LP Review: “Keep on Singing” (Cathedral Quartet)

Cathedral Quartet - Keep on SingingRating: ***** (Excellent)

Many of you know that the Cathedrals are my all-time favorite group. I just purchased several more albums in my quest to obtain a complete set of their projects. (I have all but seven: With Strings, I Saw the Light, Seniors in Season, Smooth as Silk, Land of the Living, Camp Meeting, and Worship His Glory–and their two trio projects. If any of you have copies you’re willing to part with at a reasonable price, or even an unreasonable price, post in the comments and I’ll send you an email.)

One of the albums I just purchased, Keep on Singing (1979), arrived in yesterday’s mail.

Compared to most retrospective reviews of classic albums, this is unique since I’m writing it as I listen to the album for the first time. I thought it would be interesting to try to capture my interaction with the music as I hear a classic album for the first time.

The album starts with a rendition of the Rambos’ classic “I’ve Never Been this Homesick Before.” Though I had never perceived this song as a bass solo, George Younce redefined my perception of the song in thirty seconds, putting in one of his career finest solos with his rendition.

Kirk Talley takes the lead on the second song, “Consider the Lilies.” On the chorus, Talley solos on the first and third lines; the harmony is inverted on the even lines, with Younce carrying the melody. This is the smoothest bass / tenor handoff on alternating lines I’ve heard in quite a while, and it’s simply a joy to hear.

Glen Payne leads the third song, “Won’t it Be Worth it My Child.” This uptempo song showcases an energetic Payne at his peak, at his best. Younce has some fairly high echo lines at the end before sliding down into a low ending.

The fourth song, “I Never Shall Forget the Day,” is an uptempo piano instrumental. It’s not immediately clear who is playing the piano, since the group’s lineup was unsettled when this album was produced. It could be any of the group’s 1979 pianists–Lorne Matthews, Steve Lee, or Roger Bennett–or even a studio musician. In some ways it just seems like an early Bennett song, but I don’t want to hazard a guess since I’m not familiar with Lee’s piano style.

Glen Payne sings the first verse on the fifth song, “He Will Row You Over the Tide”; George Younce sings the second. The group sings the second chorus gently before building to a big finish. Unlike many big orchestral finishes in vogue today, this finish is sustained more on their raw vocal power than on the song’s barebones piano/guitar/drums instrumentation.

The second half of the album starts out with an uptempo version of “I Want to Be Like My Lord.” This is so good that I am tempted to say that the Cathedrals were never better than at this moment in history, but then I think of the majesty of their final years, and I forbear. Nonetheless, Younce turns in a splendid performance that should go down as one of his all-time best bass leads. The pianist also turns in a memorably excellent performance.

The seventh song, “I’ve Come Too Far,” features George Younce in one of his lower leads. I’m writing this review as I listen to the album for the first time, so I don’t have a keyboard at hand, but I’d have to guess it’s keyed somewhere around D, with some low As thrown in for good measure.

Glen Payne has the lead on the eighth song on the project, “I’ve Come to Calvary.”

The group’s mystery baritone makes his first appearance on the ninth song, “Thank You Lord for Your Blessing.” It’s certainly not Mark Trammell, who didn’t join until the next year. I don’t think it sounds like George Amon Webster, so that means it was probably Steve Lee. The identity of the group’s baritone is actually one of the mysteries surrounding this particular project; it’s been a topic of discussion on various message boards.

Kirk Talley has the solo on the final song, “Holy is Thy Name.” This rendition was closely followed by Legacy Five on their 2003 London project, so anyone who has heard that project can go in reverse and get a good feel for the vocal arrangement on this song. The accompaniment is a solo piano without any other instrumentation, but it works so well that that–to reverse the analogy once again–the orchestra on Legacy Five’s rendition doesn’t match what the Cathedrals could do with just a piano and four voices.

This album was interesting since it captures the Cathedral’s sound at the roughest point in their history. Just when they thought they had a winning formula, a solid lineup consisting of George Younce, Glen Payne, Lorne Matthews, Roy Tremble, and George Amon Webster, a concert promoter convinced the three younger members to leave and form a trio of their own, “The Brothers.” Glen and George were so devastated by the sudden loss of 3/5 of their group that they considered retiring; Todd Payne once said that his father, Glen, was moved to tears by the blow.

