3:1 CD Review: Our Anthem (Tribute Quartet)

Our Anthem (Tribute Quartet)3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1: “Good News From Jerusalem”: Once every few years, a song comes along that is so big it simply defies comparison. Think “My Name is Lazarus” (Greater Vision), “Jerusalem” (Hoppers), “He Saw it All” (Booth Brothers), “Midnight Cry” (Gold City), or “God on the Mountain” (McKameys). These are the elite songs that groups talk about for years afterwards—”We want this song to have a ‘Jerusalem’ feel,” and the studio musicians know exactly what they mean. 

That’s the sort of song “Good News from Jerusalem” is.

The verses pulsate with the energy of a “My Name is Lazarus.” The choruses explode with the enthusiasm of a “He’s Alive.” Yet there is no frame of reference for Josh Singletary’s commanding solo, the shifts between minor and major keys, and the power group harmonies on the choruses.

We often say of groups in Tribute’s position and at their talent level, “All they need is that huge breakout song to really put them on the map.”

This is that song.

2: “The Song of Heaven”: On the album’s standout orchestrated anthem, tenor Riley Clark proves that “Homecoming Day” was no fluke.

3: Vocals: Tribute Quartet’s vocal performances have taken a sizable step in the right direction. An extra year of seasoning has done wonders for relative newcomers Riley Clark (tenor) and Anthony Davis (bass). Clark has retained the unique vocal texture that made his voice immediately unique, while adding an added degree of confidence. Davis, meanwhile, is starting to settle into his own sweet spot, sounding much like a young Glenn Dustin.

:1: Song Selection: Other genres have weekly radio charts; since the main radio chart in Southern Gospel is monthly, albums generally only have two or three singles. This throws a unique wrench into discussions of song selection for Southern Gospel albums. Take, for example, The Perrys; their 2007 Look No Further CD had no less than seven five-star songs, in our rating, while their 2009 follow-up, Almost Morning, had three. However, that quickly became a moot point when one of those three, “If You Knew Him,” became a breakout hit, their first Singing News Fan Awards Song of the Year, and their signature song.

The Perrys provide a decent frame of reference for discussing these last two Tribute Quartet albums. Granted, Our Anthem might have a couple fewer five-star songs. But that will become irrelevant if it has that one breakout hit which becomes a signature song, and it should have that song in “Good News From Jerusalem.”

Meanwhile, the vocals are stronger than on The Waiting is Over, so this album fully stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its predecessor. The Waiting is Over was their first album on one of the premier imprints of a major label (Sonlite, while the previous two were on the more general Crossroads label). It showed bystanders that they deserved to be taken seriously as a top-tier national group.

Our Anthem proves that it wasn’t a fluke. Tribute Quartet is in the top tier to stay.

Traditional or Progressive: Middle-of-the-road.

Album rating: 4.5 stars. Average song rating: 3.8 stars.

Credits: Group members: Riley Clark (tenor), Gary Casto (lead), Josh Singletary (baritone), Anthony Davis (bass). Produced by Roger Talley. Engineered by Van Atkins at Crossroads Studios, Arden, NC. Mixed and Mastered by Scott Barnett at Crossroads Studios, Arden, NC. Musicians: Roger Talley (piano, keyboards), Danny Crawford (piano, keyboards), Jason Webb (B3 Organ), Tony Creasman (Drums, Percussion), Jeremy Medkiff (bass guitar, electric guitar), David Johnson (acoustic guitar, steel guitar, mandolin, fiddle, resonator guitar, harmonica, banjo), Milton Smith (orchestrations).

Radio single picks: “Good News From Jerusalem,” “The Song of Heaven.” Both may spend enough time on the charts that a third single may be unnecessary.

Song List: God’s Gonna Send Revival; Thank the Lord; Good News from Jerusalem; The Song of Heaven; Homesick Angel; Leavin’ on my Mind; The Time is Now; With Just a Little; He Loved Me Anyway; Through Me, the Cross Lives On; It Always Gets the Darkest Just Before Daylight; Better Farther On.

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20 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. I assume Talley producing it, perhaps “God’s Gonna Send Revival” is the old Talleys classic?

