Common ground!

Wanna talk about fighting! I’m not talking about  spiritual battles, or a ‘fight’ in the stand up doing the right kind of thing….whatever the hell that may be!  Neither am I thinking of a exchange of not so flattering words between individuals. No I mean a real physical confrontation, going head to head. Some of us have fought once, or twice in our lives. Mostly these fights have taken place in our youth. Usually as we get older our brain and its ability to reason generally develops to a certain level of intellect. So that most of our disagreements can be defused, or solved completely by choosing the right words.

Yet despite of the fact of our ability to verbally reason with one another. The world has been a stage for war, suffering and chaos, almost from its infancy on. Daily reports on the perpetual turmoil in the world. Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan  you name it! We’re either in it, or selling guns to the most profitable party. Profitable? Yes still there are numerous locations who don’t get the media coverage. Some because they simply are strategically or economically insignificant, or they just don’t care. In short, not worth the fight!.

Don’t wanna go into the socio-economic and political motives behind wars. I want to address the fact that how unbelievable weird humanity is getting. How we’ve become so hypocritical, and delusional that we actually made rules on what’s fair in war. And enforce these rules with a double standard. Some countries are not allowed to have a nuclear program,  yet some countries are allowed to have nuclear arsenal! So we even gone so far that we actually determined what the civilized ways are to kill our enemies. Chemical weapons are a big no-no nowadays….we stopped the nuclear race…but kept running all the while. Back in the 20th century (1993) 165 of 189 countries signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. An arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. Well that’s great news! As a lot of you guys might be exclaiming right now. A poignant question presents itself! Why? Why ban one weapon, to fully embrace another? Because the other is more humane? While the other is considered savage? Is one death by an act of violence more dignified than another? Of course one death can be more gruesome than the other. But who cares? You got an enemy you wanna get rid of, so why bother thinking if it might be painful or uncivilized? Why grow a conscious all of a sudden?Never gotten the public outrage against so-called dirty weapons/warfare.  It can solve some conflict better than isolated drone attacks. Why send our guys into a deathtrap, and not smoke the bastards are out?! Depending of who we dubbed ‘bastards’ that year we are about to bring the peace forcefully, and our fallen ones are used to emphasize the fact that we are committed and resolved.

Back to why in the world somebody paired the word dirty to fighting!  A quick flashback now to my schooldays. I was a new kid in school and found myself cornered by this big bully.  And took the dumb-ass down with a blow on the adams apple, and a fierce kick in his nuts. There were kids all around us, who witnessed my pre-emptive strike. Some of whom were genuinely upset that I’ve eliminated the bully the way I did. I was about 10 at the time. The guy I took out was about 12 or 13. In the weeks prior to my anti-heroic act, I’d seen him work the schoolyard always targeting smaller kids. Humiliating and having ‘fun‘ with them, obviously so he could cover his pathetic low self-esteem issues, and fulfill his sadistic needs (Dr Phil would have a field day with this one). So when the day came that he cornered me I knew I wasn’t going down, but he was. I had envisioned him going down long before this day came. So when the moment presented itself , I already had a battle plan, and knew how to make that vision reality. So I launched my knuckles towards his throat.  His ‘family jewels’ were my rebound targets, or my plan B in case he wouldn’t go down. When I hit him, he reached with both hands to his throat gasping for air still standing on his feet. At that moment he was no longer a threat. It was a T.K.O. really,  but I was a sucker for drama back then too, and I wasn’t quite satisfied about him still standing. So I kicked him in between his legs and he went down, he fell hard on his knees, hands still on throat, and fell face down on the pavement. He had quite a big nose really, so he broke that and had to have surgery on the monstrous thing! I think I kinda helped him along the way with that low self-esteem problem.

I don’t care really, because I felt like Lee Majors the six million dollar man! Even expected Jaime Sommers to come running  around the corner in slow motion to throw herself at her hero! Her hair dancing in the air like in a shampoo commercial. After that brief moment of sheer euphoria, another reality kicked me in the behind. No Jaime Sommers, no hero status! I was frowned upon for dirty fighting….by these already conditioned politically correct kids. Still most of the children were secretly intrigued by the fact that this new kid had taken out this nuisance in such an effective manner. And before long I had more ‘friends’ than ever before, well ’em followers.

