Mega Review: The Prophets (I’ll Follow)

Composite Rating: 3.1 stars (of 5)

Producers: Johnny Minick, Michael Sykes, Aaron Minick

Song list: I Can Call Jesus Anytime; I Just Call it Home; One Thing the Father Forgets; Because They Gave; How I Want You To Know; I’ll Follow; Jesus Wept; Golden Streets; Love Like the Sun; Mercy.

Contributors:

Click “Read the rest of this entry” for the full review.

1. I Can Call On Jesus Anytime

Aaron: A nice, mid-tempo tune that whets the appetite for the rest of the project. Has a great quartet sound to it, with nice lead vocals by Paul Jackson and a bit of the old hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” near the end.

David Bruce Murray: This first cut plays to the strengths of Bill Baize, Paul Jackson, Ed Hill and Mike Allen. Johnny Minick, Michael Sykes, and Aaron Minick produced this CD, and the style of this track is characteristic of some of the production we’ve heard by Sykes with other artists. Right away, the Prophets establish that they’re going to succeed with more of a “power group” sound than vocal blend. The top three voices are showing some age. Don’t expect smooth-as-silk vocals like the Booth Brothers. That being said, they’re still old pros who can deliver an upbeat song in a manner that will delight an audience.

Wes: Enjoyable rendition of the quartet classic. I agree with David that this song plays to the strengths of the vocalists. While David is right that there isn’t the silky smooth blend of the Booths, they do a nice job of some unexpected chords in this song, especially after the key change and second verse. Very solid opener to the CD.

2. I Just Call It Home

Daniel: The project’s liner notes say that Paul Jackson and I co-wrote the song. This is a graphic designer’s error; “One Thing the Father Forgets” is my only contribution to the album.

Aaron: As Daniel said, Paul Jackson did write this song, and he is featured on the solo. Good orchestration moves this ballad about Heaven along, and it all builds up to a Mercy’s Mark-esque ending.

DBM: Jackson weeps his way through this slower paced song about going home to Heaven. His delivery style doesn’t really suit the topic. The vibrato alone is astonishing, and tends to detract from the lyrics.

Wes: This is a ballad sung by Jackson. I actually like this song pretty well. It’s not the greatest ballad I’ve heard recently, but it’s still a pretty good song. Jackson’s interpretation to me sounds similar to what you would hear from Clayton Inman on a song like this. There was one spot in the last chorus where Baize drops below Jackson in the harmony stack that sounds a bit strange to me, but the ending is nice. Baize still has some surprising upper register left in him.

Brandon: I have to say I agree with everything DBM said. Describing Jackson’s vocal as weeping is right on target.

3. One Thing The Father Forgets

Aaron: A song with a country flair that was penned by our own Daniel Mount, and co-written by Jackson. This song is Mike Allen’s only solo on the project, and he does a great job showcasing his range. Tenor singer Bill Baize proves that his voice only gets better with age as he pops some high notes on the chorus!

DBM: This song is one of the highlights of I’ll Follow, and no, I’m not saying that due to Daniel Mount’s involvement with the lyric. This version of the Prophets is better at mid- to up-tempo songs, first of all. The other reason this song stands out is because Mike Allen is featured. He’s the group’s most versatile singer, and I’m completely baffled as to why he’d only be featured on one cut.

Imagine a farmer riding a nice John Deere tractor out to his field, and then getting off and plowing with a team of mules. Sure, they can still get the job done and they have unique personalities that may bring back glimpses of nostalgia for the farmer, but it’s difficult to get past the fact that the farmer prefers this method to a big green John Deere. You get the idea.

The song begins in the key of A-flat, with Allen singing in his baritone range. By the third verse, the key has stepped up twice, and he hits middle C on a solo line near the end of the third verse with ease. Near the end of the song, Allen reminds us that he’s also a very capable bass singer, dropping to a low B-flat with a strong rich tone.

As far as the lyric is concerned, Daniel and Paul Jackson did a good job collaborating on this cut. The verses list events the Lord remembers, hitting the highlights of the Old and New Testaments. The chorus focuses on our sin, which “the Father forgets.” There’s a few obvious rhymes, but it’s a solid lyric for this style of song.

Wes: I agree with David that this is a highlight of I’ll Follow and that Allen’s vocal makes it so. I, too, wonder why Allen, Hill, and Baize weren’t featured more. This is a really good song, and is performed very well by the group. I’d send this one to radio after “Love Like The Sun”.

Brandon: I really enjoy Mike Allen’s singing, and as everyone said, I am very disappointed by his lack of features on the project. As for his one feature, it is nice, but only leaves me wanting more.

4. Because They Gave

Aaron: A patriotic song that pays tribute to both the fallen and currently serving soldiers of our military forces. A nice song, but nothing I would feel led to listen to other than on special occasions where it would be appropriate. It features the song’s writer, Paul Jackson, once again.

