Mega Review: “Influenced” (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound)
Composite Rating: 4 stars
Producers: Ernie Haase & Wayne Haun
Song List: “Intro,” “My Heart Is A Chapel,” “If You Know The Lord,” “Climbing Higher & Higher,” “I Know The Lord,” “Swinging On The Golden Gate,” “The Old-Fashioned Meeting,” “There’s A God Somewhere,” “Lead Me, Guide Me,” “Poetry Corner,” “Walk With Me,” “Oh, The Glory Did Roll” and “Outro”
- Aaron Swain (Swain’s Musings)
- Adam Edwards (Southern Gospel Critique)
- Brandon Coomer (Coomer Cove)
- Daniel Mount (Southern Gospel Blog)
- David Bruce Murray (Musicscribe Blog) [EDIT, 6/6/12: Broken link removed.]
- Wes Burke (Burke’s Brainwork)
Click “Read the rest of this entry” for the full review.
DBM: This theme song/intro recaptures the mood of a 1940s era radio broadcast.
Aaron: I know that the concept of the album was to capture the setting of one of those old radio shows, but I find myself hitting the “skip” button on my iPod whenever I listen to this track. Just comes off as cheesy to me.
Adam: Cool intro…
2. My Heart Is A Chapel
DBM: Ernie Haase is featured on this lighthearted tune. Some fans seem to be under the impression that Influenced is a four-guys-plus-piano recording, but there’s organ, drums, bass, etc. on this cut and the songs that follow. The tracks are sparse and don’t come to the forefront to interfere with the vocals, but there is a full complement of instruments.
Daniel: Signature Sound turns in a creditable rendition of this Rangers / Statesmen classic.
Brandon: Right off the bat, I’ll be upfront and admit I’m not the biggest Signature Sound fan, but this is a very good, fun opening track.
Aaron: Very fun opening to the “program.”
Wes: Nice rendition of this classic tune. I really like the trio harmony with the bottom three voices on the second verse. While this is a “gimmicky” concept, these guys show right off the bat that they take their singing very seriously. Nice harmony on the tag.
Adam: I thought this was a fun song. I really like the harmonic aftercounts.
3. If You Know The Lord
Aaron: The album slows down a bit with this track. Tim Duncan hits some low notes on the chorus. My only complaint on this track is the tempo drags a bit too much for my taste.
Wes: I really, really like this song. I’m admittedly a sucker for nice modern harmony, and there’s plenty of it to be found on this one. Gorgeous!!!!
4. Climbing Higher And Higher
DBM: I like the way music in this arrangement takes a step or two away from the Cathedrals version. I think it would have been even better if the vocal arrangement had a similar independence from the Cathedrals version.
Brandon: I’ve never really seen the attraction to this song, but this is a pretty good cut.
Aaron: Like DBM said, this track steps away from the Cathedrals version. It does, however, pay tribute to the Statesmen version of the song. The only real similarity to the Cathedrals version is the lone trumpet on the chorus.
Wes: Nice rendition of this song. OK, OK, I get the whole radio show concept, but the intro at the end just reeks of cheese. The cheesy, Broadway-show enjoying side of me loves it, the more serious side of me hates it. What a dichotomy.
Adam: Never liked this song….still don’t.
5. I Know The Lord
DBM: This cut slows down the pace. There are some nice harmonies on this cut, but I don’t think it’s one of the most memorable cuts on the album.
Daniel: I particularly enjoyed this, in part because it’s a song that hasn’t been sung to death in recent years. The song selection at this point in the album is a little interesting, with “If You Know the Lord” two tracks earlier being a probably unintentional pairing.
Brandon: Nothing flashy, but this is one of my favorites on the project.
Aaron: This track didn’t catch on with me because it sounded too similar to “If You Know The Lord,” which came only two tracks earlier.
Wes: Another slower cut with some nice counterpoint and good bass vocals from Tim Duncan. I like the counterpoint pairing of Haase and Duncan opposite Seaton and Anderson. Nice solid cut.
