Joint Review: Gold City (Pillars of the Faith)
This joint review was posted at SouthernGospelAlbums.com. With that site coming down, I’m posting it here for archival purposes.
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Composite Rating: 5 stars
Label: Riversong Records
Producer: Garry Jones
Song List: “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus,” “If God Be For Us,” “One More Time,” “Beneath This Armour,” “Where Is God,” “There Rose A Lamb,” “He Sent Me Running,” “He Brought Me Thru,” “One More Chance,” and “One More Time Will Do It”
Click “Read the Rest of This Entry” for the full review.
1. Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus
Wes: An incredible acappella opening to what would be an incredible album. This was far more advanced than anything Gold City had recorded previously. Garry Jones’ arrangement was and is the best I’ve ever heard of this old hymn. The performance is flawless, and you can immediately tell the difference that Steve Lacey is going to make in Gold City’s sound. This is a much more sophisticated Gold City than what you heard on Answer The Call.
Brandon: Sophisticated is a great word to use here, Wes. Even though Answer The Call was produced by Garry Jones, I think it contained some of the late Eldridge Fox’s influence. Nothing against Foxy, but this project showed from the very start that as a producer, Jones had grown beyond Fox’s influence.
Another thing that makes this track so important is that it paved the way for Gold City’s next project, Acapella Gold.
Adam: Maybe this track was the inspiration for the Acapella Gold project? This Gold City lineup was spectacular on Acapella numbers and this old hymn was a great introduction for this classic album.
2. If God Be For Us
Wes: Sheer perfection in an uptempo song, penned by Squire Parsons. The instrumental track is perfect, I’ve always loved the strings behind the piano, bass, guitar, drums, and banjo. Another incredible arrangement from Jones, flawless lead vocals by Ivan Parker, and strong power harmonies by the group make this a timeless cut. If you heard this on radio today, it would not sound dated, which is a testament to how far ahead of its time this album sounded.
Brandon: By far, this is the best uptempo song on the project. I wouldn’t go as far as Wes and call it perfect, however. Honestly, I prefer the re-cut version that was released a couple of years later on Classics. Wes is right on by describing this song as timeless. As he said, it would sound right at home on the radio to this day. Gold City has actually opened with this song the last two times I’ve seen them.
Adam: This is one of my favorite songs from Gold City. Tim Riley’s bass vocals are so powerful, yet so pleasant on this number. Unlike Brandon, I prefer this cut with Ivan Parker instead of the one with David Hill.
Brandon: My reason for liking the Classics version has more to do with preferring Jay Parrack’s final chorus than Brian Free’s. Ivan’s vocal is spot on here.
3. One More Time
Wes: Very sophisticated, progressive sounding mid tempo number. This song is very indicative of the general style of this album. Ivan Parker and Brian Free do a really nice job on the verses. I find this to be a very underrated cut, and have often thought about featuring this as a hidden gem on my blog. I still may sometime soon. I’ve always loved this song.
Brandon: I consider this the weakest song on the project, but would still give it four stars. I don’t know if the tempo is just a bit too slow for my liking or what, but it just doesn’t hold my attention as much as the other nine tracks.
Adam: This is a good song, but after hearing it a couple of time, the rythym tends to get boring. My ears perk up when Brian Free takes over the second verse but they quickly fall again when the verse is over.
4. Beneath This Armour
Wes: Tenor ballad featuring Brian Free. Though not a chart topper, this song seemed to develop a grass roots following. Brian included it on Assurance’s “At Your Request” and seemed to be a popular song for church singers to perform. Even my associate pastor at the time sang this song as a low baritone solo. The tempo is just a little too slow for me, as it makes the song seem to drag. It is, however, a very pretty song with a great message.
Brandon: Although I kind of criticized the last track for being too slow, I like the slow tempo on this number. It gives the listener time to soak in each line of the song’s wonderful message. It also allows time to appreciate the beautiful strings in the track.
By the way, this is Steve Ladd’s favorite Pillars of Faith song.
Adam: Honestly, I skip this song whenever it starts playing. Good lyrics, but it I am not a huge ballad fan. Few singers can hold my attention on these types of songs and Brian Free isn’t one of them. I do like the lyrics, but step it up a little.
5. Where Is God?
Wes: This song kicks the tempo back up a bit, which is perfect following the almost dirge-like tempo of “Beneath This Armour”. This is a Kyla Rowland song, and while not one of her best (the next song on the CD dwarfs it just a bit), there’s still a lot to like in this song. It’s a very reassuring lyric and serves to show Gold City can still do the style they had been pursuing previously, and do it even better. The two key changes in quick succession on the last chorus are especially notable here.
