Classic DVD Review: Celebrating 50 Years (Melody Boys Quartet)
Rating: 4.5 stars (of 5)
Members: Mike Franklin (tenor), Jonathan Sawrie (lead), Jeremy Raines (baritone), Gerald Williams (bass).
Song List: Give the World a Smile; God is Great, Good, and Merciful; How Great Thou Art; Sing Me A Song About Jesus; Somewhere Someday; Pray; Faith in My Savior; Gonna Get My Sins Forgiven; Dying to Know You; You Must Have that True Religion; UFO; Listen; Over the Moon; Settled In the Promised Land.
Available From: Artist. (EDIT: 8/5/2011: Broken link removed)
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This project was originally recorded about ten years ago and was first released on VHS. This project, since reissued on DVD, is worth revisiting for a number of reasons. One of them, obviously, is the project’s historical significance to the group, marking the group’s 50-year milestone since Smiling Joe Roper took over management of what at the time was a Stamps-Baxter group and renamed it the Melody Boys. That year, 16-year-old bass singer Gerald Williams joined the group as its bass singer.
Another reason is that the lineup that recorded this project—tenor Mike Franklin, lead/pianist Jonathan Sawrie, baritone Jeremy Raines, and bass Gerald Williams—is frequently named as the group’s best lineup.
Though the DVD was clearly recorded in and transferred from an analog format, the visual production value on the original product is quite solid. There are a number of camera angles for wide shots and closeups. (The credits seem to indicate there were four steady cameras and one roving camera.) All the shots, even the audience shots, are well-lit.
One artifact of the VHS-to-DVD conversion is that the project is not split into song-by-song chapters. Perhaps this could be rectified if the project goes into further pressings.
The program alternated between piano-only accompaniment, songs with soundtracks, and acapella numbers.
Interviews with current and former Melody Boys members are interspersed with the songs. A clip from Rex Parnell highlighting his favorite Joe Roper song as “Somewhere Someday” introduced the current lineup’s rendition of the song. Gerald Williams introduces “Pray” by explaining how challenging it was for the original group to learn. Several other previous and (then) current members introduce songs and share highlights from their Melody Boys years.
Toward the end of the project, a number of past Melody Boys came on stage and sang a half-dozen songs. This footage, plus the interviews with (then) current and past members, makes the project worth the purchase price for this if for no other reason.
This project is a worthwhile addition to the library of any fan of classic male quartet singing.