DBM: This track, written and sung by Jackson, is better suited to his singing style than “I Just Call It Home.”

Wes: I’m generally not a big fan of patriotic numbers, so this doesn’t rank as one of my favorites on the CD, but I definitely appreciate the sentiment expressed in the lyric. As patriotic songs go, this one is pretty good. The performance by Jackson and the group is fine, again, I’m just not much of a fan of patriotic songs.

Brandon: Like Wes, I’m not a huge fan of patriotic songs, so this one leaves me a bit cold.

5. How I Want You To Know

Aaron: Bill Baize’s shines on his only solo feature on the project. I enjoy reading his SoGospelNews.com column on how to properly sing, and throughout the project, he displays those lessons to perfection. Baize’s tenor is the type that I personally could listen to non-stop. Truly a Southern Gospel legend.

DBM: “How I Want You To Know” should be a show stopper for Bill Baize. He saves a few high Cs for the tag lines at the end, which is impressive for a man his age. The group chimes in lightly on the choruses, giving Baize the full benefit of his only moment in the spotlight.

Wes: Bill Baize was one of the first to embrace the power tenor ballad style. This song shows that even 30 years or so removed from his time with the Stamps, Baize can still sing a power tenor ballad with excellence. There’s some nice harmony from the group behind him on the choruses. This song should do very well for the Prophets, and Baize still has the ability to sing these power ballads. An excellent job and one of the best songs on the CD.

6. I’ll Follow

Aaron: A re-recording of an old Prophets tune that also serves as the title track. I’ve never heard the original version of this song, but I like this one!

DBM: The title track of the album is a stylistic departure. The chord structures and instrumentation appear to be patterned after a 1980s pop song. For this reason, I wonder if Aaron’s info is accurate. Is this really a tune from the earlier Prophets of the 1960s? The liner notes indicate that current lead singer Paul Jackson and producer Johnny Minick wrote it. The Prophets did record a song titled “I’ll Follow Jesus” in 1959 on The Gospel Songs (Coral Records/CRL57330), but I don’t think it’s likely that this is the same song unless Jackson and Minick have been collaborating on songwriting a lot longer than I think they have. Maybe one of the other reviewers can verify this information for us.

Aaron: I had the wrong song. The remakes are “Love Like The Sun” and “Jesus Wept.” Still a good song, though!

Wes: David is right, this does sound like a pop song from the 80s. It’s definitely a different style, but I’ll agree with Aaron, I like it, and the group does it very well. It’s not a great song, but solid and enjoyable, at least to my ears. Maybe it’s just because I’m a child of the 80s.

7. Jesus Wept

Aaron: Baritone Ed Hill, one of the veterans of the industry, gets his only feature on this slow song. I like hearing Hill sing, but this song didn’t really grab me. Too slow for my taste, I guess.

DBM: I agree with Aaron. It’s great to hear Ed Hill singing again under the banner of the Prophets Quartet, but this isn’t a particularly strong lyric. The arrangement is about as simplistic as you can get in the three chord/three-four time vein. I think this cut probably is a Prophets remake, though, which would explain the presence of the song on this CD. A song by the same title appears on their Gospel Rhythm (Sing Records/MFLP3005) LP.

Aaron: I think I read the info wrong on another site, and this is the song that was a remake, rather than I’ll Follow.

Wes: It is good to hear Ed Hill again with a quartet, but I also agree that a better song could have been chosen. “Neither Do I Condemn Thee” would have been a better choice for a Prophets remake that would have played to this group’s strengths a bit better.

8. Golden Streets

Aaron: Another slow song, but the lyrics and overall sound of the song reminded me of a boy band, for some strange reason. Wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.

DBM: This song might be effective in the hands of a blue eyed soul singer like Charles Billingsley, who wrote the lyric. It doesn’t really suit Jackson’s vocal style, the Prophets, or male quartets in general. This would have been a great point on the CD to feature Allen, Baize or Hill again.

Wes: I agree with Aaron and David that this song just doesn’t work very well. It’s not terrible, but just doesn’t seem to fit the group very well. There is some nice harmony on the line “Oh don’t you worry, don’t you weep for me” in the chorus. I’ll give the group some credit for taking a chance and trying some different styles. Sometimes those chances work, sometimes they don’t. At least they have the gusto to try it.

Brandon: I don’t know if it fits the quartet, but I have to admit that I find this track one of the more enjoyable songs on the project.

9. Love Like The Sun

Aaron: Awesome rendition of another old Prophets song. Has been stuck in my head since the first listen, and I can easily see this going to radio.

DBM: In the mid-1960s, this Lari Goss song was featured on a Prophets album by the same title with a calypso style. I haven’t heard the original, unfortunately, but I really like what I’m hearing on I’ll Follow. This arrangement isn’t calypso. The style actually reminds me of “Every Breath You Take,” a 1983 pop song by The Police. (Make the comparison HERE.) Jackson sounds a little bit like Joe Bonsall on this one, and the harmony is similar to the power chords the Oak Ridge Boys are known for on mid-tempo songs. Perhaps you can tell that this is my favorite cut on the CD.