In the grown up world we frown upon people who use dirty bombs, chemical agents, and other so-called despicable weaponry. But please explain why can we use bullets, grenades, drones, missiles and other devastating arms to murder, eliminate, or exterminate our enemies, and call the ones who fire, launch or deliver them heroes? Taking hundreds of life with all the before mentioned ‘good and honest‘ arms. A violent death is a violent death, no matter what caused it. What is the difference between slavery, and the exploitation of children in the garment industry all over the world? What’s the difference between Hitler’s endlösung, and the Indian removal act of 1830?  The trail of tears killed thousands of native americans, and ruined their way of life, and culture. So a real nation has been inhialated….in the process robbing the new nation and it’s foundation of its dignity! Why is one man’s death less tragic than another? Why is one way to die worse than another? In a non violent situation there’s a difference, one rather dies in his sleep than in a plane crash. But we’re at war people. We want to win! Why care how the enemy goes down? War has only one objective and that is winning! Not a battle, but the war! Right?

Right! So quit you’re political correct fake outrage when the enemy is using dirty weapons, the outrage should focus on the fact that we all have blood on our hands. And quit defending the government, and the military because they are spreading the peace, and bring the elevated concept of democracy. For crying out loud,  do you really believe  in that crap?!  Larry Norman wrote a song back in the early 70’s, and I want to share a verse with you.

“You are far across the ocean but the war is not your own,
And while you’re winning theirs, you’re gonna lose the one at home;
Do you really think the only way to bring about the peace
Is to sacrifice your children, and kill all your enemies?

Well maybe Larry was full of it too…so let’s agree on a few things….if we pick a fight, let’s be honest about  the why’s! And don’t let us be gurgling down the sweet nectar of deception with our eyes closed,  and call it ‘keeping the peace’. It’s not about peace, it’s all about the money. And let us solemnly swear we don’t get appalled by dead children who were slain by chemical weapons, while we turn our heads from the 15000 kids that starve everyday! Everyday! Where’s the outrage now?! Well we can send all our sons and daughters to the honorable battlefields, As long as we avoid the nitty-gritty of the barren plains scattered with dried out corpses, it can never be honorable.

The definition of peace is; ‘a lack of war or conflict, or the existence of harmony and general goodwill‘.

Goodwill..hah! We associate goodwill with a store. With a great find! A good deal on a antique clock or rare record. ‘A lack of war or conflict, or the existence of harmony and general goodwill‘. Man that’s such a wonderful definition, almost poetry..and with initiatives like  the Chemical Weapons Convention we profess to strive for that , but we don’t really believe in it. Because the second part of the definition of peace is where lays the problem. We can’t exist in harmony, and general goodwill. I can’t, you can’t…we are all bad to the bone! Think of that when you express yourself harshly about your advesaries…think of all the children dying of thirst and hunger. Oh what’s that? You give to charitable causes? That’s nice, so you signed a check once or twice, donated some and didn’t think twice? Think of all the times you complained about the healthcare plan, or the freaking gas prices. The latter is quite ironic I must say…we spent billions of dollars invading and annexing countries with vast oil supplies, and yet we pay more every day! The same people complaining about that, support the troops, and have bumper stickers to prove it! Of course supporting the troops is understandable, they just follow orders and don’t have a the nazi’s said…’befehl ist befehl’ meaning an order is an order. So who’s to blame? The President? Who is also the commander-in-chief! The one you chose, or opposed, but since he is in office you stand with in unity!  If you try to explain this stuff to a 6-year-old they will tell you this a stupid story. A kid won’t buy this crap, they just demand a better story!

Peace?There will never be any peace until God is seated at the conference table…you know it, and I know it, we all know it.




“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” (von Goethe) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a gifted playwright, novelist, poet, statesman, scientist, and philosopher. But above all these marvelous titles he was an amazing thinker! Listen to what his quote says; It is the function (why it’s here, and how it’s supposed to work) , he then continuous saying, ‘that it’s supposed to renew our perception’.

So it doesn’t necessarily changes our perception,what we really appreciate right now, we’ll probably like for years to come, but in its historical context, yours and the world’s. Your taste in music for instance can change overnight though, through associations with bad situations, bad people, or your ears certainly recognizing that it was really shitty music to begin with. Your perception was pure, and pristine to begin with and uniquely yours! But as with all things, it requires maintenance! Through the years the artistic receptors in your brain got cluttered with too much junk, or creative clutter. Since I don’t like the combination of the words creative and clutter, because real creativity is never clutter, I’ll put ‘pseudo‘ in front of the word ‘creative’.  So that’s Pseudo Creative Clutter!