Payne was in the office, working on an upcoming record, when he heard the news of the split. It’s not known for sure which of the group’s 1979 releases he was working on, but it has been mentioned that this particular album may have been the one. This is partly because of the album’s song selection and vocal arrangements. Unlike nearly every other Cathedrals album, where Payne shared lead duties with the baritone and sang baritone harmony parts on several songs, Payne carries the lead almost exclusively on this project. The baritone is given only one solo; Younce and Payne both sing parts that under other circumstances could well have been soloed by the baritone.

Expert ears have listened to the project and said that it sounds as though George Amon Webster may have laid down some of the baritone vocals for the project, while Steve Lee apparently did others. (In fact, as I was listening to a few songs, most notably “I’ve Been to Calvary,” I couldn’t help but wonder if Glen Payne had doubled parts in a few places as well.)

Kirk Talley laid down all the tenor vocals for the project, thus suggesting that he was the first firm replacement the Cathedrals settled on. But on the other hand, since a tenor’s harmony parts are more prominent, all the tenor parts would have to be replaced, while some of the baritone parts could be permitted to slip by.

This is one of only a handful of Cathedrals albums without a group picture on the front cover. Most of the others also came during times of lineup uncertainty. The uncertainty is also reflected in the album title, “Keep on Singing”–which is an affirmation of optimism through the uncertainty.

I say all of this to illustrate a larger point. Except perhaps for a few bargain-basement albums in the early 70s, the Cathedrals probably never produced an album under more difficult circumstances. Yet this album proves that the Cathedrals’ greatness wasn’t limited to win things were going well for them. Even when the polishing process wasn’t complete, the Cathedrals were unmistakably a jewel.

One final thought. This album features some of George Younce’s career best bass solos, ranking with his solos on A Little Bit of Everything (1970), Everything’s Alright (1971), Plain Ole Gospel (1975), I’ve Just Started Living (1989), and a few special appearances toward the end of his life. As I listened to this 1979 album, it occurred to me that a common thread ties each of these performances together. They each came at the toughest points in his career.

In 1970 and 1971, the group was going through personnel as fast as the Dixie Melody Boys and Mercy’s Mark are right now. They had gone from performing to an appreciative TV audience with Rex Humbard to scraping to make ends meet. Then in 1974 and 1975, though they’d assembled a more steady lineup, Canaan threatened to drop them unless they started selling more records. This 1979 project came after a group split that nearly led them to disband the group and cancel this project. His 1988 and 1989 performances came after a heart attack that nearly killed him and took him off the road for months. His final performances in 2002 and 2003 were after his health had declined so far he could barely walk.

Something about this level of stress and pressure caused Younce to turn in his career best performances. This album shows that the same goes for the rest of the group.

It would not be a stretch to say that this album–along with several produced under similarly trying circumstances–holds the secret to the Cathedrals’ greatness. Even when they were faced with challenges that made many lesser quartets throw in the towel, this humble table project proves that Glen Payne and George Younce still gave their audience everything they had.

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63 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. I like it, Daniel….LP reviews…what a concept, huh?

    I might start doing them again on my own blog!

  2. Thanks…and go ahead, I for one would love to see them!


      • Great to hear from you, and thanks for the information!

  3. This is one of the Cat’s projects that i don’t have. Thanks for the information on it. It sounds like a good one.

    To say that George’s best solo’s are on this LP is quite a big statement to live up to.
    My favorites from my Cathedral vaule are “Turn Your Back” and “We Shall Be Caught Up”, on the LP “Something Special”
    “Yesterday” ,and “Go Jonah” on “Oh, Happy Day”
    “Salvation Has Been Brought Down”, and
    “Go Right Out” from “The Cathedral Quartet Sings Albert E. Brumley Calsscs”
    I can’t imagine much better than “Jesus Pilots My Ship” from “Live In Concert”, or “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” on “Live With The Cathedral Quartet”
    BUT, in my collection, the best from George is the project “Day By Day”.
    Again, to be better than these I listed the songs you mentioned must be out of this world features for George.
    Is “I’ve Come Too Far” the song that The Hoppers had on radio? And is ” I Want To Be Like My Lord” the song that goes
    “I want to walk, I want to talk, I want to be like my lord. I want to help my fellow man, I want to spread his holy word…..”
    One last thing: how in the world can anyone sing “Holy Is The Name” better than Tony Jarman did on “London”? I just can’t imagine it happening.

