Liner Notes

Too often, artists in this genre miss the obvious when putting together album liner notes. (This especially goes for table projects.) So I thought I would make a checklist:

  • Copyright date. Yes, this is stating the obvious, but even some recent projects omit this information. For someone going back years later, it can be awfully hard to place the year a project was recorded. So what year was the Weatherfords’ Finest in Gospel Singing recorded? I’ve heard everything from 1956 to 1959. It was probably closer to 1959, but if I’m not mistaken, even the Weatherfords experts aren’t completely certain. Years later, that sort of question can become difficult to sort out.
  • Song credits. I believe author and copyright information is required by law for songs under copyright. Bonus points to groups that include credits for public domain songs. Even though it isn’t required by law, it is nice to give credit where credit is due, even if the song has been around long enough to become a classic. It took me over a year to track down the names of the authors for “When They Ring Those Golden Bells” and “The Eastern Gate,” since both songs are public domain and often uncredited in Southern Gospel liner notes.
  • Production / recording credits. All major projects today have these, but occasionally I’ll come across a table project that omits this information.
  • Contact information for the group. Include more than just the website, since a significant part of our audience does not have computer / Internet access.
  • List of group members. Many projects today do not have this information. It’s one thing if you’re Greater Vision or the Hoppers, and you have changes less than once a decade. But for groups that can even keep turnover down to one change every few years, fast forward five years and someone new to the group might not know who was on a particular project. Even someone like me, who has something like 1,200 Southern Gospel projects, has to ask for help for figuring out the lineup of a Dixie Melody Boys recording from just eight or ten years ago. Of course, no group owner in his right mind would plan on turnover, but he should at least plan for turnover.
  • List of which group member had the solo on each song. This is something seen in CCM and only rarely here, in a genre where it’s probably even more important. Even a group of Greater Vision’s stature wouldn’t do badly to include this: Despite the fact that Gerald Wolfe and Rodney Griffin have sung together for thirteen or fourteen years, and I have most of those projects, I can still sometimes listen to a recording and not be quite sure which member has the solo on a certain song.
  • A group photo. Southern Gospel groups are pretty good about this.
  • Bonus points for including lyrics. Southern Gospel songs go by fast enough that the lyrics aren’t always clearly distinguishable. And many Southern Gospel fans don’t have access to the Internet to pull the lyrics up online.

Did I miss anything?


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26 Letters to the Editor

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  1. So who did write The Eastern Gate?

  2. Isaiah G. Martin – he wrote it in 1905.

  3. Love your list … Now I wish people would read it!

    Random note – Do you collect many old songbooks at all? Old Stamps-Baxter or Winsett’s Songs collections include a whole lot of public domain material. It seems like “When They Ring those Golden Bells” is in one of mine, and I only have about three.

  4. List of soloists for each song – thankfully the Crist Family did this with their latest CD. WIth all those vocalists, it’s hard to keep straight! This is also important when a group experiences turnover, and even more so if there has been more than one new person join since the last recording. I agree, I wish more people would do this.

    I enjoyed the liner notes of the LP days where a fellow artist from the same label would write a little note about the group and/or recording. Would love to see that make a comeback!

  5. Yes, I collect old songbooks, but at the time I first heard “Golden Bells” recorded, I didn’t have any that have it. I have a couple now. 🙂

  6. GloryBound names all of their members in their liner notes, because there is usually at least one change a year

  7. I really think this is a great list, Daniel. I especially identify with the ideas of listing the soloists on each song and including lyrics. I love Greater Vision as well and have pretty much all of their music. And yet, I too still have difficultly picking out Rodney or Gerald.

  8. how about the corresponding Scripture or Scripture to back up the message of the song???? I’ve seen a few groups do this before..I think the Martins did it once on an older album..this would give credibility to the song. And there’s nothing wrong with putting the Word of God on your CD!!! Can I get an Amen on that?

  9. I don’t see how you could possibly mistake Gerald for Rodney in the lead or harmony part……….I

  10. I like it when they show the groups photo and actually comment on who each individual is. For example, “left to right: so-and-so (tenor), so-and-so (bass)…..” etc

    #8 – If I remember correctly, the Kingsmen did this as well on one of their albums. (might have been Shelter, not sure)

  11. I love liner notes, which has made it difficult for me to go completely digital on music. I have to know the songwriters, see who played what instruments, which bass singer that is, where can I find out more about the artist. Local artist CDs and a lot of the older stuff from when professional groups were first starting (as well as LPs like you mentioned) forgot all that stuff, and I don’t know why.

  12. #10 and #11- I think both of you are correct…I have seen plenty of McKameys albums that have Scripture on them…I have the Kingsmen ‘Shelter’ album somewhere…I’ll try to find it and get back with that… I also enjoy seeing testimonies on albums…call me old fashioned, but if I’m going to record a song, I want it to touch me before I can relate it to someone else.

  13. The McKameys also add a scripture reference to their songs, which is really great when you’re the one singing the special music and want to prepare for the song and a word of testimony before you sing.