Speaking of such! A lot of the music cranked out in the Southern Gospel music scene is nothing more than the same old same old….clutter… really is. Music today in general is almost reduced to wall of sound, with less melody, lyrical content and more bpm’s(beats per minute), except of course in P&W (Praise & Worship) music, that’s all about no beat per minute. On the other hand, P&W scores big in the less lyrical content, less melody departments. In SGM it’s all about who wins the (some say fixed) Dove awards, fixed or not, those awards are really awards for being the most ridiculously predictable. And of course’s singing SGM is apparently the best job not to retire from. Because you probably didn’t make enough money singing for decades, and you simply can’t. Unless you’re Bill Gaither who made tons of money, and still keeps on, keeping on.

The creative impasse in SGM, in my opinion has to do with a media conglomerate. Media conglomerates strive for policies that facilitate their control of the markets around the world.There’s a media conglomerate active in SGM today (Gaither). One I believe keeps a lot of old folks in the business, and leaves the much desired young guns out of it. I love SGM’s heritage, don’t get me wrong!  I appreciate the some of wonderful things the conglomerate brought us. God know’s that at that time SGM needed a bit more professionalism!

But with professionalism came big money, and it is followed by the word exclusive. ‘Exclusive‘ translates to excluding everyone who is a potential threat to your media-empire. That’s what it is, hate to pop your spiritual bubble, but it is not only run as an empire…it is an empire…with a emperor! Who runs it like an empire. I know, I know…you gotta make money to fund your overhead, all in order to preach the Word…right? Amen brother, amen! Each nite you get up there and sing, and maybe occasionally even a classic like ‘He Will Provide’, but really don’t have the faith that He actually will. That’s why less of y’all will take a ‘love offering’. It’s obvious that revival doesn’t last a life time….otherwise there wouldn’t be use for a word such as ‘revival’.

Some of you might say, what is your beef with SGM? Nothing! Got no beef, other than that it’s all about playing safe…lyrically, musically and creatively ..and safe gets corny, cliché fast. It’s the same stuff over and over…you name it! It’s stacks, tracks, and polo’s with slacks. Secular music at least tolerates a ‘alternative scene! Some produce the most inspiring unique artists! That’s what in SGM circles is referred to as ‘locals’ and ‘amateurs, and the consumers/buyers won’t give em the light of day because the pro’s say they are. “Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other culturesCesar Chavez once said. The ‘industry‘ isn’t preserving SGM, it’s protecting it in a fierce manner. No strangers (aliens) allowed, unless they are granted a safe passage from the emperor himself.

Bill Gaither (bless his heart) has become the Bob Ross of SGM, painting the same corny thing every time. It’s one reproduction after another. And as all art appreciating snobs know, is that a repro is for the (creatively) poor. If you can’t afford a Van Gogh, don’t be hanging fakes on your wall. Art collectors are greedy for great art, and not great names. I’m a collector, not a buyer! I’ll gladly hand over a thousand dollars, in exchange for a true work of art, it will last me a life time. But I refuse to spare you a dime for a ‘knock off’...then regret will probably haunt me for that same life span. “Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us”. That’s what Marten Luther, theologian and blatant anti-Semite said. Being wrong about one thing doesn’t disqualify the essence of that quote. Let me conclude with a quote that describes accurately what the situation in SGM today is like, here’s what Mr. Machiavelli said;

“Hence it comes about that all armed Prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed Prophets have been destroyed’. 


Who’s Calling?

Who’s Calling?

As long as I can remember I’ve had an idea of what I should be doing my whole life. And that is, singing gospel quartet music professionally. To cut to the chase, have I accomplished that? No I have not, and it makes me kind of mad.

For some apparently stupid reason I’ve always felt that things eventually would work out, and I would end up singing Southern Gospel music in a quartet. I always thought the desire to sing, and my ‘talent’ where given by God, and He would make it happen someday. Why else would He place that desire to sing in my heart?
That ‘dream’ was kind of easy to believe when I was still in my twenties, heck even though my thirties I could believe. But now that I’m in my late 40’s it’s beginning to dawn on me, it ain’t going to happen..buddy!

Why have I had this desire for so long? I would love to have sung the good news for a living. Why hasn’t it happened? Maybe because I’m living in a country where we really don’t have a southern gospel tradition, or maybe I’m just not as good as a singer, as I liked to believe. Or a combination of the two…either way…I struck out!