  5. QN, Tony Jarman fans would prefer the London rendition; Cathedrals fans, who like the Talley/Bennett years would prefer this version.

    I’ve Come Too Far is a different song.

    I Want to Be Like My Lord is the same song, and that’s one of George’s best solos on the project. Notice I didn’t say that the solos were his career best, but they are indeed on a par with them. Of the songs you named, his solos are stylistically most like the ones on the Albert E. Brumley Classics album.

  6. You could check Ebay for Camp Meeting….it’s amazing what you can find on there. Checked out your Cats website…where did you find the VHS of The Cats in the 80’s Aladdin Temple Columbus, Ohio?

  7. I believe I have 6 of the 7 albums you want. With Strings, I Saw the Light, Seniors in Season, Land of the Living, Camp Meeting, and Worship His Glory.

  8. I have one Cathedral Trio album too.

  9. Derek,

    Actually, I don’t have Aladdin temple; another reader told me about it. It’s exceedingly rare. I’ve probably purchased 2/3 of the Cathedrals albums I have from either eBay or Amazon, and didn’t notice Camp Meeting there last time I checked.

    Thanks for the information!


  10. QN – a correction. Reader JC reminds me that “I’ve Come Too Far” is indeed the same song. My mind must have skipped a beat there. My apologies!

  11. Daniel.
    I truly enjoyed this review..keep it up! and keep on singing!


  12. Thanks, KennyD!

    I think I’m at my best on this blog when I’m simply caught up in the joy of a new gem. Let others be critics; I’m just a fan. 🙂

  13. Hey Daniel, great job !! Keep up those Lp reviews..And agree 100% with the “caught up in the joy of a new gem ” comment ….God Bless

  14. Thanks, Rob! 🙂

  15. Daniel –
    “Keep on Singing” has long been a favorite of mine as well in spite of the grammar on “Consider the Lillies”. Everytime I hear “consider the sparrow, he DON’T plant nor sow…it’s like fingnails on a chalkboard. “Holy is Thy Name” is my favorite song on this project- just a piano and 4 voices. The Gaither Christmas release in 2001 “A Time for Joy” has a live recording of L5 doing this song with Joshua Cobb on tenor (he does a fine job). This is my favorite version – the live setting and “no tracks” stirs the soul. When I heard the later L5 version on the London project it was disappointing they did not capture the purity of the two earlier versions. It’s late – hope my grammar is proper.

    Really enjoy your site.

  16. I’ve listened to this recording several times. I bought it when the Cathedrals were selling old tapes in the Singing News for $5 a piece. I’m convinced, though, that Roy Tremble is singing the tenor on “I Want to Be Just Like My Lord”, and it sounds like him on “I’ve Come to Far to Look Back” and “I’ve Been to Calvary” and “Thank You, Lord…”, which would make the lineup Younce/Lee/Payne/Tremble! I would think that intro to “I Want to Be Just Like My Lord” sounds like Lorne Matthews and I don’t think Roger Bennett was on the radar screen yet when this album was produced. (Is this another table project?)
    I’ll go out on a limb here, but the “Holy Is Thy Name” lineup sounds like Younce/Webster/Payne/Talley. Is that possible? If I’m right about these things, this mix and match album would probably indicate that this is the album Glen was working on when he heard about the Matthews/Tremble/Webster departure. I’d like to thank Daniel for bringing up these Cathedral albums. Isn’t Cathedral Quartet history interesting?

  17. Yes, Cathedral history is facinating. (that is: to a Cathedral QT fan)
    So if Kirk says “He don’t plant nor so”, and that is improper grammer, then Candy Hemphill recorded it wrong also.
    L5 did “Holy Is Thy Name” on a Gaither video with Josh Cobb? I’ve got to find a copy of that. Is it still in print?

