Encore Series #1: Every Eye Shall See

This post is part of the Encore Series, posts highlighting Southern Gospel songs of the past that should be brought back. All the entries in this post were appreciated and considered, but when my mom suggested this one, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for.

After over a decade off the road, the Statesmen returned in 1992. This was due (at least partly) to the Homecoming videos reawakening interest in the legends of the genre. This is not a historical stretch, either, since Bill Gaither himself produced Revival, a 1992 project reintroducing the group.

Revival drew criticism from some long-time fans for introducing more instrumentation than the Statesmen were known for in the 1960s. But it was far less a change from the instrumentation on their 1970s recordings, and the tracks were unmistakably rooted in the Statesmen tradition. However the project may have struck the years of a fan of the 1960s lineup who hadn’t heard the group since, the album’s sound stands the test of time and sounds fantastic now, almost two decades later.

When the Statesmen hit the road again in 1992, they did so with an all-star cast. Legends Jake Hess and Hovie Lister returned to reprise their roles at piano and lead. Johnny Cook sang tenor, Biney English sang baritone, and Bob Caldwell sang bass.

Though most of Revival stayed within the classic Statesmen style, the second-to-last track, “Every Eye Shall See,” is a monumental ballad featuring tenor Johnny Cook. The liner notes mistakenly credit the song to Bill and Gloria Gaither; according to BMI, Bill Gaither’s co-writer was Robert Farrell. (Bill and Gloria did co-write another song by the same title, a praise chorus recorded on the original New Gaither Vocal Band project.)

The song addresses the a topic is so relevant that it’s a wonder more songs haven’t addressed it. The first verse introduces the problem:

You may live like there’s no tomorrow
Be your voice of authority
Make your claim how the Gospel is failing
Speak your mind while speaking is free

“While speaking is free” implies that speaking won’t always be free, and sets up this magnificent lyric in the pre-chorus

For the day is coming when school will be out
There’ll be no more discussion and no more doubt
For the sky will open and Jesus descend with a shout

The chorus is quite simple, pulling the first phrase from Revelation 1:7 and the second and third from Isaiah 45:23.

Every eye shall see
Every knee shall bow
Every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord

The second verse introduces and rebuts a specific criticism:

Some may say God’s Word is outdated
His commandments are all passé
But what they say, it won’t make much difference
When He returns with the last words to say

This leads into the second pre-chorus, using the familiar metaphor of a hammer and anvil to describe God’s word and its detractors:

For His truth is an anvil that’s righteous and fair
And many a hammer’s been broken there
So hammer away with a vengeance—just as long as you dare

This leads into the final choruses.

The magnificent lyric encapsulates one of the biggest problems facing the church, attempts by liberal theologians and academics who would seek to undermine the faith from within (or, in the case of a Bart Ehrman, from without). But the lyrics only introduce that to set up the heart of the message—that skepticism will not last forever, and Truth wins in the end.

The soaring melody was perfect for a legendary voice of Johnny Cook’s stature. Later renditions of the Statesmen continued to stage the song, as evidenced by this YouTube video [EDIT, 4/9/13: Broken link removed.] featuring Cook’s and Hess’s replacements, Tank Tackett and Jack Toney. Even though that later rendition doesn’t quite measure up to the original, it’s still worth a listen if you have never heard the song.

Group suggestion: A group like Triumphant Quartet would be a perfect fit for this song. Even before I realized that the Statesmen’s original rendition featured Johnny Cook, from the minute I first heard the song I was thinking “David Sutton.”

Other than an evidently little-remembered performance by Cindy Epstein, I cannot find any other instances of this song being cut. Have there been any other renditions? And does anyone (I’m looking at you, D.A.) have footage of the original lineup’s version?

UPDATE, 4/8/13: A reader notices that a version with Johnny Cook has now been posted to YouTube:

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36 Letters to the Editor

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  1. Wow, Daniel. This is a great choice. I remember excitedly finding a copy of the Revival CD and buying it when it came out. This song absolutely blew me away then, and you are right, that entire disc is still an excellent listen. I think David Sutton and Triumphant would be perfect for this song.

