Note to self: Must go work the piano out on my…oh wait, I guess I’ve said that a few times already. I love this song. I had never heard it before, but the first time I heard it I thought, “SCORE!” What gorgeous lyrics and music. If I had to pick a single favorite off this project, this would be it. Impeccable delivery and instrumentation.

This song is so moving that I vote the guys just start singing it in concert. They don’t even need to try to bring in George’s voice—just introduce it as a song George used to sing and have Ian carry it.  As with “At the Cross,” this is another example of an arrangement that’s simply too good not to be incorporated into live concerts. It is also a song that deserves to be revived.

Sometimes This is Heaven To Me: This is the only track on the project that was not given a brand-new instrumental and BGV treatment. It was lifted directly from Signature Sound’s debut album Stand By Me. It was the last song George recorded. Ernie and Joel Lindsay beautifully captured the bittersweet emotions of a man in the sunset of his life, longing for heaven, yet humbly asking for “just a little more time” to linger with the beauties of this world. I once heard of a great analogy to this which used the image of a mother and son in prison, where all the little boy has known is the inside of the prison cell. His mother paints beautiful pictures of the world outside on the walls where they are imprisoned, and the little boy literally can’t imagine what real trees, grass, or sky looks like. His mother’s paintings are so beautiful that he can’t believe her when she tells him that the real world is so much more beautiful than what she can paint for him. It’s the same for us: Like George, we think, “This world is beautiful in its own way, and the fellowship I have with the ones I love is so sweet it almost feels like heaven to me.” And yet we know that heaven is beyond our comprehension. But in the meanwhile, we should receive the blessings God has for us here, with a thankful heart. In the immortal words of Rich Mullins, “There’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see/That everywhere I go, I’m looking.”

Silent Night: I’m a little confused, because it said that this performance was “previously unreleased,” and yet I found what seems like the identical thing on a compilation album called A Season To Remember: Christmas Favorites. However, it was never on one of George’s own projects that I know of, and perhaps that’s what was meant.

Mannheim Steamroller will evermore hold the definitive version of this carol in my mind, but I must say that Wayne’s new arrangement is simply superb. The piano is simple, yet subtly haunting. Its interplay with the strings is just gobsmackingly gorgeous. The chords at the end are almost goosebump-inducing, as the arrangement ends on a vibrant, unresolved fadeout. Curiously, George makes a small lyrical slip in one verse (singing the line “glory streams” as “glorious streams”), but he communicates the lyric in his classically memorable, inimitable style.

Closing thoughts: Daniel Mount has already reviewed this project. As somebody who has collected the originals for these songs, he has recommended this as a must-have. Coming to it with fresh ears as somebody who had only heard George sing a few of these songs, I can unhesitatingly offer my own recommendation from the other end. The instrumentation is fresh enough to catch the attention of someone who doesn’t even primarily listen to gospel music, yet sounds as though it could have been that way all along. Therein lies the genius of Wayne Haun. Also, as even I can tell from snips and snatches of the originals, there’s no comparison between the formerly canned BGVs and Signature Sound’s warm, hearty four-part singing.

I may not be a producer, but I sure do think like one, and I get warm fuzzies just lapping this stuff up. The three tracks that most inspire me as a musician are “Love Was In the Room,” “At the Cross” and “Journey’s End,” but really the whole thing is a masterpiece. Some may have a few quibbles with the song selection, e.g. the inclusion of a Christmas carol like “Silent Night,” or the inclusion of “Sometimes This is Heaven To Me” instead of another rare track from a solo project. I really don’t mind, because it’s good music any way you slice it (and besides, “Heaven To Me” is a logical choice since it was recorded as George’s farewell song).

If you love gospel music, you shouldn’t think twice about picking this up. And if you’re new to the genre and looking for a place to start, this album is a quiet jewel. It shines with warmth, tastefulness, and something else…love.

I hereby raise my glass to Wayne, to Ernie, and to StowTown—long life to it, and may much more fine music be made! *clink*