3:1 CD Review: 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.
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.