I have a successful career in the aviation industry, and my life is very, very comfortable. Have seen lots of this world traveling, have a beautiful family, wife and kids. A couple of dogs, two houses, 3 cars. I even can easily afford the luxury of a ex-wife! And still my desire to sing, produce, creating good gospel music is present. Still hoping, against better judgment, that someday it might happen.
So strongly I feel this is what I should be doing, that this nagging feeling has cast a shadow over my life. Don’t get me wrong I’m not unhappy, or discontent, not even complaining (I know, could have fooled you). Truthfully I am thankful, and blessed. Still I feel that I haven’t reached my destiny yet.

Next best thing that I like to do besides singing, is writing. I enjoy it  so much, that have decided to go back to college to study journalism. I want to be a better writer, plus my career seems to get that groundhog day vibe. I love to do something new/fresh every once in a while, hence the ex-wife, You can  call me ‘restless’  and while you’re at it, drop the ‘young’. Still I must admit it’s something I do to take my mind of the fact that I’ll never be a professional quartet singer!

Before I am a father/husband/manager/wannabe singer/writer, I am a very realistic man. A guy who rarely dreams up stuff that is too extravagant or lofty. I was raised in a hardworking household. A  family deeply rooted in faith and the no-nonsense approach to honest and modest living. That is something I benefit from daily, both privately as professionally.
So is my mind playing diabolical tricks on me? For let’s say the last 4 decades?

Calling? Desire? God? Who’s calling? Me or God?
I read a quote by early feminist Susan B.Anthony the other day that made me wonder, so much that I felt I had to write this pathetic blog. So here’s me spilling my guts on this part of my life. Susan Anthony said; “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires”.

So did God call me to sing? God knows, either way, I was also tought by my parents to follow where He leads!
Oh well…


So Many Questions….

God loves to talk to little boys while they’re fishing. That’s what a song says, I don’t know if that is true, because I never could muster the much-needed patience for that ‘sport’. What I do know is that yesterday when I was on my way to work which takes me about 45-50 minutes, if the traffic gods do me a favor, I was thinking of the following. My mind wandered off, and music was playing, don’t know what song was on when I first started to think about what people would think/say about me when I got sick and died. Thought how a lot of folks would say ‘well he smoked a whole lot of cigarettes in his lifetime, followed by someone who’d say ‘I’m not  surprised really!!!  One would probably mention how much I liked to laugh, and how sharp my cynical sense of humor sometimes was. And because of that special kind of humor I hurt some folks, or at least offended one or three (hundred). I thought by myself ‘that ain’t too bad, I’ve seen worse‘. Then I thought of specific people who I had hurt by sarcastic remarks, people I disappointed, people I took advantage off, and loved ones I betrayed. Little things that had happened kinda zipped by, big things came rolling in like thunder. Then certainly I heard ‘the next song’ a wonderful Sherman Andrus feature, recorded during his stint with Andrus, Blackwood & Co. Or A.B.C. in short. A song entitled ‘So Many Questions‘, that exactly talked about what I was thinking of. What would people say about me when I’m ‘out of the picture’?  Would they even remember my name? Would they forget me all the same? Would I have left a ‘trace’ of Jesus somewhere? Would I’ve been a light in dark places? Would I have been someone who did his share for the Kingdom? To be honest, I think I know the answers to all of these….and the answer is ‘probably not’. I have a lot of regrets, a lot of stuff I’m not (to) proud of. The last couple of months this head-knowledge is becoming a heart-knowledge. Yet right there  in those turbulent and violent waters, floats the buoy of salvation.  The unmistakable beacon of redemption, that bright light, the golden bell on top that tolls ‘You’re forgiven‘. How rougher the sea of life, the harder it tolls. Well I may not know about God talking to little boys while they’re fishin’, but I do know that God certainly talked to this  boy while he was drivin’.

Listen to this wonderful, wonderful song by A.B.C.


Something Beautiful…

Let’s talk about live performances and especially emcees…and the ‘live’ feeling on audio projects.

The Kingsmen from Asheville are well-known for putting out a string of live recordings that had that ‘special’ feel..the excitement, the buzz, the humor. Lot of the magic of The Kingsmen legendary live recordings can be attributed to the great band, the all but smooth singing, and the amazing emcee skills of Big Jim Hamill. Hamill had a great commanding speaking voice, and had he not been a singer first, he could have been a professional comedian. He had great timing, and dared to say things that would now be called politically incorrect. For instance on the Live in Dayton Oh. album he’s talking about a phenomenon called Earthday, “Now that earthday business everybody is talking about, worrying about the ozonlayer in the next couple of centuries” he said, or something like that….. he then continued and said; ‘None of us are gonna be here, I will make a hole in that thing, you can drive a truck through“. That was Jim..selfmockery and a kind of redneck- humor,what a guy!

