Album Amnesia

Yesterday, Wes Burke put up his most insightful post of the year to date, Albums that Cause Amnesia. He poses an interesting question: Does an album that is so successful as to redefine a group’s sound cause fans to forget the albums that came before?

His strongest case study was Gold City’s Pillars of Faith. That 1992 release so defined Gold City’s sound that fans tend to talk less about the albums that preceded it. He also raises another persuasive case, the Kingsmen’s 1977 Chattanooga Live.

Count me among the convinced that this unusual phenomenon happens.

One example he gave, though, started my thoughts down a different path. He asked whether the success of the Cathedrals’ 1982 album Something Special causes us to talk less about their previous projects. What I’m wondering is this: Suppose the Cathedrals had never recorded Something Special, because they hung up their traveling shoes in 1979, after Roy Tremble, George Amon Webster, and Lorne Matthews quit. Don’t we actually talk about their 1960s and 1970s projects more thanks to Something Special establishing them as a mega-group than we would had they quit?


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47 Letters to the Editor

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  1. Good thought! I would say in the case of the Cats and as a longtime fan, that Live IN Atlanta was the CD that pushed the reset button or caused album amnesia for the Cats. Such a huge recording and so many great songs. (We Shall See Jesus, Moving Up To Gloryland, I’m Gonna Live Foreverm ect…)

    Then they did it again in the Funderburk era with Travelin’ Live. (Boundless Love, Whosoever Will, Homeland, Bloodwashed Band…not to mention some CLASSIC Younce MC work……hubcap deep on a ferris wheel….who on da bus?)

    awesome stuff

    • Something Special was his example – I would say that Something Special and Live in Atlanta were the one-two punch that made the Cathedrals what they became.

    • I thought about Live In Atlanta too. Honestly, the only reason I chose Something Special was that it came first, and “Step Into The Water” was so huge on that album.

      • “That ain’t no Michael. That’s just an old white man!” Love that joke!

  2. I think that, keeping on this topic, one would have to say that “On These Grounds” by the Hoppers is worthy of mention, if not the entire album itself, at least the most important single off that recording, “Here I Am,” the group’s first number one song and the first single with Kim Hopper on it. She redefined that group with one single, in my opinion, and they’ve never looked back. While that album was more of a transitional recording and certainly not of the classic caliber that the aforementioned Cathedrals projects became, it established the beginning of Kim’s career with them and the beginning of their stronghold at the top of the family/mixed group genre. And while many wonderful singers have come out of that organization (All of the Talleys, Greg Bentley, Sharon Watts, etc), it will be the “Kim Years” that are remembered as the best ones by the masses, and it all started with “On These Grounds.”

  3. While this isn’t nearly as established a group, I think one could say that Get Away Jordan has become Signature Sound’s “amnesia album.” It was a real turning-point in terms of sound, look etc. Self-titled was very important, but I think GAJ has more of the “amnesia effect.” The interesting thing is that it’s really not their best album. I prefer something like The Ground is Level honestly, but who even remembers that album anymore?

    • And for me, the big one was Stand By Me Live.

      I’m not sure they’ve had an amnesia album yet, because it’s not too clear yet whether they will stick with the Get Away Jordan / Dream On overall direction, or pull in the reins a bit more like they’ve done since.

      • I’ll be very interested to see where they go after the Cats tribute, that’s for sure.

      • Its interesting that for the longest time I didn’t even know there was a project before SBML. Also, I think the Self-Titled DVD could be the amnesia album for some people too, since it was the first time EHSS was “Gaitherized.”

      • Signature Sound has put out some great albums. I’m interested in seeing where they go also. Othere than a few cuts from Dream on, i didn’t care for it, personally. There was something missing in that album, not sure what it was. Really looking forward to the Cathedrals Tribute!

      • I know. I don’t know what happened with that album. I think the songs were just less memorable than on previous projects. Maybe because they tried to do more “contemporary” stuff?

      • “The Ground is Level” IS an Amnesia Album – everybody has forgotten it, and most of the EHSS fans never heard of it!!

        Maybe the, irony again, “Cat’s Tribute” Album will become their ‘amnesia album’.