  18. If it’s a Gaither video, it’s still in print.

    Nathan, there were different pressings of the album with different combinations of voices. I can’t remember which song, but I do know I heard a friend’s version of a song from the project that featured Roy Tremble, while the version on my copy most certainly features Kirk Talley.

  19. There used to be a series of “Keep On Singing” songbooks with a logo that was either the same or similar to the one on this album cover. I always assumed this was a promtional tie-in of some sort.

    I also could have sworn that I heard the Cathedrals singing “He Will Roll You Over The Tide” either on the radio or “Gospel Singing Jubilee” with George doing verse one and Kirk doing verse two. Maybe I dreamed it.

    The Nelons also did a nice version of “Holy Is Thy Name”. This was also the first song L5 ever did on the NQC main stage in 2000. It was quite nice. Most of the previous groups had been using a lot of tracks, barnburners, and power ballads and the “four guys and a piano” was a sweet change of pace. Best singing I ever heard Josh Cobb do….in fact, it might have been the best I’ve ever heard L5.

  20. Grigs–on my rendition, it’s clearly Kirk on the chorus.

  21. Daniel,
    Thanks for the info about the different pressings of the album. I’m sure whatever they sold to the public at that time, they’d want to feature their new line-up. When they did sold the cheap tapes from the magazine, they had a version (it seems to me) that had Kirk on side one and Roy on the first part of side 2 and ended up with Kirk again for “Holy Is Thy Name.” Though this version seems strange, I thinks it’s very interesting.

  22. actually I think it’s very interesting, not I thinks:)

  23. I thinks I agrees with you….


  24. I just found a copy of the Aladdins Temple video. The quality is not great due to the age and time frame of the video, believe it or not, they actually use tracks through about half of the video, which was interesting to hear. Overall its a great video, very unique, but good. You can tell they were experimenting with the whole live video thing during the recording. At one point, George almost falls from the stage not paying attention, and it is obviously not planned as you can well tell as he catches his balance. Its a classic….

  25. I remember reading about that split in the Wikipedia article. That’s just disgraceful. I’ve never been able to get excited about anything featuring those particular members ever since. And how ironic is it that the reason the young guys left was because they were told the old men were slowing them down, keeping them from making it big. Well who’s ever heard of their group today, I’d like to ask? But everybody’s heard of the Cathedrals.

    By contrast, I remember an interview with Ernie Haase where he said somebody approached him in the middle of his tenure with the group and tried to convince him to do something similar. Ernie told him to go jump in the lake. Good man.

    • I get what you’re saying, all right. But don’t forget either that two out of those three were at the Reunion, and there was really good feeling between them and George and Glen. It was obviously a real mistake on their part, but it must have healed.

      Another story – I thought it used to be on Daniel’s Cathedrals Tribute site? – about Lorne Matthews really highlights what kind of a guy George was, though I admit it shows better on him than on Lorne. But Lorne was the one who told it. He fell for a horrible trick of the enemy a few years down the road and had to drop out of ministry for some time. “He could not dig, and to beg he was ashamed,” so he got a job playing the piano for a restaurant. George and his family ate there one snowy Christmas season, and George recognized Lorne’s piano playing from another room, looked him up, and chatted a while about how things were going. He drove his family home (it seems like a long ways), and then couldn’t shake the feeling to drive clear back to the restaurant and tuck a generous gift in Lorne’s pocket, telling him to buy his wife something for Christmas.

      Now, if George felt that way towards Lorne, who am I to hold out for something better! (a couple more thoughts in next post)

    • (cont.) I wanted to point out too, those guys left right before things went big. Those were hardscrabble times. I couldn’t have blamed them for wanting to form a separate group, if they had done it honorably. If they had been upfront about it and hung around for a search for replacements, I’m sure G & G would have wished them the best and sent them on their way with blessings. So it was a really bad error, but maybe as much an error in judgment or not having the guts to talk to them about it as anything else.

      All the same, that’s a very different thing from leaving in the ’90s. I think anyone would have been a fool to think they could do better on their own than with the Cathedrals! (Not criticizing those who left; they obviously felt a call to something different.) I think maybe even I’d have had the guts to stick it out at that point, though …

      One more thing. Now what on earth was it? It’s gone, so maybe I’ll think of it later.