    • Yes, same song. I knew I’d heard it before, but since it wasn’t one of the ones I was really spotlighting, I didn’t dig into it further.

    • And one of my favorites from this album, FWIW. Great opener.

  2. I got the album at a concert last night and I do believe it’s by far their best one yet! For me, Josh was a big surprise on Good News from Jerusalem!! Rather than the crooning style that is seemingly so easy for him and which seems to always be the style of his feature songs, Good News was a song he could really sink his vocal teeth into! Wow! Several of the songs on the album had a richer, fuller quartet sound than I’m used to hearing from them. And I’d love to hear more a capella work from these men after hearing the opening to God’s Gonna Send Revival.

    • The crooning songs have always seemed to be a novelty portion of their shows; it’s cool to see him get an anchor song.

  3. Well, Daniel, I agree with you about this Tribute recording, and thank you so much for your review of “Good News from Jerusalem”, a song written by Jerry Salley and me. The first time we heard the final mix, we knew that God had the plan for this song to be recorded by Tribute Quartet, and we also were blown away by Josh Singletary’s stunning vocal performance. Roger Talley’s orchestration/track is some of the best work he’s ever done, and that is really saying something. Needless to say, Jerry and I are thrilled with this cut, and the way the song was arranged and sung to advance the story like a drama unfolding. That’s exactly what we had in our heads! Bravo to Gary, Josh, Riley, Anthony, Roger Talley and all the studio musicians…everyone who contributed not only to this song but to the whole album. I know how diligently the Tribute guys prayed over song selection, and God honored them with a wonderful project. I’m honored to have my name on it. Dianne.

    • Yes, it is some of the best work Roger Talley has ever done – and yes, for him, that is indeed saying something! 🙂

    • One of the songs of the year in 2012. Tremendous work!

  4. I also agree with the comments about this recording and I appreciate your kind words about Song of Heaven! Interesting story. Our worship leader at church shared the scripture from Revelation 19:1-10 one Sunday morning and I knew there was a song in there. It was one of the quickest, easiest songs to write. I knew Tribute was looking for material, so late one night the day before they were to pick songs, I was talking on the phone to Gary Casto and I told him I’d finished the song. He asked me to sing it, and I did. He said, “Well, I need it on a recoreding for tomorrow so we can put it in the mix of songs we’re looking at.” So, I got up early the next morning, stopped off by my church about 5:30 a.m. recorded a one-take demo on the voice notes of my i-Phone and sent it on, never dreaming it would turn out like it did, but knowing that it was in safe hands with both Tribute and Roger Talley. Interestingly, Calvary Wins Again happened nearly the exact same way with Gary snagging it before it was pitched to anyone else. I’m extremely excited about Song of Heaven and the entire project which I think is their best to date and deserving of 5 stars in my book! And yes, Good News From Jerusalem is truly a show-stopper, jaw-dropper and I’m not sure who outdid themself more–Josh or Roger! Gary, Josh, Riley, and Anthony are some of my dearest friends and I’m thrilled for them about this project. You are right–they have become a top-tier group here to stay, and this recording is just one of the many reasons that supports that statement.

    • That is so neat! I just LOVE “The Song of Heaven” – I’m so glad it made it in time!

  5. REALLY happy to see Tribute Quartet get THAT song! Also THAT album. I love these guys and think that they are some of the most humble, hardworking men on the road. Nothing would please me more than to see them continue to prosper and be rewarded for their hard work for the Kingdom.

  6. Love this project!

    Interesting that you said the chorus of Good News From Jerusalem was like He’s Alive, because that’s the song I thought the verses reminded me of.

  7. Has this album officially been released? We were looking for youtube versions of the songs, but didn’t find any. We’ll have to see if they have clips on their site. It sounds like it should be good!

  8. Love the new CD!!!! Love Tribute!!!!! Hope to see all their fans in Dyer,Tn for The McEwens Homecoming on Sept.29th!!!!!!!

    • Is this the same concert that Myles Howard and the Family will be at? Tribute is great, and I haven’t heard Myles in years. He is really one of the greats in Southern Gospel music.

  9. Excited about this CD coming back from NQC for me. Really pumped to hear how they sound on Daryl Williams’ Homesick Angel.