Other live albums that are counted among the best in Southern Gospel are the Blackwood Brothers ‘On Stage‘ and The Statesmen’s ‘A Gospel Concert‘. Of course ‘Live and Alive‘ by The Singing Americans, ‘Live in Atlanta‘ by the Cathedrals don’t stink either. The latter is one of my personal favorites..not because of the music..but the feel..the respons of the audience, the funny and emotional emcee work of George Younce. Younce like Hamill had a great sense of humor, Younce could tell a joke like non other, even the most corny joke would crack you up. Younce didn’t take himself too seriously obviously…and that’s what’s made it wonderful. Hovie Lister was also a great emcee, so was James Blackwood though they were more of a serious vain. J.D.Sumner was also a superb emcee, his dry wit, the interaction with the audiences,  remember J.D. asking a lady who’s walking out during a concert ‘where you’re going honey?..and after a while says; ‘when you got to go….you got to go‘. Or when someone was acting up in the audience he asked the culprit if he just had an epileptic fit…now I loved that. J.D. could be very profound too, the only thing i disliked was that growling low voice, that made him hard to follow at times. Those kind of things make a live album great, like someone once said ‘it’s more than the music’

Speaking of that someone, one who’s rarely mentioned in discussions about great emcees is Bill Gaither. Now Bill had a career before the Homecoming phenomena…really he did. The Gaither Trio had the best live recordings ever put out in Southern Gospel music, and you can debate if the Gaither Trio was counted as Southern Gospel back then (before the Homecoming series). Nonetheless they had great songs now sung and accepted by every Southern Gospel lover out there, great stories, humor…and yes, even great voices…Gaither himself had a fabulous distinct tone, and Gloria added so much to their sound, and the content of their message. Danny Gaither one of the smoothest voices in the industry..and was kinda the cream on the cake. But Bill Gaither was an emcee extraordinaire, who had (and still has) a boyish charm when he spoke. You can hear he enjoys what he’s doing, and sometimes he’s even enjoying the anticipation of the punchline on one of his jokes. The friendly husband and wife banter between Bill and Gloria,and her insightful readings, the stories about everyday life at the Gaither homeplace. They sort of gave you, or at least suggested they did, a peek into their lives, hearts, minds and souls. They just had something over any group in the industry…and that was intimacy. Their Live album from 1972 is one of my favorite live albums, because of the intimacy…it’s truthfully actually like you are there.  Produced by Bob MacKenzie  “The Bill Gaither Trio ‘Live‘ on Heartwarming R3178  is something beautiful.  Get a copy….if you can…..


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.

Halléboogah! y’all

A while ago,  when I commuted from my small town to Amsterdam, a 45 min drive on a good day, I plugged in my iPhone up with a 8GB playlist that contained  never before listened to music.
I’ve got so much that I sometimes forget what I got…it’s a luxury problem really…nothing I can’t handle!
Important is that I  know I have them, and never ever gave them a serious spin…saved for a rainy day…which is was by the way…grey,windy, and pouring down….showers of blessings for a day that you’ve almost cursed so to speak!

Blessings from a thunderstorm….came crying like a rainstorm..and howling like the wind.
All that because I had selected the ‘Kingsmen‘ marked files on my phone…the  selection? An album entitled Georgia Live’. I’ve listened to the Mississippi Live, Big and Live, Chattanooga Live albums for ages, but hadn’t heard this one yet…well glory!!! Sunshine on a cloudy day… I loved it.. illuminating what seemed to become a gloomy one!
The Kingsmen affectionately known as ‘The Ton of Fun’ are the only ones who knew how a live album should sound and feel, doing their own thing! Nothing imitated, too staged or over rehearsed. I love to hear it like that once in a while.. tons of fun to listen to.
Jim Hamill was the most remarkable master of ceremonies ever! Great sarcastic wit, quick, and extremely funny. Jim was full of good old-fashioned self mockery too, and had that off the wall redneck rhetoric! I always thought that Jim Hamill had many friends but also probably a couple of people who didn’t dig Big Jim’s  sense of humor that much. Don’t get me wrong it is purely spectaculive…but that’s what I always felt! But Jim Hamill, man!! I love Big Jim!! Funny as he was, he was even a better singer!His singing was daring, and  almost inciting at times! He urged you to listen, and he stirred something inside of you. He stirred the foundation of my musical being! He was truly a revolutionary singer/performer! He combined pretty singing, correct trained singing, with right of the bat soul singing. He was what Rosie Rozell was to tenor singing.  He had soul, and had a amazing yodel too!