      • Oh, it was this – That might have been the best thing that ever happened to the Cathedrals, though they didn’t know it at the time. They ended up with Kirk, Mark Trammell, and Roger!! That is right at the point where they struck it big. So if any one was left with something to cry about, we know who it was.

      • You know, I first got a real grasp of what the Cathedral’s were about and the extent of their legacy, from their “Reunion” Video.

        A lot of what I now know, like all of the above, I didn’t know then.

        The blessed thing is, none of it showed in the performance, as far as G A Webster and Roy Tremble were concerned, one would never have guessed.

        Grace, godliness and humility in action. Those characteristics made George and Glenn what they were – and are in the pantheon of SGM.

      • I know. I couldn’t believe it when I watched the Reunion stuff. You’d never know what had gone on among those guys.

        And Amy, that’s a beautiful story about George & Lorne. Like you said though, to me that says a lot more about George than Lorne…

      • But if you’d been Lorne, you know what that would do to you? And it did him, too; you could tell by his telling of the story. The great thing is that now we can let be the past … 🙂

      • I need to proofread. “the past be the past”

      • Yeah, I can imagine. It’s like that verse in the Bible somewhere about heaping coals of fire…

      • Technically, they got Kirk and Steve, and Roger a little later, and Mark a little after that. But ultimately, yes, they got Kirk, Mark, and Roger. 🙂

      • Well, yes, but I mean it was Kirk and Mark who picked Roger out (according to the story). It doesn’t seem like Lorne would have been likely to. Not Mark – Steve Lee. He didn’t want to be vocalist and pianist at once … I don’t remember.

        We must absorb all of this Cathedrals mythology into our systems, you know.

      • You know, right now I’m not clearly remembering, either, but . . .

        No, it had to be Steve, because Mark never played piano for the Cathedrals. When Roger was hired, they had a piano player who was also singing baritone. Steve.

      • I do see what you’re saying about how it would have been better if they hadn’t arranged things behind G & G’s back. Honestly though, I still would have felt slimy doing it. One member leaving is one thing, but *three*? I mean, they left the guys without a quartet! I would just feel awful about that. Still, I agree that it would at least have been preferable if they done so with honesty.

      • And here’s another question…can you imagine Ernie, Scott or Roger leaving George and Glen even if things had been just as bad as they were when those guys did it? I can’t.

      • We don’t know how tight things might have gotten. If it got to where they couldn’t pay the bills – yes, they might have, too. Probably not all at once, together, though.

    • “Ooh, We love Ernie tooo…”

      • “I know. He’s soooooo handsome. I just looooove him.” LOL! 😉

      • Who are you guys quoting??

      • Nobody in particular, just some rather flaky Ernie fans we’ve seen around message boards, blog threads and what-not who can’t seem to think of anything more substantial to say than “oooooh.” 😉 Don’t worry, it’s not you.

      • I knew it wasn’t me! I thought it must be some video going around.

        You shouldn’t be able to get away with that stuff unless you’re at least 70. I see some “fans” and I think, “Don’t they know he has a wife?”

      • Yeah…like one fan I saw who said…well I probably shouldn’t repeat this but it’s so funny…she said, well, “I wish I was married to Ernie so I could kiss him!” 😳 Like you said, “Hel-LO! I think Lisa might have something to say about that!” 😆

      • Yuck.

        (filler, filler, filler)

      • Amy,

        At the few concerts we have seen, the fan mobbing [edit: essentially, is distracting] To chat to the group members in person is great, to attract fan-hysteria is not so wise.

        [BTW Was just pulling SoGoBro’s leg ref his OTT Ernie comments further up. None of us is 70, yet, I don’t think!]

      • Not repeatable SoGoBro!

        Such fleshly externalism. Elvis-ism even.

      • I already read it. 😉

      • Methinks we’re getting off topic here, but I’ll bite even though anything we say at this point probably won’t get counted (right Daniel? 😉 )

        “To attract fan-hysteria is not so wise.” I’m not sure what you propose instead. They are an extremely popular group who happens to be easy on the eyes. That’s just who they are. Lots of fans are going to want autographs and what-not, and there’s no getting around that. I don’t think there’s anything they could do differently that would somehow *discourage* eager fans while still being a quality group. Perhaps you’re referring to the “cool” stage presence? Honestly, they’ve mellowed so much at this point that any new fans they’re getting are, I think, attracted as much by the substance as the look. In their GAJ period, I could see more point to that complaint. But now? Not so much.