Brandon: Wes, I’ve never really listened for it before, but this track does sound like the most typical Gold City song on Pillars of Faith. This track isn’t one of my favorites on the project, but is still a very good track.
Adam: I enjoy Gold City’s version of this song, but Ivan Parker can’t hold a candle to Ron Martin’s (The Rowlands) original vocals on this song. I don’t say that lightly because Ivan is one of the best singers to ever come along in gospel music. Kyla Rowland wrote a fabulous song with “Where Is God?” and it was great when Mercy’s Mark redid it a couple of years ago. It should be done again and singled to radio. I think that the Mark Trammell Trio should give it a whirl.
6. There Rose A Lamb
Wes: If you ask me what was the greatest Gold City song ever recorded, about 60% of the time I’ll say “Midnight Cry”. The other 40% I’ll say “There Rose A Lamb”. Ivan Parker sings this song perfectly. The melody, arrangement, lyrics, everything about this song is perfect. It holds an interesting distinction in that it was Song of the Year, yet was never #1. It peaked at #2 on the Singing News charts, behind the McKameys. One of the greatest songs ever put on LP, Cassette, 8-Track, or CD. Gold City has continued to stage the song through the years, but has never topped the original recording, in my opinion. Can I give this 6 stars on a 5 star scale?
Brandon: While “Midnight Cry” may have been the bigger commercial success, I’ll take “There Rose A Lamb”. It is one of Kyla Rowland’s greatest songs. The second verse is one of my favorite lyrics and the first of two moments in the song that I think deserve a standing ovation every time I hear it. The second moment is at the end of the second chorus and the repeats of “He arose” begin.
Technically, Ivan Parker may have given us the perfect studio cut of the song, but I prefer the emotion and conviction that Jonathan Wilburn gave the song live.
Adam: What an amazing song!!! Really, what can you say about this, other than it was a perfect song that was a perfect fit for Gold City. It may have been a little too slow for great radio play, but in a concert setting, this is one of the most powerful songs in Southern Gospel music.
7. He Sent Me Running
Wes: Once again, a nice followup song to a big time ballad. This is another uptempo cut that has the more traditional sound to it. The thing that stands out is the smooth blend, and the great little bass lines from Tim Riley. Gold City has recently brought this song back to their set list, fueling speculation that it will be included on the upcoming Classics 2 project. Solid cut.
Brandon: This is a great song to follow “There Rose A Lamb”. In a concert setting, if “There Rose A Lamb” had the audience on their feet, I wonder if this song would have been enough to sending them running the aisles (if they weren’t already). I consider this the most underrated song on the project. It’s a fun little song that gives the three vocal fixtures (Free, Parker, and Riley) a chance to shine. Lyrically, this may almost be an album filler, but it is just so bouncy that I can’t help but love it.
Adam: This great quartet song is a foot-tapping, crowd-pleaser. Steve Ladd recorded this song with the Anchormen on their Quartet Favorites project, so it seems only fitting that he sing it now that he’s with Gold City. I hope they record on their upcoming project.
Brandon: I’m not 100% sure, but I believe I talked to Steve Ladd about this song. I don’t think that it will be on Classics 2.
8. He Brought Me Thru
Wes: Steve Lacey’s first feature with Gold City. Mid tempo 3/4 song. The song and arrangement fit Lacey’s voice very well. I always really liked this song. I don’t think it was ever officially released and promoted as a single, but it did get some radio play in this area. Lacey shows that he has the vocal quality and range to sing lead and sing it well. Just a really enjoyable song.
Brandon: This song gets overshadowed by two other slower tracks that were monster hits (tracks 6 & 10). This is my favorite song that featured Steve during his time with Gold City. For years, I’ve thought that Danny Riley should bring this song back.
Since this is Steve’s song on the project, I’ll ask this question now. Could Pillars of Faith been pulled off to this degree of excellence with Mike Lefevre on baritone?
Adam: Brandon, in one word I’ll answer your question: NO!. Steve Lacey had a much more powerful voice than LeFevre. This track is an excellent example of his power. I only wonder why he never spent more than a couple of years with a major group……and where is he now?
Brandon: Last I heard, Steve was writing songs and traveling with his wife and someone else as the Steve Lacey Trio. That was more than a couple of years ago, though.
