CD Review: Songs of the 1900s (Greater Vision)

Greater Vision - Songs of the 1900sFor Songs of the 1900s, Greater Vision brought in pianist Stan Whitmire and guest bass vocalist Gene McDonald. They recorded ten songsβ€”eight classic hymns and two less familiar songs, “It Is Here I’m Satisfied” and “I Need the Prayers of Those I Love”β€”around a single microphone.

Numerous projects offer a stripped-down piano-only sound. The biggest factor making this project unique is also its biggest drawback: Other than a single line from tenor Chris Allman on “Rock of Ages,” there are no solos. That said, the arrangements are lively and varied enough to keep the album from dragging. Several creative tempo / accompaniment changes add a nice variety to the mix.

The mix and blend is decent, given that there would have been little if any opportunity to adjust it after the live-in-the-studio recording session. Gerald Wolfe’s voice is naturally the loudest, and there are a few points where a post-production mix would have brought it down a few decibels.

Though this was not branded as part of Greater Vision’s Church Hymnal series, there is good reason to believe that they sang out of Wolfe’s red-back Church of God Hymnal. Most modern hymnals give the final verse of There is a Fountain as:

When this poor, lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave
Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing Thy power to save
I’ll sing Thy power to save
I’ll sing Thy power to save
Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing Thy power to save

Greater Vision follows the red-back Church of God Hymnal in singing:

Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing Thy power to save
When this poor, lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave
Lies silent in the grave
Lies silent in the grave
When this poor, lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave

Interestingly, Greater Vision and the red-back actually follow the original (John Newton’s Olney Hymns, where it first appeared).

Lest this be misunderstood as making a case for going back to the original order, several points are worth keeping in mind. First, the original had no repeats. Second, while our culture does allow for timeline changes as poetic license, the changed version is actually in the correct order (we don’t have that nobler, sweeter tongue till this poor, lisping one falls silent!) Finally, we no longer sing the original’s verses six and seven. When this verse was fifth of seven, the order did not matter as much. But the closing phrase of the verse is now the closing phrase of the song, and “I’ll sing Thy power to save” is a far more fitting ending than “Lies silent in the grave”!

Yet Greater Vision can make the case that they have history on their side, so it’s hardly a drawback to choose the order they did. (But if the goal was historical precision, it sure wouldn’t have hurt to include the last two verses!)

While perhaps as many as half of Southern Gospel projects have a typo somewhere in the liner notes, it is far less common to see one in the title. But, as per the cover image above, it appears that the CD’s title technically ends with 1900’s instead of 1900s. (I could not bring myself to put the incorrect apostrophe in the post’s title, though!)

Solos would have been a welcome addition and would have brought the album a higher rating. But this album is such a pleasant interlude to the ubiquitous rush for ever-bigger arrangements and ever-more-edgy uptempo songs that it earns a solid four-star rating.

Group Members: Chris Allman (tenor), Gerald Wolfe (lead), Rodney Griffin (baritone), Gene McDonald (guest bass), Stan Whitmire (guest pianist). β€’ Review copy provided. β€’ Song list: Leaning on the Everlasting Arms; I Feel Like Traveling On; In the Garden; Revive Us Again; Rock of Ages; It is Here I’m Satisfied; There is a Fountain; Sweet Hour of Prayer; Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus; I Need the Prayers of Those I Love. Average song rating: 3.7 stars. CD rating: 4 stars.

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47 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Thanks for the review…you beat me to the punch this time. πŸ™‚ Check with Southern Gospel Critique on Monday.

    • No problem! πŸ™‚

      I actually wrote it a week and a half or two weeks ago; it’s just that I tend to get into review-writing mode and write several at once. If I posted them all as I wrote them, they’d go under the radar. So whenever there’s a backlog, I establish a “review Friday.” πŸ™‚

  2. Hi Y’All!

    Just dropping in after an enforced absence…

    Seems the reviews getting longer and longer :-)!

    Just a couple of on-message points:

    Many UK hymnbooks give the above verse as:

    Then in a nobler sweeter song,
    We’ll sing Thy power to save.
    No more with lisping stammering tongue
    But conquerors o’er the grave!

    I don’t know who made this revison to the, as normally rendered, last verse. It is theologically preferable in my mind.

    Also, the usage of apostrophes above points up an interesting counter argument to Daniel:

    If we write the title as WORDS, we get

    “…of the nineteen hundred’s” – which should be apostrophed as possessive, as to pluralize it “nineteen hundreds” would indicate that there were many centuries of that name!!

    I would argue for “1900’s” therefore as correct, in defense of bro Wolfe’s Cover.

    • I don’t know who made the change to the lyric, either, but I am confident (see above) that it’s a change and not the original.

      Regrettably, I can’t find the MLA Style Guidelines online, but checking assorted universites’ English/writing department pages, I see wide consistency across the board that 1900s is correct usage.


      • Yup, 1900s is correct.

    • Whether you write out the words or not, it’s not possessive, and it’s not a contraction.