    The CD also featured a song that Ernie Haase and Signature Sound brought back a couple of years ago, “Someday.” The EHSSQ version is good, but it doesn’t top the Statesmen’s version.

    • I agree on all counts. EHSS’s is good, and I think I like both about the same.

  2. Probably my favorite Statesmen song from that era is “Forgiven Again.” English on lead, the others on harmony, and the arrangement etc. of this great song all work together for a superb blessing. Ernie Haase and Signature Sound also brought this song back, but it isn’t close to the Statesmen’s version.

    • Also a great song, but unfortunately I don’t have the Statesmen original yet.

      • Have you heard it at all? I presume you have only heard EHSS version. A friend of mine has a rare third Statesmen CD that was only out a few weeks (I think) until Hess (and I think English) left so I don’t think it was even commercially released.

      • What I meant was it was sold as a table project, but not in stores as far as I know.

      • Forgiven Again was on the “O’ My Lord What A Time” CD that was another mainline Canaan release. The rare one is “O What A Savior”. I actually used to hear a track or two from it on radio at the time, but good luck finding a copy!

      • Right, Wes. I sort of have access to the third CD, but I sure don’t expect to find one to buy. I bought the first two when they came out. I even have at least one still sealed extra of O My Lord What A Time.

      • Unfortunately, I haven’t heard the Statesmen rendition yet.

  3. In our business – we use the term encore to describe reconditioned and/or refurbished. I really like your choice. This is a great song and there are three or four groups that could nail it right now and have a huge hit. Triumphant is certainly one of those.

    Look at the recycled songs that have done well over the years. Just recently – for example, How Big Is God for the Dixie Echoes & Talley Trio. The Dove Brothers have certainly brought back their share of encore songs – very successfully. Even the Cathedrals at their peak maintained a steady diet of older songs – often from the Statesmen.

    Even today – I love much of the new music. But the greatest applause (appreciation) in live concerts come when the groups throw the tracks away and sing the oldies with just a piano and perhaps bass.

    I keep waiting to hear a really good quartet record Dallas Holm’s I’ll Rise Again… Not a quartet – but the Booth Brothers would be great for this song.

    I’ve even thought someone could do He’s More Than Just a Swear Word and find success. The Statesmen recorded this in about ’73 or so with Willie Wynn on tenor and _______ Burdette on bass. The best SG song ever written – IMHO – is Jesus is Coming Soon… I never tire of hearing that song and have it on a couple of CD’s. My favorite was on the Mercy’s Mark first table project. They nailed it!


    • JEB – check out the Collingsworth family’s second-most-recent CD (We Still Believe, 2007) – they brought back “More than Just a Swear Word” and totally nailed it. 🙂

      • Love that version of that song. Terrific harmonies, infectious rhythm and melody.

    • Oh: And the Cathedrals recorded Dallas Holm’s Rise Again back in the 70s, on a couple of projects, and in 1981 on Greater (with Kirk, Roger, & Mark). A great rendition.

      The Dixie Melody Boys did a good job with the song on their most recent project, Singing the Classics, too.

      • The best version of “Rise Again” I’ve heard recorded was by the Imperials on Sing The Classics with Paul Smith, circa 1984. Their arrangement and Smith’s vocals are incredible.

    • JEB, do you know the name of the Statesmen LP with “He’s More Than Just a Swear Word”? I know that it was recorded by several groups in the mid-1970s, but I can’t find it on any of the Statesmen LPs from that era.

      By the way, the bass singer for the Statesmen during that time was Ray Burdette.

    • What Statesmen project had “He’s More Than Just a Swear Word”? I can’t seem to locate it.

      . . . and the bass singer was Ray Burdette.

  4. Great post, Daniel! I think this is going to be a fun series to read. 🙂

    • Thanks!

      …as it will also be fun to write.

      Not sure I’ll have time for many entries this length, though! This one took an hour and a half of thinking through and re-writing—after about two months mulling the column idea!

