Harmony

Now you probably have this too, songs,singers,albums, and performances that impacted your musical being forever.
I have quite a few myself and it’ll proof to be impossible to mention all of em right here…but I wanna share the most memorable ones.
Having said that, I just realized that the less memorable ones are just as significant as the most memorable.
They too are part of the framework of your musical mind..all important from a reference point of view.
But still there are some ‘landmarks‘ in your musical journey of appreciation or recognition.
The latter being ‘recognition‘ is an ingredient that is elementary for your musical meal….sort of taste and hear, and know it’s all good.

Well the first memorable musical experience that I had, was when my father got a complimentary record when he bought a wristwatch. This was back in the mid seventies, the time grown up men wore orange shirts with apple green ties, and chocolate-brown polyester suits.T he album was a low-budget compilation of the Delta Rhythm Boys on the Variety label, it had an orange sleeve jacket that sported a drawing of an old record player on it.
So I guess not only men were dressed bad in these days..but records too!
But as always it’s not about the outside, it’s the inside, the actual content that matters.
And the content of this album was amazing, the first song on Side A was the Don Gibson tune ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You made popular by the likes of Ray Charles and Elvis Presley. But the version of the Delta’s is unmatched in vigor and harmony.
Another song on that album that really got my attention was Nat ‘Cannonball’ Adderley’s ‘Work Song’ that featured one of the greatest basses ever to sing Lee Gaines…in my opinion the best bass singer in music period!
The jazz standard ‘There is No Greater Love’  featuring tenor Herb Coleman is hauntingly beautiful..who wailed with a feline quality, never sharp but clear as a bell.
This quartet was organized in the 30’s at Langston Univ. Oklahoma and were featured in more motion pictures than any other singing group, in more than 40 pictures they could be seen.
This quartet was the favorite of the legendary Mills Brothers, and Lee Gaines was the reason bass singer for The Ravens (doo wop group) Jimmy Ricks started singing. The Delta’s popularity took them to Paris,Stockholm,Oslo,London and Helsinki Finland where Lee Gaines took residence.
The group had been together more than 50 years when founder Lee Gaines died on July 15th, 1987, in his home of only one year, Helsinki, Finland. In a bizarre scenario that brought the group more attention in America than it had received in more than 30 years, Hugh Bryant (baritone) sang at Lee Gaines’ funeral and upon completing the song died on the spot.
Though not as well-known as some other groups in America, the Rhythm Boys’ musical impact is undeniable.
This group sparked my love for quartet music,  the record that he was given by the jeweler was truly a gem (to me).

Another album that impacted me immensely featured a group i first heard on a Gospel album by Elvis…singing a song by Ralph Carmichael ‘Reach out to Jesus’ amazing backup singing..the oohs and the aaahs..the swelling of the chorus..with Elvis powerful voice reaching a climax on the words ‘He’s reaching out to me!!’
Also on that album…probably the best version of Bill Gaither’s ‘He Touched Me’ . The only version that rivals that one, is the version the Vocal Band did on their album‘God is Good’..featuring Mark Lowry,David,Guy and Bill. The Presley rendition is closest to my heart though..and the Imperials had something to do with it. Jim Murray,Terry Blackwood,Greg Gordon,Joe Moscheo and Armond Morales made up the group in ’71 the year the Grammy winning Elvis album “He Touched Me” was recorded.

Just when i thought I’ve heard the best live album ever by a southern gospel quartet (Travelin’Live-Cathedrals), I found myself laying on my bed at the Ramada Inn in Downtown Nashville back in ’89, where I slid a tape cassette in my Sony walkman. A cassette I just bought at Ernest Tubb’s record store, on that bed I came to the conclusion that I ain’t heard nothing yet!
The album was “Live in Atlanta” also by The Cathedrals, never heard Glen Payne sing more beautiful than on ‘We Shall See Jesus’ nor have I ever heard Kirk Talley sing more angelic than on ‘Lord I Want to Love You More’. Mark Trammell’s feature on the beautiful ‘It’s So Peaceful’…George Younce funny stories and introduction on ‘We Are So Blessed’ are one of a kind…musically all stellar performances.
The Live in Atlanta album is one of the most memorable albums to me.