      It’s plural, and no apostrophe should be used.

      • It actually is possessive. All you have to do is rearrange the phrase. Instead of saying “Songs of the 1900’s” – read it as “The 1900’s Songs” – i.e. songs that belong to the decade of the 1900s.

        If you were just mentioning the decade – then yes, 1990s would be correct. However, this phrase is talking about songs that belong to the 1900s – thus making it possessive.

        Then again – we could get into the whole argument of whether a decade can actually possess songs – but that’s a whole other topic. πŸ˜‰

      • Then again – there may be a rule that I’m unfamiliar with that strictly states that decades and centuries would NEVER use an apostrophe – and thus – the cover would be incorrect.

        I’d be interested to know if anyone actually knows…

      • If 1900s was possessive in this case, then Greater Vision should have had a previous project called “Hymns of the Age’s”.

      • Totally true, and I have to say, that one literally made me laugh out loud! πŸ™‚

      • I agree that “The 1900’s Songs” would be possessive. However, that does not change the fact that it is simply not possessive in “Songs of the 1900s.”

        As to whether I know English, I do. πŸ™‚ Despite the fact that I am human (like everyone else here!),and do make mistakes, I am confident in this one. English Composition was the one college course/test for which I did absolutely zero studying, and it was also at or very close to the best score I got in any course (around 98%).

      • Wouldn’t it be 1900s’ then? The songs are from all the 1900s, not just the one year 1900, which is what the apostrophe before the s implies.

      • It might be 1900s’ if it was possessive (e.g. Chris’s example above), but it’s not possessive here.

  3. Hmm, I think our oldish Nazarene hymnal uses the same version you’re saying GV used. I think I’d agree with switching it around, though.

    Now… I want this CD from a musical standpoint. But I never have bought into the name. I mean, the “1900s” weren’t that long ago! It sounds weird, and I think my mind connected it with your April Fool’s several times that I’ve seen it.

    As to the graphical design, well, I think we now understand why iTunes could sometimes be attractive. Maybe we should ask Matt Paasch to design us all a cover to use in iTunes with a little different color scheme sans apostrophe!

    (I hope I can get away with saying all that, because I think everyone knows that GV is My Favorite Group.) I’m thinking about putting this CD on my birthday list (coming up in August). That may be my only possibility of getting it!

    • For anyone who didn’t see the April 1 Upcoming Releases post, it included:

      4/1: Presidential Campaign Songs of the 1800s, Greater Legacy of Voting Booths Trio (Michael Booth, Gerald Wolfe, Scott Fowler) (Daywind)*


    • Sounds like a individual color scheme could be fun…..

  4. By the way, call me old-school, but I’ve never heard “There Is a Fountain” any other way than how GV sings it here. Of course, both churches I have been a member of in my life have used the red-back for congregational singing. So it didn’t strike me as unusual or intriguing in any way when I heard it. If they had sung it the other way, I would have scurried around trying to find why they sang it wrong.

    • Odd! It must be a Southern Gospel / red-backed hymnal thing, because, in my collection of well over 100 hymnals, that’s pretty nearly the only one in the last lifetime (75+ years) – and possibly the only one – to give that wording.

      • Another song I believe that the redback presents differently from most is the invitation hymn “Only Trust Him”.

        The common refrain of course is:
        Only trust him, only trust him
        Only trust him now
        He will save you, he will save you
        He will save you now

        In the redback, the refrain is:
        Come believing and repenting
        And confess Him now
        Be immersed into His kingdom
        Come accept Him now

        (I think that’s right…I’m doing it on memory since I don’t have in front of me.”

      • Which, of course, means that the words “only trust him” are no where to be found in the lyrics of the redback Church Hymnal version.

        The more you know…

      • Is that the title in the redback version?

      • Yep…ironic, isn’t it?

      • I kinda like the “new” version you quoted there.

      • I’m 90% sure that ours goes with the original, and they’re from around the 40s-60s. I have to go from memory here – don’t think Google will help me!

  5. From what I’ve heard, I believe this is more of a “Daywind” release than a Greater Vision release. There will be different artists covering different time periods. I’m not even sure if GV will be selling this at the table. But I agree with you, it is a neat and different idea on the part of Daywind, to take us back in time. Probably one of the most inexpensive projects…

    • In that event, I REALLY want to hear Brian Free & Assurance cover songs of the 0000s. πŸ™‚

      • a progressive southern gospel group doing Gregorian chants in ancient Semitic languages? i like it too.

      • Precisely.

        But, on a serious note, the acapella “There is a Kingdom Coming” is the best thing they’ve done in the last seven years.

      • i agree with that. when i first heard that, i was blown away. of course, even that song is tinkered with on the album cut to resemble something “fresh”. sounds like some type of subtle auto tune going on.

    • Well, I’d have had GV do the 1500s or 1600s then, and they could have increased their repertoire for those Lutheran church dates.

      • Anyway, shouldn’t “There Is a Fountain” be 1700s? I know it’s modified, but the bulk of it really is William Cowper. (I think!)

