3:1 CD Review: American Christian (Melody Boys Quartet)

American Christian (The Melody Boys Quartet)3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1. Mike Franklin: American Christian welcomes longtime alumnus Mike Franklin back to the group. Even if his voice isn’t your all-time favorite tenor voice, it is the voice you expect to hear at the Melody Boys’ tenor microphone. There is no question that they made the right hire by bringing him back. 

2. “Forever Paradise”: Suppose someone plays this CD for you and asks you to name which of the mid-tempo quartet songs are classics. If you didn’t know that this was a new song by Dianne Wilkinson and Jerry Kelso, this would probably be the first one you named. Its authentic old-school feel hits the Melody Boys’ sweet spot dead-center.

3. “The Shepherd”: This ballad features tenor Mike Franklin. The strings are subdued enough to permit the Melody Boys to ably adapt the tenor ballad style to their trademark sound.

:1. One thing I would change: “Put Your Hand in the Hand”: The Melody Boys’ voices leave them at their strongest singing the styles popular in Southern Gospel circles in the 1930s and 1940s, prior to Statesmen and Blackwood Brothers influences. They are at their best when they stick to old and new songs which would have sounded at home on recordings and radio shows from this era.

Traditional or Progressive

Rather traditional.

Radio Single Picks

“Forever Paradise,” “The Shepherd”

Credits

Producer: Vic and Toni Clay. • Group members: Mike Franklin (tenor), Chris Walton (lead), Dean Porter (baritone), Gerald Williams (bass). • Review copy provided.  • Song list: Keep Walking; Shadows; Put Your Hand in the Hand; Welcome Home; Love So Divine; American Christian; The Shepherd; The Rest of My Days; Forever Paradise; The Healer of Broken Hearts.


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13 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. Our group is opening up for Melody Boys tonight in Corinth, MS! I am so excited and will most definitely buy this recording tonight! Chris (lead singer) is a friend of mine and I am looking forward to hearing TMBQ do a full concert! Thanks for the review!

    • Congratulations! Knock it out of the park!

  2. I have been a fan and supporter of the Melody Boys for quite some time now. They are the real deal, capable of singing with anyone from any walks of musical life. I love the idea of Mike Franklin coming back, and of course Gerald and I have been great friends for many years. They also hired one of my dear friends in Dean Porter. He is a singer’s singer. Congrats to my buddies, The Melody Boys! I want a copy of this CD!! Ok Gayla…your turn!

  3. Lol Gayla should be along any moment to comment!! This is a great cd and one of the finest the Melody Boys have released in the last few years. Mike Franklin is one of the best tenors around, Gerald of course is a legend in our field, and the group is solid, top to bottom. I love “The Shepherd”, but my personal favorite is “Love So Divine”. Old time smooth quartet singing at its finest.

    • “Love So Amazing” is nice and smooth! 🙂

  4. “The Shepherd” is probably my favorite. And I enjoy Gerald’s version of “Hand In the Hand”. Glad they used “Keep Walking” and “Rest of My Days” too. Great production from Vic Clay and Steve Mauldin…the guys should be happy with it.

    • Glad we agree on favorites!

      Of course Gerald does well on “Hand in the Hand”; he’s one of those singers good enough that he’d have a hard time making a song sound bad. My point was mainly that TMBQ is at its best when sticking to songs of earlier eras.

  5. Hidee Everyone,
    Obviously I have been away from the computer most of the day! Daniel, thanks for reviewing “American Christian”. Of course, I love this CD! “Love So Divine” is my favorite because it was written by Joe Roper (who “re-formed” TMBQ in 1949, hired Gerald, and is my favorite writer),it is a beautiful Quartet song with gorgeous harmonies, and it features Gerald. However, I truly enjoy each song on this CD, and I think they made wonderful choices that create a nice variety of fantastic Quartet Music. “Keep Walking”, “The Rest of My Days”, and “Forever Paradise” have that wonderful classic “Quartet feel” that I dearly love! “Shadows” was written by Gerald many years ago and is a beautiful story that showcases Dean’s smooth baritone. In my opinion no one can do a stirring ballad like Mike, and he is excellent on the beautiful message rich “The Shepherd”. “American Christian” is a great rousing patriotic number that features Chris and is the current radio single. If there is a veteran or active armed forces member that holds a special place in your heart pay close attention to “Welcome Home” in which Dean tells a wonderful story about a chance meeting in a restaurant. “The Healer of Broken Hearts” is a gorgeous ballad that has such a comforting message and a short recitation by Gerald. As already mentioned “Put Your Hand in the Hand” features the marvelous bass vocals of Gerald Williams, and it is bringing back many positive memories for audience members all around the county. I realize this is entirely too long, and that I am perhaps a bit prejudiced; however, I dearly love this CD!

    • We don’t mind that you’re perhaps a bit prejudiced. I don’t think you’d be the Gayla everyone knows and loves if we couldn’t count on you to love a TMBQ project! 🙂

  6. Gayla, we’re soul sisters and just didn’t know it. The late GREAT Joe Roper was my first quartet hero when I was a child, and I wanted to play piano just like him, No one could, though…Joe had the master touch. He is one of the most amazing writers we have ever had. His “Sinner’s Plea” alone would have qualified him for the Hall of Fame (one of Jeff Stice’s favorite piano solos – just him at the piano, no track; WOW). Joe was a great friend to my family and very instrumental in getting our family trio (The Ross Sisters) off and running, and I started with that trio playing piano and singing “the high part” when I was 12 years old, so I owe Smilin’ Joe a great debt. On the Cathedrals’ “Master Builder” record album, Joe’s song is one track, and “Master Builder” is the next. It’s one of the things I treasure most in my songwriting career. MANY thanks to Gerald Williams for keeping the Melody Boys “real”. Then, and now, they have always been “quartet heaven”. I know y’all don’t know it, but quartets are my favorite. 🙂

  7. Thanks so much Daniel and Dianne! Dianne, “Sinners Plea” is my all time favorite number one song of all times in any category or genre. In my opinion it is almost the perfect song! It includes an incredible message, beautiful poetry, gorgeous melody, harmony and intricate chords, and the classic “modern harmony” that literally makes my spirit soar! Again, thanks so much for commenting on my post and for your kind words about Gerald and TMBQ! I also so appreciate your incredible contribution of quality compositions to the Gospel Quartet World!

  8. Haven’t heard the album yet but looking forward to as I am a big fan of Gerald. For those who don’t know the story of “Put Your Hand in the Hand.” It was written around 1970 by Canadian secular songwriter Gene MacLellan. He had written Anne Murray’s first hit “Snowbird” and Anne, also a Canadian, recorded “Put Your Hand” on her third album and wanted it released as a single. Her record company refused saying it was too religious to release as a single so a Toronto group called Ocean recorded a version and had a monster hit — #2 on US pop charts. After that most of the popular SGM groups of the time recorded it. Gene, who suffered from depression, much of his life, committed suicide in the 90s. His daughter Catherine is an up-and-coming folksinger.