Adam: The last three tracks have about bored me to tears. Thankfully they are not indicative of the rest of the project.
6. Swinging On The Golden Gate
DBM: This fun track should go over well in a concert setting.
Aaron: I’m with DBM; this would be very fun to watch, with EHSSQ’s high energy performance and two mikes, it’d be like watching The Statesmen in their prime.
Wes: I like this cut as well, one of the highlights of the recording. Nice energetic cut, with some nice harmony on the tag.
Adam: I’ll agree with everyone else; this should be an excellent concert number. Great energy!
7. The Old Fashion Way
Daniel: This is one of the most familiar songs on the project, one that several groups have been doing in recent years. But as much as I might, as someone who listens to a wide spectrum of Southern Gospel, prefer a project of entirely shelved songs, I keep reminding myself that numerous people who purchase this project will have never heard some of these classics before.
Brandon: Although this song has been brought back by other groups, this is probably my “pick” from the project.
Aaron: One of the highlights of the album. Very nicely done.
Wes: Again, a very serviceable rendition of this classic tune. Once the tempo kicks up, I’d have preferred it to be a bit faster, but it’s a nice sounding cut.
Adam: I’m agreeing with Brandon on this track. I could listen to this song over and over again. It reminds me of the Happy Goodman classic song, “The Sweetest Song I Know”.
8. There’s A God Somewhere
DBM: Tim Duncan is featured on this cut with the organ panned full left to contrast a guitar in the right channel. This is the sort of mix groups sometimes employed back when stereo recordings were new. I’ve even heard some old recordings where a solo voice would be completely panned to one side or the other, but fortunately, EH&SS didn’t go quite that far.
Daniel: This arrangement is based off a George Younce’s rendition from his Blue Ridge or Weatherfords days. Somewhat off topic, the impact of the George Younce-era Blue Ridge Quartet on Signature Sound’s song selection and arrangements is widely underestimated; several of their most popular songs (including “Stand By Me”) come from that era in the group’s history.
Aaron: Tim Duncan gets the feature on this song. His booming voice on this track resembles that of George Younce.
Wes: Nice vocal work from Tim Duncan. I also noticed the panning of the instruments. I have several old LPs where this was the case as well. When you brush aside all the fluff and hype, EHSS really can sing very well. Duncan is a top notch bass singer.
Adam: It’s nice to hear a bass singer that knows how to sing, instead of constantly growling. Duncan shows why he is one of the better singing basses on this track.
9. Lead Me, Guide Me
Daniel: Signature Sound recorded this on their eponymous DVD several years ago. It’s finally found its way onto a project.
Aaron: I had always thought they would record this song on one of their mainstream projects, but given the style of this album, it is right at home here.
Wes: Nice rendition of a song that, as mentioned previously, the group has included in their live shows for a while.
10. Poetry Corner
DBM: I prefer “Poetry Corner” to the “Intermission” found on Triumphant’s Intermission project. Bill Gaither drops by to chat with Ernie and share a few lines of poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay. This track has a novelty factor that may eventually grow old over time, but at least it’s worth more than one or two listens.
Brandon: I could have done without this, but it is an interesting idea.
Aaron: Nice, but another part I skip.
Wes: Good for a listen the first time or two that you listen to the CD, but not much more. It does fit the radio show theme, though.
Adam: Great concept for the project, but as is the case with most spoken tracks, it tends to get old really quick.
11. Walk With Me
Brandon: Ernie Haase is not my favorite singer, but I enjoyed his version of this song.
Aaron: Ernie turns in a nice rendition of this slow song.
Wes: Nice version of this song. The tempo is a little faster than most renditions of this song, and the arrangement overall is a bit more flowing, not as choppy as most. Ernie does a good job on this song.
Adam: These guys can sing, no doubt about that. This track lets them prove it.
12. Oh The Glory Did Roll
DBM: This familiar song is sung directly off the page for the first two verses and choruses. They kick up the energy and began re-arranging the harmonies a bit on the repeat chorus. Their voices don’t blend as well on this cut, but they sound like they’re having fun.