        To date GAJ is their most accomplished, but a lot of folks think Self Titled was their debut album, because of their debut Gaither DVD. Maybe that DVD was their ‘Amnesia Album’ – more than a CD.

        That would make a lot of sense, as EHSS is a highly visual group – and the ‘new’ SGM image attracted a LOT of new younger folks to SGM.

      • Exactly. And the fact that self-titled was self-titled reinforces the idea that it was their first. But people don’t realize how good they were on their own before Gaither ever got ahold of them. I’m very partial to their first DVD Live in Indiana (a copy of which just went on ebay for over $100). Talk about something everybody’s forgotten—even more applicable there than with SBML. At least they’re still offering the latter at the product table (though they’ve discontinued it from their website).

        Agree also about the self-titled DVD. It was really the DVD that defined their style, that caught everybody’s attention. It surely caught mine! I loved the CD, but the DVD just had so many more songs on it from previous projects…and such great performances. And with some, like “Stand By Me,” the vocals are already a lot more polished even than they were for SBML. Ryan is much more confident, Timmy is smoother, everything just clicks perfectly. Then again, the “polished” factor might be part stacks…but even the step-outs are noticeably improved.

      • Right. That’s why I said an argument could be made for self-titled as well. I personally thought that DVD was outstanding. The Gaitherization distracted a bit in places (dancing with the microphone and what-not) but you can’t beat the songs. I haven’t figured out whether they were using stacks though…for me that would take something away from it.

      • I’m not even sure about contemporary part of it, but it was just lacking “substance” on some of it, imho.

        However, when they were in concert a few months ago, i really really enjoyed them in full concert (2nd time i’ve seen them in a full concert).

      • Same here. I saw them a couple weeks ago. Thankfully, they seemed to have dropped most of Dream On from their live set and are focusing now more on the Influenced stuff, which I much prefer. And of course next year is the Cats tour. I’m hoping I can catch them…waiting for a date within striking distance.

  4. I was in our office the day Roy, Lorne and George Amon resigned the Cats, My dad got a call from Glen Payne wanting to know if he had heard of any good singers and that he and George were not a good duet. He was very discouraged but the conversation between these two men was that we should not quit. Keep On Keeping On. Neither did and gave all they had to it. Make the best albums you can but never give up.

    • Thanks for sharing that Steve. Just one more bit of evidence for what everybody already knew—Glen & George were a class act. Period.

    • That’s fascinating! I knew, generally, that there were a couple of people who encouraged them to keep going, but I didn’t know who any of them were.

      • Didn’t the Lord so honor their decision to keep on serving Him in their calling? They went on to reach the absolute mountaintop of gospel music, where they stayed for nearly two decades, a peak probably never to be seen again. But they never would have reached the pinnacle if they hadn’t kept their eyes in Jesus in their lowest valley. A lesson for us all…God is so faithful to reward our faithfulness.

      • Amen! Sort of makes you think of that song, “Find Us Faithful.”

      • I guess that’s why they named their first album with the new lineup “Keep on Singing”.

  5. Interesting topic, Daniel. Since we’re focused on the Cathedrals here, how many remember the two albums they recorded for Canaan before “Something Special” that were post-Tremble and post-Webster.

    If you said “Better Than Ever”(Kirk Talley’s debut album with them)and “Colors Of His Love”(Mark Trammell’s debut album with them), give yourselves a pat on the back!

    For me, the Cathedrals never topped “With Strings” and “With Brass” though…but, hey, that’s just me, I guess.

    Other albums that could fall under the description that Wes provided…”The Statesmen On Stage”(1959), The Weatherford Quartet’s “In The Garden”(also 1959), the Couriers’ “Nothing But…The Gospel Truth”(1963), and the Oak Ridge Boys’ “It’s Happening”(1969).

    • Better Than Ever and Colors are incredible projects! Especially Better than Ever – talk about a power-packed beginning, with the trio of songs “I Saw Love,” “My Labor Will Be Over” (Amy, remember our discussions on that?), and “Ride on, God’s Careworn Children.” Great singing there!

      • 😛
        (filler, filler)

      • Somehow, I knew you’d remember that! It’s not too often that I’ve totally ruined a song for someone! In fact, I think that was the only time.

