Classic CD Review: Live from the Alabama Theatre (Karen Peck & New River)

Rating: 4.5 stars (of 5)

Average Song Rating: 4 stars (of 5)

Song List: The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn; He’s Sending Miracles; Visions of Heaven; They Shall Walk With Me in White; Wherever the Wind Blows; God Still Answers Prayers; Daddy’s Home; Over in the Gloryland; In the Name of Jesus; Rain & Shine; Bend in the River; When Jesus Passes By; God’s Amazing Grace.

Available from: Crossroads.

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Live From the Alabama Theatre was originally released in 1994 and has been out of print for several years. Crossroads recently re-issued it digitally.

The album kicks off with a 49-second acapella chorus, “The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn.” Two mid-tempo ballads follow; “He’s Sending Miracles” features Karen Peck Gooch and “Visions of Heaven” features Karen’s sister Susan on the solo with some nice harmonies on the chorus. It builds to a power ending before a quick transition to the project’s first uptempo song, “They Shall Walk With Me in White.”

After singing the solo on “Wherever the Wind Blows,” Karen Peck introduced “God Still Answers Prayers” by telling how her father had passed away the previous year. After talking further about her father’s passing, she started “Daddy’s Home” by singing the chorus acapella. The band and the rest of the group came in for the rest of the song.

The recording seems to have been originally mastered for tape release, as the applause between tracks fades out between “Daddy’s Home” and back in before the next track, “Over in the Gloryland.” That uptempo song gets the second half off to a strong start.

The next song, “In the Name of Jesus,” is tenor/lead singer Eric Morris’s first feature on the project. “Rain & Shine” was a fun, uptempo Cajun-style number that had been a recent radio hit for the group. The group followed it with one of their earliest big songs, “Bend in the River.”

Eric Morris introduced and was featured on the album’s final song, “God’s Amazing Grace.”

This project was recorded in the days when Karen Peck and New River toured with a live band. It is used to full advantage on songs like “Visions of Heaven” and “They Shall Walk with Me in White”—they have an energy that soundtracks can’t quite capture.

Fans of the current group lineup will enjoy this trip back in time. Southern Gospel fans who prefer less orchestration than the current lineup uses will also like this live project. Sound clips are available here.

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