    In reference to this list, Daniel, I think you’ve done a great job of listing things that are important and interesting.

    I would add to your comment about contact information for the group–I’m shocked at how many groups do not include this! Or they just put their booking agent or record label website. How many times would a quick call to the office to order a soundtrack or other product be so much easier than trying to get to the website or having to try to look up their number in Singing News. Or how many times have I wanted to jot a note to the artist to tell them how much I enjoyed the CD only to have to take an hour to come up with their address. This is the first thing I’d put on a project cover!

  14. #12 – I thoroughly agree. The more “stuff” there is in liner notes (especially albums like GV’s Everyday People), the less satisfied I’m likely to be with downloads.

    On the other hand, if groups were looking to boost digital sales (if there were a higher profit margin, maybe), then having this material available for download, maybe as a series of CD-size pictures that could be stored in iTunes, would make me a lot more ready to go that route.

  15. Great post, Daniel–I have often lamented the glaring absence on project liners of many of the very same things you have listed!

  16. It is quite frustrating to try to date an LP that was released fifty years ago. I have spent many hours in the quest to accurately date the releases by all of the major quartets (and even mixed groups!) that have impacted gospel music in a major way.

    In the 1950s and 1960s, RCA was about the only company that listed the year of release on their recordings.

    I have managed to come within a year on most of the major releases by using personnel changes and record numbering to zero in on the release dates.

    Group pictures were not included on many releases in the 1960s due to personnel turnover in the quartet. Often too, the pictures on the album covers don’t match the vocalists on the recordings. The groups feel that product doesn’t sell with old personnel listed on the LP.

    It takes a good ear and a good command of the history of gospel groups to accurately identify release dates of those recordings.

    Occasionaly, you’ll also find a recording that has been reissued with different personnel. Case in point are the projects “Keep On Singing” by the Cathedral Quartet and “You Can’t Stop God From Blessing Me” by the Dove Brothers.

    Recordings were also issued with different covers depicting personnel changes in the group although they were not changed on the recording. Case in point are “When I Stand with God” by the Rebels and “Garden of Melody” by the Speer Family.

    Frankly, I’d rather have no personnel listed than to have inaccuracy on recordings.

    These issues may not concern the casual fan, but they do irriate me!

  17. By the way, I think that Weatherfords LP in question was released in 1959.

  18. Yes – we had a discussion on that a while back and we concluded it was probably 1959, but I think we thought there was a decent chance it might have been later 1958, too.

  19. . . . and another thing . . . .

    When JD Sumner reorganized the Stamps Quartet in the late 1980s, they went into the studio and re-released three Masters V projects with the vocals of the current personnel of the Stamps Quartet.

    Things like that will also get you mighty confused!

  20. Speaking of the Weatherfords . . . I recently did a project accumulating all of their singles, remastering them, and recording them on CD. If you think LPs are difficult to catagorize, then try to make some sense out of 45s and 78s!

  21. Speaking of recordings and credits, has anyone ever seen online or elsewhere a complete and accurate discography / membership list for Perfect Heart?

  22. It has become my passion to try and identify the members at time of the recording, of the Cathedrals. I fianlly have all the members ordered by year,…now I am try to match who was on what CD. It is especially difficult since many songs that were recorded previously are included with the new stuff. Martin Cook is right up front about saying that he does that with the Inspirations too.

  23. FJW – check out the discography page at http://www.cathedralstribute.com 😉

    • I love that page Daniel! So cool that you took the time not only to note which members were on a record, but which songs featured who.

  24. As a self proclaimed Weatherford expert (let’s not go so far as to call me an expert, I just have really good access.) I can give you a little insight to some of this. Back in the 1950s- 1980s There was no real desire or reason to put every ones name on or date an album. It was even common for the record companies to use stock photos on the covers of albums. The RCA “In The Garden” by the W’s had a somewhat stock photo on it. (I have been researching the location of the stock photo for a new photo shoot) Nor was it as important to tell all the information as the albums were mostly sold at the concerts the people came to. We did not have web sites and digital song files. We just sold the albums to the folk who showed up at the concerts, and were they got the first hand information about the albums. So it was a different time and place with different needs. I for one do not even have the album mentioned in this post. My dad sold every album he could get his hands on. The W’s recorded (at best count) right at 65 Vinyl 33s records and 120 sides of 78s before that. (It’s funny but I have all the 78s.) Before CD’S took over. The old saying ” You Are Only As Good As Your Last Record” to my dad meant he was going to sell every one in the box and make another one. He did not keep one of every album. When it ran its course, he moved on. I know of an album my dad did that he was not real proud of and he sold the first order and never re ordered them. I am working on a discography and a definitive list of our past group members. I just found a new one last week we had forgotten to mention. But my dad did not keep records of any of this information. I heard him say many time, he never thought any one would ever be interested in any of this. He did live long enough to be surprised but I don’t think it would have made any difference in the way he thought about it.