      • Those albums were the Canaan debuts for Kirk and Mark. They had recorded several table projects (Eternal) with Kirk Roger, and Steve between 1979 and 1980.

      • Don’t forget “I Know A Man Who Can”.

    • John, I was trying to come up for one with the Oaks, but couldn’t for the life of me find the one album from the Wynn, Allen, Golden, Fox years that definitively drew the line. I almost said “International” or “Performance”, but wasn’t sure. Regardless, the earlier Oaks albums measure up quite well, but are largely forgotten. I’ve always been partial to “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now” on Skylite with Smitty Gatlin and Jim Hamill.

      • Of those, Wes, I would choose either “It’s Happening”(the one I named, and Fox’s first album with the group, containing “Jesus Is Coming Soon”[the hit version]), or 1970’s “Thanks”(featuring the title song and a great hit version of “The Joy of Knowing Jesus”).

  6. Speaking of forgotten albums…how come I never see the Cats’ Worship His Glory mentioned anywhere? Is it because it was all hymns? What a great album though…tightly woven, smooth acapella harmonies.

    • When most people think of the Cathedrals’ acappella projects, they think of “Voices In Praise” and “A Cathedral Christmas Acappella”. To be honest, I didn’t like “Worship His Glory”. I listened to the tape once and never again.

      Then the Cats came out with “Raise The Roof”… now that’s a project I wish I could forget.

      • It appears to be a project everybody wishes they could forget…we’ve just been discussing that on a different thread!

      • Not me! It might not be their best album, but I still love “Oh Come Along” in particular, and like several of the other tracks.

      • Agreed. 🙂 I haven’t actually listened yet to “Oh Come Along.” Didn’t that one win something or other?

      • “Oh Come Along” is fantastic. I don’t know if it won anything, but it was on the Reunion album (where I first heard it). It has a key change in the middle that I love, love, love. (Why does something that little make a song?)

      • Now I remember…I actually had seen that performance before. I think it’s Roger’s piano that makes it. But it’s just a good song. Love it when Glen gets excited towards the end…cracks me up every time.

      • Heres the Reunion vid of Oh Come Along: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WpB6Qhdivk

      • “Oh Come Along” and “Don’t Be Afraid” are pretty much the only redeeming qualities of that CD. Pretty much the rest of it was terrible.

      • Glad somebody else mentioned “Don’t Be Afraid.” The live version puts tears in my eyes.

      • Those are pretty good, but to me much like I recall the Radio Days project being, the songs are served better done live. I also liked Never Before and Never Again and Still Drinking Water From the Well, but both are better live as well. Nonetheless, one of their weaker CD’s for sure.

  7. Something Special was a good album by the Cathedrals but I don’t think I would list it my my top five for the group. I still believe Sunshine And Roses from 1978 was their best, followed by With Strings, Symphony Of Praise, With Brass, Prestigious, and Live In Atlanta.

    I personally do not believe that any of the albums caused “album amnesia.” Each version of the Cathedrals had it’s own distinct sound but I really do not believe that each new version caused anyone to forget the previous ones.

  8. Here’s one album that seems to have slipped through the cracks—Booth Brothers, self-titled. I don’t know why, but it seems like nobody ever talks about that album much. “He Saw It All” was the big hit that really launched the trio into the big-time, but that was next album. Self-titled just got left behind it seems. I just stumbled upon it, and I have to say that it’s a really solid album. There are really only two kind of so-so songs on it, but the rest are all very nicely done. Granted there aren’t any toweringly GREAT numbers (although “Steps” is truly gorgeous)but it’s a very smooth, consistent listen. And much better than The Blind Man Saw It All IMO.

    • I wouldn’t say it’s better than The Blind Man Saw It All – but a very solid release. It was the first album of theirs that I had heard and made me a fan!

      • Yeah, I was surprised how many of the tracks I really liked. I kept waiting for the stinker, and like I said, a couple were kind of “meh,” but otherwise, great. “Jesus Speaking Peace” is sheer production perfection—completely acoustic, simple, elegant.

  9. Gold City’s amnesia album will be Somebody’s Comin’, because no one can remember the last album they did or who was in the group at the time. 🙂

    • I can, but I get your point!

      And wow, you went back in the archives to find this one! 🙂

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