On Liner Notes

Sometimes liner notes can be more interesting than the music they describe. It’s not that the music is boring or forgettable (usually); it’s that liner notes can get pretty interesting.

Liner notes, both today and back in the days when a 33 1/3 rpm record cover provided plenty of room for prolixity, often contain interesting facts about the group and stories about songs or about the recording process of the album. Production credits permit observers to trace musicians’ contributions to various albums.

Songwriter credits are also fascinating. With research, you can easily find whether songs introduced on a recording are entirely new or have been recorded before. One aspect of song credits common in other genres but usually (and unfortunately) omitted in Southern Gospel is listing the year a song was copyrighted; this can also send a signal as to whether the song is original to the project.

But, ironically, the most useful part of CD liner notes is frequently omitted.

First, some background: Some groups, such as Greater Vision and the McKameys, maintain a steady enough lineup for every Southern Gospel fan who so desires to easily remember the members of the group. But most Southern Gospel groups do not measure the duration of a particular lineup in decades.

Some Southern Gospel groups list group personnel in their liner notes. But many groups omit this information, even if they list all the other musicians who contributed to recording the album. While this omission is particularly conspicuous when it occurs in a project by a group with yearly turnover (like the Anchormen, Dixie Melody Boys, or Palmetto State Quartet), it is a problem anywhere.

It causes a problem for people who purchase CDs, tapes, or records of groups recorded before they personally became familiar with the group. Occasionally even the experts will have a hard time figuring out group personnel for a particular record.

Additionally, to just face the facts, quite a few casual Southern Gospel fans don’t read Singing News. Yet they will frequently purchase a group’s album when the group performs a concert at their church. Afterwards, when they open the CD and start listening to it, they might notice that a few of the people who appeared on the cover had left the group by the time they purchased the album.

While all the elements of a good set of liner notes are interesting, identifying the group members is simply too important to overlook.

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24 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I’m with you 100%! I’ve been in that situation, and wished that they would list the members that appear in that particular recording. I have a few CDs that do name the members, but more often than not, I’m left wondering “who the other guy is”. Especially with older albums.

  2. Are there any particular recordings you’ve been wondering about? Maybe I know, or maybe another reader knows.

  3. First thing I do when I buy a CD is read the entire liner notes while the CD is being burned onto my computer. It’s always a disappointment when I see the dreaded “blank white page” inside the front cover “booklet”. It’s also a disappointment when I see errors. I’ve seen misspelled songs, incorrect songwriter attributions. (This is the Bev Shea/Rhea Miller “I’d Rather Have Jesus”, not the Luther Presley one.)

    You know who does great liner notes? Greater Vision. The songwriting and publishing detail is always there, and I know that sort of thing is important to Gerald.

    • Groups with singer/songwriters as members tend to be – and are sometimes the only – groups that get the liner notes right.

      The Gaither Vocal Band (Bill Gaither) and the Booth Brothers (Jim Brady) typically have accurate credits.

      • The GVB “Reunited” CD had a superb liner note booklet. Excellent, with lyrics as well as credits.

        It is actually beneficial to read the lyrics, often you have a word or a phrase wrong in just repeating what you hear.

        It is really disappointing when what looks like liner notes, turns out to be a duplicate copy of the CD / DVD cover, and blank on the inner fold; a pretty useless waste of paper and ink!

      • Yeah, I agree, having the lyrics is really useful too. Especially if it’s a really long song that you like and can’t find lyrics to anywhere else. An up-tempo song can sometimes go by kind of fast too.

  4. Liner notes can be really handy. I love to browse through details about who was playing what instrument or who wrote a certain song. Sometimes I find out neat tidbits (like that Gordon Mote stopped in for a couple songs on the Collingsworth’s latest CD). There’s also this guy named Jason Webb who appears to do have done studio keyboards for practically every SG record I have. Anybody know anything about this guy? Is he a relation to Roy Webb? Speaking of which, I also found out that Roy didn’t do any studio work for EHSS even though he was always pictured on the front cover. Interesting!

    • Most live band members for a group don’t play on the group’s CDs.

      On Jason Webb – I took some videos of him playing on a Talley Trio studio session. You should be seeing those some time in the next few weeks (on their site, but I’ll probably link from here)!

