CD Review: “Together” (Gaither Vocal Band and Ernie Haase & Signature Sound)

Together - Gaither Vocal Band and Ernie Haase and Signature SoundWhile I did feature an interview with Doug Anderson, Ryan Seaton, and Tim Duncan when the Together CD/DVD was released, I’ve been admittedly tardy on posting my thoughts on the product itself.

First, the basics: The CD contains fifteen songs; the DVD contains twenty-three (plus two bonus tracks). The CD is a studio project where both groups sing together on every song; on the DVD, which was recorded live, fourteen of the fifteen songs from the CD are performed live. (The only one that’s not, “Oh, What a Time,” was recorded by both groups together on Signature Sound’s self-titled DVD.) In addition to the songs performed together, each group does two on its own, Gordon Mote does a solo, and the groups do a few songs together not included on the CD.

If you can purchase only one of the two, purchase the DVD. While the CD has a fairly low proportion of uptempo songs (5 or 6 out of 15), the DVD has enough other fast songs, comedy, and special effects to make the end result stronger.

One of the CD/DVD highlights is the new arrangement of “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven.” Unlike most of the other songs on the project, this song has not to my knowledge been done before by either group or in the Homecoming Series.

“Blow the Trumpet in Zion” was done on Israel Homecoming (2005), but as a choral selection, not featuring any group. If you are one of the many Southern Gospel fans currently in a church that sings Praise and Worship music, and your mind has sometimes drifted during worship service to wondering what an Integrity / Hosanna! praise chorus would sound like if done by a quartet, with a solid bass part, this song should grab your attention. Throw in the Israeli feel on the instrumentation, and this song is beyond doubt the most unique song on the project.

A fan of traditional Southern Gospel music will probably find “Heaven’s Joy Awaits” the most interesting segment of the DVD. When Bill Gaither announces that the next song will be “out of the Southern singing convention genre,” he is greeted by dead silence from an otherwise enthusiastic audience. He does get a laugh for his recovery, when he says, “I can kinda sense the excitement building in the room.” But then he walks the audience through how a convention song is structured, adding one part at a time. By the time he actually launches the track, thanks in part to the demonstration and in part to the comedic contributions of Kevin Williams and Rory Rigdon, he has completely won the audience over. By the end of the song, audience reaction demands three or four encores; counting the introductory section with the demonstration of the different parts, the DVD version of this song ends up clocking in at approximately twelve minutes.

Somehow Gaither managed to take a song in a style that got no enthusiasm when announced to the song that got the biggest audience response all evening. Throughout his career, Gaither has always had an affection for classic Southern Gospel songs. While he has experimented with different sounds throughout his career, often with notable success, he has never forgotten the style of music that got him hooked.

The DVD closes with “These are They,” a song I consider to be the project’s strongest big ballad. Both groups sing the song together, with solos by Doug Anderson, Marshall Hall, Wes Hampton, and Guy Penrod. Oddly enough, Hampton (the Gaither Vocal Band tenor) has a verse in a lower key than Penrod’s verse, the climax of the song. Penrod demonstrates a remarkable range for a lead singer, singing high C with a lead singer’s voice quality. No matter who may fill the tenor and baritone slots, the Gaither Vocal Band will be a powerhouse group for as long as Penrod is a member.

The CD and DVD are top-notch products. Nobody knows what the future may hold for Southern Gospel, or whether the genre will ever see the same level of national exposure that it has seen through the Homecoming Series. But whatever the future may hold, for now at least, Southern Gospel can be proud that it still has a Gaither.

CD rating: Recommended.
DVD rating: Highly Recommended.

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18 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I’m pretty sure that exact arrangement of “Praise My Soul” was used on the Gaither Trio (w/ English) Hymns Classics album.

    If you havn’t heard that, you need to.

  2. You know, I have heard that project, but it’s been a few years. I had forgotten that. Good point!

    At any rate, at least it’s been quite a while since most Gaither fans have heard that arrangement. 🙂

  3. David sang it on a bunch of taped Homecomings…

    Rocky Mountain Homecoming, Australian Homecoming, Jerusalem Homecoming….

  4. I was kinda surprised to find Guy singing the last verse on “These Are They.” I know Michael English did it on the album cut (but he also did quite a bit of tenor-range material), but David Phelps owned that song live when he sang it. Why wouldn’t they just let Wes sing it….?

  5. Kyle, can you confirm this for me–A few years ago, when they did the song on one of the Homecomings, didn’t David sing that high part at the end?

    I thought it was him (only having heard the recording), but if so, it amazes me even more that Guy Penrod could sing it in the same key, with the same soundtrack, as a power tenor.

  6. I thought it sounded like his voice. Anyhow, Guy’s rendition is pretty amazing.

    I am guessing that the reason Guy does it instead of Wes is that Guy’s voice has more power and edge at those notes.

  7. Hey Daniel – who produced this CD?

  8. Nevermind I found it.

  9. The CD credits are listed in this order:
    Producers: Bill Gaither, Lari Goss, Ernie Haase.

  10. I think we cross-posted. I guess that was something I should have mentioned in the review, but I’ll leave my comment up for anyone else who may have been wondering.

  11. I’m trying to get the accompaniment for 2 songs on the cd…Holy Highway and I Then Shall Live. Are these available or can you get the accompaniment for the entire cd?

  12. If the complete CD soundtrack has not been released yet, there’s a decent chance it will be within a few weeks.

  13. I’ve also been trying to get the accompaniment track to Holy Highway and Until Then I Shall Live. Were you able to find it?

  14. Not yet.

  15. ‘Together’, the project is gonna be an important milestone in the Southern Gosepl songs. (I have the DVD version). The song “sitting at the feet of Jesus” is one of the most wonderful rendition and it is soul moving. You can find drops of tears in the corner of Anderson’s and Ernie’s eyes. And the next feet-taping song is “Swing Chariot”.
    Marshal and Ernie along with the team keep the Song Rocking and moving.
    The album is wonderful and makes one to sing the songs together with the two groups.

  16. Looking for the sound track to Holy Highway

  17. Are accompaniment tracks now available for songs on the CD?

  18. This was another key project in my journey of discovering SG. The talent and energy all eight guys bring to the stage is just remarkable. Stroke of genius on Ole Bill’s part. I’ve shared this DVD with family and friends, and everybody loves it!

    I do think that the DVD is better than CD for a lot of the reasons you mentioned. Plus, I just get a general feeling that there’s more energy on songs like “Swing Down Chariot” in the DVD. It’s just not the same in the studio. It’s the live chemistry of eight guys around a piano that makes it come alive.

    “These Are They” is a huge highlight, and Guy really anchors it. The other solos are nice, but when Guy walks out there, you just realize that there’s nobody quite like Guy. I love the roar of the crowd when he nails the climax. The live audience is almost as much a part of that song as the singers. I used to wish they had done a studio cut of this one, but now I’m coming to realize that it really works *because* it’s live. Oh yeah, and I love it when Wes and Ernie nail that high C together too. Goosebumps!


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