        It just strikes me as odd when you say “it is not God-honoring.” That implies that there’s some kind of indiscretion on Ernie and the boys’ part. And besides, like you said, they are not at all “pop-starish” in person. I know because I got to meet all five of them. Some (like Ernie) were a little busier than others, but they all stopped and took time with my family. Doug in particular was very affectionate and laid-back. We were all scrambling with the camera and what-not, and *he* was the one calming *us* down. When he looks at you and talks to you, it’s as if you’re the most important person in the world.

        And for the record, I had a great chat with Wayne afterwards too. Yeah, people aren’t lining up in droves to meet him like they are with the other guys, but they recognize the other guys better, and Wayne has a lower profile in their eyes, so that’s natural.

      • Whooops, looks like you got slapped on the wrist a little David. Ah well.

        Essentially, this is my point: Doesn’t ridiculous fan behavior say more about the fans than the group they’re fawning over? I mean I know of a particularly good-looking, popular worship leader who’s exceptionally unassuming but has girls chasing him all the time saying God means them to be together (he’s unmarried, which makes it tough…)

      • I think the last two comments are on-target. Some fans go overboard – but actually, most groups with a young or young-looking singer have fans that go overboard. But I don’t exactly think it is fair to EHSS to say they are not being God-honoring by this, when it is the fans who are being inappropriate.

      • I’m not sure he really meant to say that EH&SS were doing it intentionally; just that the whole situation isn’t God-honoring.

        We could take the comment quoted by NewSoGoFan above as an example, and I think we’d all find ourselves in agreement.

      • Ha, I was backtracking to see if you quoted me correctly and couldn’t find my comment!

        Now I see Daniel the Den Master has been on with the rubber again…

        To clarify, what I [originally] said,

        The “God honouring” reference was directed, in essence, to the fans. Not to Ernie, Doug etc.

        I am NOT attaching blame to EHSS, simply wondering can the post-concert ambience be adjusted / managed in any way to reduce the ‘fan mobbing’ element.

        Maybe it has past a peak anyway?

        I don’t know. Maybe it is worse outside the areas they are seen in from month to month?

        I only have experience of non-USA performances after all. I was not casting any aspersions at Ernie or the boys, for whom I have high regard.

        [Sorry if it came over otherwise Daniel et al!]

      • No, I understood what David meant. He made it clear it was nothing against the guys personally, just that the whole situation rubbed him the wrong way. It was the implication that there was something the guys could/should *do* to change this that I was disputing.

      • Actually, on reflection, since Daniel rubbed a little, and SoGoBro took a swipe – both at the same comment, perhaps I conveyed something I did not mean.

        The blog-page, like txting and emailing have very emotive limitations.

        Apologies bros, Ernie too!!

      • David – thank you so much for the clarification! I think that some readers would have understood it – understood incorrectly, I’m delighted to hear – but still have taken it the wrong way.

        Yes, some of the fans aren’t God-honoring.

        There is an easy way to cut it down – not appear at all after concerts! But that would be punishing the 99.5% of fans who do act properly for the sake of the few who don’t.

      • You’re okay David. Apologies accepted! I hope I didn’t read too much into your comments…I try hard not to do that sort of thing.

        And you have a point about non-USA appearances. It makes sense that there would be a little more “EHSS fervor” in areas of the world the group rarely frequents. I can completely understand how you as a (sane) observer might feel a little irritated by that sort of atmosphere.

      • I agree – good point about non-US audiences. It hasn’t been too bad when I see them in my area – but it probably helps that it’s home turf, and their families sometimes come to concerts in my area, so fans in this area know to behave!

  26. I’m not sure if anyone has already said this, but Roy Tremble sings on Keep On Singing, and George Amon Webster sings, so I assume he plays the piano on this one too. I have posted several Cathedrals albums on YouTube, just type in CathedralsRecords. -Sam

    • There are two versions of this at least.