Wes: I have the advantage of actually owning the Prophets album by this title. This song was also recorded back in the late 60s by the Imperials. Both early versions had almost a Brazilian feel to it. That beat is replaced with a bit more straight forward rhythm here, which is an interesting departure. I agree with David that this is the single best cut on the disc. It really fits the group well, and the arrangement is great. The group really sounds good on this cut. This needs to be singled.

Brandon: Now we’re talking. I have always loved this Lari Goss-penned song. My primary exposure to the song is the Imperials’ cut, but this group does an admirable job.

10. Mercy

Daniel: Prophets lead singer Paul Jackson wrote and is featured on this song. His background as a choir director is reflected in the arrangement, which features the choir so prominently by the end that the quartet’s vocals (except for the lead vocal) are lost in the mix.

Aaron: The project finishes strong with a ballad. I agree with Daniel’s statement that the choir drowns out all but the lead at the end. A nice song otherwise.

Wes: Power ballad featuring Paul Jackson. Good lyrics, but as mentioned by Aaron and Daniel, the choir does come into the mix a bit heavily toward the end. The mix on the first chorus would have been fine through the entire song. Again they switch Jackson and Baize in the harmony stack for a line or so and it doesn’t quite sound right. That said, it’s still a good song.

Summary

Aaron: This long-awaited project is the revival of The Prophets, a group that baritone Ed Hill started back in 1959, and helped bring back in 2007. This project will please fans of the original Prophets, and win the new group new fans. They won me over, for sure. Every position is absolutely stellar (tenor Bill Baize, lead Paul Jackson, baritone Ed Hill, bass Mike Allen, and pianist Eddie Crook). Though everything isn’t perfect (Jackson has a slight “bark” when he sings, but it’s not too glaring), it’s still sounds great! The guys are sure to get better with time. I would suggest, however, to give more equal solo time for each member on the next project. As DBM said throughout the review, Mike Allen is definitely the most versatile member, and I stand by my statement that Bill Baize is one of the best tenors in SG Music right now. Ed Hill’s baritone is as solid as ever as well, so all these men deserve more solo time than once per project.

DBM: As a fan, I’m disappointed with this CD. That disappointment boils down to decisions that were made about what to include. Actually, it’s probably more educational to review what WASN’T included. Consider…this lineup of the Prophets includes the group’s original founder and a true Gospel music legend in Ed Hill. He is featured on just one song. Bill Baize hasn’t been involved in the forefront of Southern Gospel nearly as much as Hill, but he’s still considered a legend for his work with the Stamps in the 1970s. Baize is featured on just one song. Mike Allen is known to fans of the Gaither Homecoming Series in addition to his work with Poet Voices and filling in for George Younce with Old Friends Quartet. Futhermore, Allen is this group’s most versatile and talented singer. Just about any quartet in the business would put Allen to work. He’s featured on just one song.

When you add a mixed bag of songs to this equation…two are very good, three are decent enough, and the other five are somewhere lower on the scale…you have a CD that lands firmly in the territory of 3 stars. I didn’t start this review wanting to say the long anticipated return of the Prophets is dead average, but it is what it is.

Wes: This is a solid CD for the Prophets’ return to gospel music, but I, too, am a bit disappointed in that I think it could have been better. There are a couple of songs that really don’t fit the group’s strength, but as I mentioned above, kudos to them for having the guts to try some different things. It is a case of sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. There is defintitely real potential for this group. They have a good sound, especially on the uptempo and power songs. I’d like to hear more from Allen and Baize especially. Paul Jackson is a good lead singer, and his voice fits with the others very well, but with voices like Baize and Allen in the group, they could definitely be featured on more than one song apiece. I think if this group continues more in the vein of “Love Like The Sun”, “How I Want You To Know”, or “One Thing The Father Forgets”, their subsequent recordings will be that much stronger. It’s a good CD, enjoyable and well worth purchasing, but it left me more with a hopefulness and optimism for future recordings rather than blowing me away on its own.

Daniel: I’ve held back from saying much on this project since I had a songwriting cut here. But like the others, I would have enjoyed seeing more features by Hill, Baize, and Allen, particularly Mike Allen. Thanks to his exposure on millions of units sold of Homecoming series projects, he is probably the most recognizable face in the group to today’s audiences.

Brandon: I have to admit, I’m not even close to being blown away by this project. Maybe it was the long build up (something I’m afraid the Canaan Records relaunch is going to have to deal with), but I was expecting something more. Don’t get me wrong, this is a decent project, not a bad one. I enjoyed more than a couple of the tracks a great deal, but several of the tracks just were not to my taste. Hopefully, the group will pick out what works here, add more features for the stronger vocalists, and build upon this re-debut.


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