      • Tim Parton plays on almost all of L5’s stuff… But he also moonlights as a studio musician/producer so that make sense… It is an interesting correlation between players for groups that are just live accompanist’s like Roy Webb, Bryan Elliot and Cody Mcvey etc…(those guys just play in live settings not studios for the most part) And the guys like Parton or Wayne Haun or Gordon Mote etc… (they do both live and studio and help arrange produce albums for their perspective groups…

    • Seriously?? So the stuff on the CDs from his time isn’t him? I just don’t get that at all. I mean, I know the argument about saving money on studio time, but I Don’t Care.

      Roger … Gerald Wolfe … Haskell … You got to hear the real thing there. Sometimes I’m so confused I don’t know what I’m hearing!

      • Yes, seriously. Check out liner notes, and unless it’s a piano solo feature track, you will virtually never see the group member playing piano.

        In a typical studio, there are a group of extremely talented musicians who frequent the studio and are used to working together as a team. Their talent lies not necessarily in good showmanship for stage, but in laying down perfect tracks on the first or second take.

        Seriously, it could be a difference of several thousand dollars. That’s often just not in the budget, especially with many SG groups just barely making minimum wage as it is.

      • And I’ll add that this is not unique to Southern Gospel. From my days as a country fan, I know that the same thing applies to that genre. George Strait has a great live band (“Ace in the Hole” band) that has traveled with him for 30 years, but I think has played on just one or two recorded studio songs in all those years.

        The obvious exception to this rule is in bluegrass.

      • :sigh: I knew y’all were going to say that.

        I still don’t like it!

        I mean, especially when the pianist is an integral part of the group. Shall we just take a group of extremely talented vocalists who can get it right on the first take and have them lay down the vocals? When you’re talking about someone with Roy Webb’s talent, or the guy who was haled as “the next Anthony Burger,” or a group with a style like DBQ’s used to be, I would like that to come through in their CDs.

      • The world of tight budgets, huge bus bills, and trying to make payroll doesn’t always peacefully coexist with the ideal!

  5. The college groups at Heartland Baptist Bible College actually have a picture of their groups with their name, singing position, hometown, and major. I find it interesting on The Cathedrals “Live… In Atlanta” how Roger Bennett was listed as playing the “acoustic keyboard”. It’s shorter just to say piano.

  6. I know Channing would go back on some of Gold City’s stuff and do some piano overdubs. Like on “That Little Baby” that’s him do the piano turn around.

  7. Now Gordon Mote on the other hand—I would just assume he does studio work for the GVB as well as live right? I mean he makes his living as a studio keyboardist for country singers afer all.

    • I think so – and ditto for Wayne Haun and EHSS. Both come from studio backgrounds and are essentially studio musicians who can play live rather than the other way around.

    • This is a bit weird!

      You guys live to near the power station, we just switch on the light!

      Seriously, in the far away places we only see DVD and hear CD’s. So our ‘reality’ mental picture comes out of the DVD photography…

      I remember being surprised when i discovered a CD of a favourite, at the time, DVD; was not the songs off the soundtrack of the DVD, but studio versions, with stacks!

      Now you guys telling us that Roy didn’t play the piano, or Kevin didn’t play the guitar, or even Gordon the keyboard?

      Are Gordon and Wayne now the exceptions to the rule? Do they play studio recordings for EHSS and GVB as well as live?

      Do both do the small stuff tours, as well as the big headline tours?

      If Gordy is on the road now with the GVB, how does he do much country session work??

      • Okay David, let me help:

        First of all, unless a CD specifically says that it’s a live recording (like EHSS’s Stand By Me Live or the Cats’ “Deep in the Heart of Texas”) it’s *always* a studio recording, even if it has an accompanying live DVD.

        I know Roy didn’t play studio piano for EHSS. Like we’ve said, Gordon probably did for the GVB. I’m not sure about Kevin and the guitar.

        Gordon and Wayne may well be unusual cases—there really aren’t that many pianists out there who can do studio and live with equal ease.

        As for Gordon and his country work, I assume he’s just a very busy man!

  8. Gerald Wolfe plays the piano on Greater Vision albums and he doesn’t even play much on stage.

    • I thought he was just electric keyboards.

  9. Did Roger play studio keyboards for the Cathedrals as well as live?

    • I’m positive he did quite a bit. But the only thing I can remember to really back that up was the Radio Days album. I firmly believe that most of the piano I hear on Cathedrals’ music is the actual pianist! 😀

      Don’t forget that Roger had some years of studio experience himself.