  5. Out of the three projects that particular lineup recorded, I thought “Revival” one was the best. “Oh My Lord What A Time” was great though. The third, “Oh What A Savior” was good, but it didn’t measure up to the previous two in my opinion. This lineup was featured on the TV show hosted by Bill Traylor & Bill Gaither back in the early 90’s called “Homeland Harmony”.

  6. I love “Every Eye Shall See”, and Johnny Cook was my all time favorite tenor singer.

    • I agree on both counts. This was one of my favorite songs on the project. Great idea for a column, Daniel. I’d thought of doing something like this but I wouldn’t have the time to do it right now so I’m glad you are.

  7. First of all thank you so much for all the kind comments about the “New Statesmen”. Being a part of that group will always be some of the fondest memories of my career. Every Eye is a great song and I have often wondered why it has not been recorded since that project. It was a great crowd pleaser back then and I’m certain would be again.

    • I’m honored that you stopped by! I couldn’t agree more.

  8. I remember that song. Truly awesome and I do not think Triumphant Qtet would do that song justice. Johnny Cook had some real power and I thought a little tear when he sang that song. I think that tenor that sang for 4him would be the proper and fitting choice. Or maybe Steve Ladd

    • I think maybe you’re underestimating David Sutton just a little. Give him the right key, and he has quite the power voice. 🙂

  9. David Sutton has a very powerful voice and I think most people over look what he can sing.

  10. I had an opportunity to be at the first concert of the group when they returned in 1992. There was also someone other than Hovie playing piano, but I don’t recall who it was. He acted quite insulted the Bill Gaither would suggest he hire a pianist.

    I bought the cassette of Revival at the time, and heard it recently when converting my tapes to digital. It is still one of my favorites.

  11. The way I read it, Bill recommended they add a keyboardist which didn’t sit well with Hovie. I never read it as someone in place of Hovie. I wonder what the deal was.

  12. The deal was Jeff Silvey traveled with the group to run the tracks and play keyboard bass on the few songs we did with just Hovie playing the piano. Jeff grew up in Alexandria and was a family friend of the Gaithers. He had moved to Nashville and was, and is, a very successful song writer, producer, and artist. We needed someone to run the tracks and play bass and Bill asked Jeff to come help us out. Jeff just happened to play the bass on a keyboard because that is what he owned. Jeff and Hovie got along very well. No insults…no drama.

  13. The person you are referring to is Jeff Silvey. Jeff was, and is, a successful song writer, producer, and artist. Growing up in Alexandria Jeff was a family friend of the Gaithers. He had moved to Nahville to pursue his music career which was where the Statesmen were based at that time. Bill arranged for him to come with us to run the tracks and play bass guitar on the few numbers we did with just piano. Jeff is a piano player so he used a keyboard instead of a guitar to play the bass with Hovie. jeff is a great guy and he and Hovie got along very well.

  14. Wasn’t Anthony Burger involved with that aforementioned Statesmen revival in 1992?

    I’m not sure, but I seem to recall that Burger played piano on that first recording back…I never saw that group perform in person, so I have NO recollection of who might have played for them on stage.

    Just tryin’ to help…:-)

  15. I heard agroup sing this song back in 1992 on a christian radio station they sounded like a black group a women was the lead singer and i really loved their version the best of all does anyone know who this group is

  16. I find the song amazing and moving, as uplifting gospel truth is spoken with sheer simplicity and a good beat anchors our energy twords the Lord! I enjoy listening, and have grown a habit of humming the tune around my home. In additon, I stumbled upon a song close in similarity to this one, and greatly enjoyed the company of the gosple tune in which resembled this one. Unforchanatley, I do not remember the person or band that sang the song but would appreciate it if anyone could provide me any similar songs to this one, as I can do my best in locating the original one I humbly heard on my trusting radio many,many years ago. Blessings in Christ

  17. Johnny Cook is my favorite singer. I started a fan page for him on Facebook. The song with Johnny is on YouTube, including a live version from a tv show. Enjoy!

    • Thanks! That video had not been posted three years ago, when this post originally came up. I’ll edit the post adding it now.