9. One More Chance
Wes: Another mid tempo tune that has a progressive edge to it. Another strong lyric, and a strong vocal performance from the group as well. It’s a very catchy song that Daniel Riley has brought back on occasion. The chord progression on the tag of the song is especially nice. Another solid song.
Brandon: I love the kickoff to this song and Ivan does a great job on the lead vocal. As Wes mentioned, Daniel has staged this song on occasion through the years, including on Gold City’s video recorded in Ireland.
Adam: This is a great track. Catchy tune with a good lyric.
10. One More Time Will Do It
Brandon: My first exposure to Pillars of Faith was in my uncle’s van. For years, every time I sat down in his van, Pillars of Faith was already in the tape player. I could talk to him and my cousins while listening to nine of the songs on the project, but when the piano intro started with the strings behind it, I dropped out of the conversation. This song, more than even “There Rose A Lamb”, completely captivated me. Now, I consider this the third best song on the project, but it will always be very important to me due to those memories. It is still my favorite ballad that Brian Free has done.
Wes: Ronny Hinson can evermore write songs, and this ranks with one of his best. A brilliant arrangement and track, brilliant vocal by Brian Free, and some really high harmony make for an incredibly powerful ballad. Brandon is right in calling this song a “monster” hit. I will say that this version is FAR superior to the stripped down version on Assurance’s At Your Request. Another great, great song on this disc, which is chock full of them.
Adam: WOW! This is one of the few ballads that holds my attention. The lyrics just paint a picture of Christ’s return that gives hope to the Christian of a brighter day ahead. Thank God that “with one more visit planned, we WILL join His caravan”!!!!! Simply amazing!
Wes: What an album. This album took Gold City to an entirely new level. The quality of material, arrangements, tracks and vocal performance is much elevated here over previous albums. While Gold City was already a supergroup by this time, musically this album shot them to a whole new level. Brandon posed the question above if this album would have been as good with Mike Lefevre singing baritone. My answer is a resounding NO. While I’ve always liked Mike Lefevre, and still do, his voice does not have the refined sound that Steve Lacey’s does. With the maturing of Parker’s and Free’s voices and the sophistication of the arrangements, both vocal and instrumental, Lefevre would have sounded out of place on this album. A good reference for this is to listen to BFA’s At Your Request project, which featured Free, Kevin McCaw, Lefevre, and Bob Caldwell. The two tracks from Pillars on that project pale in comparison to the GC versions, and it isn’t just the stripped down backing tracks that are the reason. This was the right combination of voices, the right songs, the right arrangements, and the right time. Pillars of Faith is as close to a perfect album as you will find.
Brandon: As Wes said, everything came together for this project. The group members, the songs, the vocals, the music… everything fit like a glove. What makes the quality of this project even more amazing is that it is the first mainline project recorded by the group with Steve Lacey. How often do you hear a group’s first project with a new singer and afterwards think, “They’re still getting used to each other. They’ll work on their blend and be better the next time”? I doubt many people had that thought when this project was released. Steve Lacey was just the right man to step in and record the baritone for this project. To answer the question I asked earlier, I don’t think this project would be close to the quality they achieved if Mike Lefevre had been the baritone. Mike’s a good singer, but his voice just doesn’t have the tone or style to fit this project.
This project has been brought up a lot in the online community over the last month in discussions of our genre’s Pet Sounds or “watershed” projects. Honestly, I don’t know if this project has had that level of influence. I do think this project was ahead of its time and still sounds like a current day recording, even though it is 15 years old.
Pillars Of Faith isn’t my favorite Gold City recording. In fact, it may not even be in my top five, but technically, this may be the best project Gold City has ever recorded. Based simply on technical execution, this is arguably the best southern gospel project of the last twenty years or more.
Adam: This is far from my favorite Gold City recording, but my respect for it has greatly increased due to this review. Taking the time to listen to each track several times really made me appreciate what Gold City accomplished on this project, even with a couple of tracks that weren’t up my alley.
Pillars Of Faith may have very well been a project before it’s time, but thankfully we were blessed with it in our time. I can’t imagine a Southern Gospel music collection without this project and with so many projects that have been released in the past 15 years, that is a mouthful. I’d wager that Gold City never imagined this album would still be the topic of discussion 15 years after it was originally released. There are very few projects that stick around in an artists repertoire that stand out as THE perfect project for that group. Gold City pulled it off and did it very well with Pillars Of Faith.