Jim’s interaction with crowds was like he’s was sitting at a table with a bunch of old  guys, which are obviously good friends. Clad in Hawaiian shirts, Bermuda shorts and tennis shoes, telling each other joke after joke, make fun of each other, while playing dominoes!  All for the sake of laughter…nothing else to it! Jim felt real when he was telling jokes or testifying …I know of course some of the jokes were in heavy rotation, and were recycled a couple of times…even by other Quartet’s!

At some point on this record Jim introduces a bluegrass number. Some of the other guys is gonna sing it! Hamill introduces the song, at the same time feels compelled to tell the folks that he really can’t stand bluegrass singing, and that now would be a good time to go to the bathroom. Great stuff! Amazing too, is how Hamill could switch from hilarious to serious in a blink of an eye, and make it genuine! Talking about serious translating to marvelous..’Foxy’  as Jim introduces Eldridge Fox, is singing ‘Behold the Master Cometh’….wow… that one got me misty eyed. I almost burst into big ol’ tears when I found out I was slowly being devoured by a traffic jam!
I was almost having Church, until I looked over my right shoulder, and found out that the driver in the car beside of me was having breakfast. A breakfast that evidently ever so conveniently was packed in his nose!
Why on earth people do that? My kids know that picking your nose, and especially eat all that it vulgar,dirty, nasty and not really fulfilling, and totally unacceptable while consumed in the public domain! A Ernie Haase and Signature Sound song comes to mind…’Reason Enough’  not to pick your nose.
Nose:/; A storehouse full of dirt,dust, at the tip of your freaking finger.You just want it all! All the bacterial hors-d’oeuvres (French:/; for ‘that which horses eat’). And that’s what they are, a simple 100% biological entré..just a fancy expression for ‘starters’….nothing more! It’s not a main course you folks and you know it! After a dish of Beaux Boogér you are always left, wanting for more! At least that is how it seems with some of you fanatic elbow greasing nostril excavators! Now…. don’t you flare them at me right now! You know I am just a messenger of the truth! The germs are having Campmeetin’  up there for crying out loud!!! Probably singing about the ‘finger of God’. They are all moaning and shoutin’! Mmmmhhh welllll halléboogah!
Well maybe,in retrospect, the guy next lane (right) was having a religious experience after all. He might just as well be having church for all we know!
But after being overwhelmed by the earthy,real and sometimes rough singing of the Mighty Kingsmen Qt!! I was gripped man, a big ol yank on the heart-chains, or as you more frail and delicate creatures might say ‘strings’ heart strings! This grips me even more than the most lush,orchestrated,polished recording….this real spontaneous stuff!
And I love that orchestrated music too, if its real strings and violins!!! No keyboards,midi files, sampling crap!  Though I must admit that, in the 80’s we thought that crap (synthesizers/keyboards) was pretty darn cool. So convenient for the aspiring yet lazy maestro! No man I enjoy real orchestra’s too! But only if they are done with taste and creativity. Talk about real strings done with taste “The Cathedral Quartet with Strings” album is a benchmark! Taste really  isn’t even a good enough term in reference to this album.

 Taste you know is arbitrary, as in the mathematics definition which reads :/;  Undetermined; not assigned a specific value:  So it can be disputed and is up for debate! However no true music lover can dispute the quality of this stunning collection of songs!  And talk about creative…did you know that Gary S.Paxton thought of violins doing the brass parts, and vice versa?! Absolute genius! Gary S.Paxton…some say a weird guy, I say a rare bird!

But as I said, I love these down,home,dirty,nitty,gritty,rough around the edges stuff. It get’s me over a threshold ,transporting my narrow-minded views, opinions,and my relentless endless urge to critique. Forcing me to go outside of the relative safety of my musical castle, whose walls are fortified and structured with musical correctness,all built for defense!  Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” comes to mind, as does “Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho! And the walls they came a’ tumbling down! The Kingsmen at the gate.  I’m relieved for the moment, set free…and it feels good! Real singing…nothing pretentious ..nothing to add or take away from! It’s just right, no not just, but right!!! And you can’t add or subtract to and from right ! Right will always be right! A few voices in harmony is right!!! So dig a little deeper brother! After all….. it’s almost suppertime…and it is alright!