Brandon: Most groups bore me to death with this song, but as DBM points out, they pick it up towards the end and make the song much more enjoyable.
Aaron: I must say, this is one of the best renditions of this song I’ve ever heard. I like the version the Florida Boys recorded on their Something To Remember album, but this rendition gets the slight edge just because they kicked it up a notch at the end.
Wes: Underneath the short ties, spiky hair, dance moves, and hype, EHSS is a very traditional quartet musically, and as such this song really plays to their strengths. The repeat chorus with the more free flowing vocals really make this song stand out.
Adam: Not the best version of the song I’ve ever heard (to me, The Perrys own that), but it’s still a strong quartet song to showcase their talent.
DBM: Ernie bids the listeners farewell while the Signature Sound theme song is sung.
Aaron: I share the same thoughts on this track as I did on the intro.
DBM: This is a winning concept. They could have used a few more elements of an old radio broadcast to help the listener buy into the concept more…stopping to mention a few fictional concert dates or advertise a fictional product would have been a nice touch. Having an announcer introduce them rather than Ernie himself would have given the project another element of authenticity. They don’t mention any station call letters. As the product stands, it’s not entirely in the past and not entirely in the present.
The mood of the music is nostalgic. A couple of lesser known songs are mixed in with well known standards, which is good. Influenced isn’t going to break any new ground for people who are already into traditional styles. There are other groups that know how to do this style better. On the plus side, fans of EH&SS who were initially attracted to big Lari Goss orchestrations and visual choreography may discover a new world in truly traditional Southern Gospel after hearing Influenced.
Daniel: This is a strong effort. A few of the little details DBM mentioned a separate announcer, the fictional dates or product pitches and perhaps a little radio static at the beginning or ending would have given it a slightly more authentic feel. But the project flows nicely and is nicely spaced. While it’s a little short of being a five-star release, it’s a solidly enjoyable four-star release. Fans of traditional Southern Gospel music who enjoy Signature Sound’s periodic convention numbers will find this to be the group’s most enjoyable release in recent years.
Brandon: As the others mentioned, they could have done a couple more things to completely pull it off, but this is a really cool concept. Not only is it a good concept, but for years people have said Signature Sound relies too heavily on vocal stacks. This project is kind of a “here you go” to those people and shows the group can sing, and sing well, without the stacks. Several songs are very enjoyable; others are not bad, but simply forgettable, which I think is often the case with projects featuring exclusively older songs. Still, with bonus points for the concept, this is a strong four star project.
Aaron: This album is a nice concept that will especially sell with their older fans that would remember the radio shows that the album pays tribute to. I agree with Brandon’s statement that this album proves that the guys can do it without stacks just as well as with them. EHSSQ has been compared to the Statesmen before; the parallel is evident on several songs on this project.
The bottom line: older fans will want it for the nostalgic appeal, younger fans will want it to maybe hear how EHSSQ’s influences did it back in the 1940s and 50s.
Wes: This is a unique concept, and EHSS pulls it off very well. There are some fairly familiar tunes here, and some fairly obscure ones as well. Like I’ve said in my comments on the tracks, underneath all the hype, EHSS is a very good quartet that does traditional sounds very well. Sometimes I think people tend to get too caught up in the hype and fluff that accompanies this group. When it comes down to the nitty gritty, these guys can sing, and they’ve proven it with this album. There is some really nice harmony interspersed throughout the album that isn’t exactly easy to pull off, but these guys do a masterful job of doing so. The cheesiness of the concept aside, this is a very enjoyable album, that I think will show a different side of this group to the EHSS “bandwagoners”. Great job guys!
Adam: Do not buy this album if you expect to hear the same music you typically hear from EH&SS. Buy it if you want to hear them get back to the basics and prove that they really can sing. Like them or not, they are one of the hottest tickets in Southern Gospel music and Influenced helps show that they belong there. Underneath all of the staged theatrics and choreography, there is a quartet that still sings good quartet music. Bravo to Ernie and the gang for putting this album in their discography!