      • The whole thing is William Cowper! πŸ™‚

      • We sang it on Fellowship Meeting on Saturday. I see I was thinking about the version we usually sing, with the chorus “I’ve been redeemed (and so have I)…”

      • Now that you mention that, I think that about half of the songs are 1800s or previous. Weird.

    • I’ve noticed that it is not on the Greater Vision website. I do find it hard to believe that GV would not be selling it somehow. They are on it, after all.

  6. This new CD is not a Greater Vision project. To be honest, I haven’t actually heard the final version of this recording. It was a special project Daywind and the SGMA asked us to do for the “100th Anniversay of SG”. Charlie Waller picked the songs and sent copies of the original music to us. Since there were no actual recordings available from the first decade of Gospel music, he wanted them recorded “as written” on the music we were provided.

    We actually recorded the songs as they would have been recorded in the early 1900s…piano and one mic…”straight to tape”. There was no post-recording tuning or mixing. It is “as is”, which was purposely done to give it authenticity. I mentioned that, when I was asked to write the liner notes, but since I haven’t seen an actual piece of product, I don’t know if my liner notes were included in the CD booklet.

    I haven’t decided whether or not we will carry it on our product table or website, since I haven’t heard the finished CD. When the project idea was sent to us, that wasn’t discussed, since it was supposed to be released by the SGMA as a part of a 100-song Centennial Collection. Seeing that they have missed the original (Sept. 2010) deadline, you can correctly assume that Daywind is releasing it as a stand-alone piece to recoup their expenses…and that’s exactly what I would have done.

    Had we been given “free-reign” over the song selection and budget, we would have probably approached the idea in a different way with different songs. That’s not to be taken as a critical statement at all, just an observation.

    BTW… There are some great, classic songs on the recording, and… Gene McDonald is not only an awesome Bass singer…he’s also a GREAT sight-reader…which is very rare in our genre.

    • So, 1900s refers to a decade, not a century. That’s a key distinction that hasn’t been made I think.

      This is all very interesting. Thanks for the info, Gerald! While it’s not going down in my list of favorite GV recordings, I did find it refreshingly different.

      I hope they are able to get some of the other ones out there (Songs of the 1910s, etc.) That would help it all make a little more sense.

      • That explanation makes the title even more bizarre. If this was part of the 100th celebration of Southern Gospel from 1910-2010, the first collection should have been songs from the 1910s.

        The songs aren’t from the 1900s and the period covered isn’t during the 100 years in question either! Random…

    • Gerald,

      Thanks! I think that does clean up most of the questions around the album. I would question one of Waller’s selections, though – “In the Garden” wasn’t written till 1912!

      • Yeah, it’s obvious the focus was more on making the recording itself like the decade of the 1900s. That explains the straight-ahead singing, no solos, etc. The song selection does seem odd when put in the context of the decade.

  7. You’ll have to take those comments up with Charlie. Since, it wasn’t our project, I did as I was told. I would assume the songs were selected from Vaughn’s first songbook, but again, all we saw were the songs they sent for us to record.

    Don’t shoot the messenger.

    • Thanks for clarifying the song selection process. There’s no bullets headed your way, at least from this audience! πŸ™‚

    • Look, I don’t really care about the cover, the picture, the name, etc. We may have fun picking those apart when there’s nothing bigger getting our attention, but what we really care about is what’s inside.

      If, when you hear it, you like it well enough to have GV carry it, it’s going on my birthday list. End of story! πŸ˜€

  8. NEWS FLASH! We are now carrying “Songs Of The 1900s” on our product table and in our Online Store. Like Brian, it won’t be going on the list of my “all-time GV favorite” recordings, but it is an authentically refreshing recording of some great, classic Gospel Music. Most importantly, my Mom loves it! Let’s face it… she fits perfectly into the “target demographic” for the recording. That’s great news for Daywind and the SGMA, since a designated portion of the sales proceeds go to support the SGMA Hall of Fame and Museum.

    Bottom line… put it in your collection. Thirty years from now, if the Lord tarries, you’ll be glad you did.

    • Very cool!

      Of course, my three favorite Greater Vision projects – Hymns of the Ages, Quartets, and Live at First Baptist Atlanta – are so set that it would take a pretty incredible recording to take their place!

      • Well, I’m partial to the early stuff:

        1. It’s Just Like Heaven
        2. On a Journey
        3. 20 Inspirational Favorites
        4. Quartets
        5. The King Came Down
        6. Serving a Risen Savior
        7. Live at First Baptist Atlanta
        I think The Only Way squeezes in right around here, ahead of Hymns of the Ages.

    • Well, at 26, I may not be part of the target demographic, but I already saw it in GV’s last newsletter, and I’m wishing hard that I will get it with the other new project for my birthday in August. I wonder if I could get a chance at blowing out those candles ahead of time …

      One particular reason for me to want it is that my husband doesn’t understand enough English to enjoy a lot of current SG, but he knows the melodies to a lot of hymns and enjoys SG renditions of those (or any other conservative renditions).