DVD Review: Sing Out America Vol. 3 (Speer Family)

In early 2010, Mansion Entertainment started reissuing archival footage from the Sing Out America television series. The first two volumes in the series featured multiple groups; this is the first entry to feature one group throughout.

  • He Was Willing. This features baritone Ben Speer, who sometimes also piano; for the first few songs, he was in a solely vocal capacity. Though there is a three-piece piano/bass guitar/rhythm guitar band on screen, there is also at least one other instrumentalist, a drummer, on the audio but not on stage. Adding this to the fact that there’s applause after the track, but the video footage is from a studio taping, suggests that, as with some other entries in the series, this is footage with the singers lip-syncing to themselves.
  • The Church Of The Living God. This is the same footage found on volume 2 (featuring the Blackwood Brothers). Brock Speer offers a vigorous solo on this song; it’s astonishing the extent to which this toe-tapper has been forgotten in the post-Speer years.
  • I’m Standing On The Solid Rock. Though the footage appears to be from the same taping day, the audio is from a studio taping and has a notably different, warmer equalization.
  • The Brush. Ben Speer sits on a stool for a subdued delivery of this story-song. The only other vocals are from fairly high soprano background vocalists, who do not appear on screen. There are also string sounds not replicated on screen.
  • Stand By Me. The audio here comes from the same live recording from which the first two tracks were pulled. (The video throughout appears to be from the same day.)
  • Before The Rocks Cry Out. The audio here is also from a live recording. For this song, Ben Speer swapped places with the pianist.
  • Touring That City. Ben Speer was again on the piano bench for this song; the soprano/pianist, named nowhere in the video, had the solo. A steel guitar and probably also a harmonica appear on the audio track but are nowhere in evidence for the video footage.
  • Hold On. Since Ben Speer has the vocal solo, he steps forward, and the soprano returns to the piano bench.
  • He’s Ever Interceding. The alto, also unidentified throughout the program, is featured on this Speer classic. Ben returned to the piano for this song and the final song.
  • Heaven’s Jubilee. After several studio tracks, the audio for this song was clearly pulled from a live recording.

There are notable video issues at points, horizontal bars that cross the screen from time to time.

This video is clearly lip-synced, and between the analog video artifacts and the somewhat jarring transitions from live to studio audio tracks, it’s hard to give it a high recommendation. Yet with how rare color footage is from this era, it does have some historical value for an era from which rather little high-quality footage survives.

Rating: 2 stars. (This is in no way a reflection on the quality of the Speer Family’s singing, or what they could have produced in a more favorable, non-lip-synced environment.) ♦ Available from: Mansion. ♦ Review copy provided.

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