Another group that got my attention was an ensemble named The King’s Singers from Great Britain.
The group takes its name from King’s College Cambridge, where members Martin Lane, Al Hume, Alastair Thompson, Richard Salter, Simon Carrington and Brian Kay were choral scholars.
I once attended a live concert in ‘Amsterdam’ of these guys at the world-renowned classical music shrine‘Amsterdam Concert Gebouw’…here come down the stairs six gentlemen clad in black tie…to take their designated spots on the stage.
After the audience settles down…the sextet starts singing a song entitled ‘It was almost like a song’ that Ronnie Milsap also did, but now voices only, no amplification, and yet every single attendee hears every breath and intricate harmony as if they were sitting next to them.
They sing songs from the Beatles songbook, Gregorian chants, Randy Newman, David Bowie and a Noel Coward composition entitled ‘I’ll See You Again”.The group’s made up of two counter-tenors,tenor, two baritones, and a bass and they are worldclass.

As far as old Gospel Quartets go…and their albums…I would dare say that LPM1605 on RCA/Victor by the Statesmen Qt is by far the best album ever made.
The group at that time 1958 consisted of Hovie, Jake,Chief,Doy and Cat Freeman (Vestal Goodman’s brother) hear Jake sing ‘God is my Shepard’ and ‘Wonderful‘…here the modern harmony on ‘When My Master Walks With Me’ written by Doy Ott…the latter whom I consider to be the finest baritone in any quartet. This is truly the best album they made, the sound of the album is superb (especially for that time). This album is one of the foundations of my gospel collection

As you probably can read is, that although my musical appreciation goes beyond Gospel music, it takes a Gospel Qt  to get me to where it all comes together for me…nothing can top good male harmony.
Something takes place in me…that is is beyond description…harmony hits home every time.

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2 thoughts on “Harmony

  1. “Another album that impacted me immensely…Elvis album “He Touched Me”.”
    You and me on the same page here Auke. Finally went to Graceland, Sun Studio, and Beale Street last October.
    Elvis sang “he touched me” and “reach out to Jesus with such feeling, you KNEW he meant it.
    I was at Earnest Tubbs store last October as well. I bought some old JD Sumner and the Stamps CD’s, hopped across the street and had a beer at Roberts Western World while listening to some good live music.
    Interesting you mention “The King’s Singers”, singing Gregorian chant. You can hear a good Gregorian choir at St. Nicholas Kerk in Amsterdam.
    My brother Simon sings in the choir. He has even been to a National Quartet Convention (back in the sixties), something his little brother still has to do.
    http://www.gregoriaanskoor.nl/englishschola.html

  2. My friend…been enjoying your writing – and opinions – today as my son sent me the link to the review on Michael’s upcoming solo project.

    They are not a “male” quartet but you could not top the 4 – and true 5 part harmony – of the Speer Family when Jeannie Johnson joined the group in the late ’60’s. (Two females and 3 male vocals mixed and matched giving a unmatched variety on their albums.) Jeannie was the glue that held their sound together featured as much as Ben and Brock Speer were.

    “Big Singing Day” was a landmark album as it was jazz flavored as the pop sound of the early ’60’s and Harold Lane’s vocal arranging for this record was at its best.

    Another Benson record around that time had an accapella rendition of “I Sure Do Love the Lord” with the most beautiful vocals I have ever heard – they still stand out as one of the best sounds southern gospel music has enjoyed with their music reading abilities. The Speers lost their vocal flexibility and range when Jeannie left the group around 1976. Hope you can find a copy of it (Big Singing Day) or perhaps others by the group at that time. The Imperials & Speers were the top groups from the late ’60’s into the mid ’70’s as they won the Dove awards for Best Male & Mixed Groups at that time.

    The Speers were a big influence on me growing up and they later became good friends. I modeled my family group (mixed) after the Speers as Ben Speer was my idol. Ben was also one of the best lead singers of that day.

    Michael English has been a favorite since 1982’s record with the Goodmans. So glad to have him back with the GVB. I imagine Pure & Simple was what Bill had in mind when he reformed the guys adding Michael and David back to the group. (FYI: Mark is only featured and heard on the studio recordings as a soloist as he doesnt read music. But you probably already knew that! lol

    Keep up the good work! I noticed the “sound” on Rasslin’ Jacob first time I played it. I now pretty much listen to the record with headphones to enjoy it the best.

    Regards,
    J Marlon Nunnally
    Alpharetta, GA

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