The Inspirations at 50, Part 3

This year, the Inspirations celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. We’re going to commemorate this landmark milestone with a series looking at ten of their all-time greatest albums. Also see: Part 1 (7-10), Part 2 (4-6).

#3: I Know (2006)

inspirations2006iknowmaxAs this top-ten countdown nears its final stretch, it’s rather unavoidable that superlatives abound. But the Inspirations’ career deserves superlatives.

I Know is the strongest release of the Inspirations’ Crossroads era. Two of the three #1 hits they have had in the last thirty years—”I Have Not Forgotten” and “If You Only Knew” came off this recording. Yet this recording is packed with songs so powerful that it wouldn’t have been surprising to see one or two more.

Song list: I’ve Never Gotten Over Geting Saved; If You Only Knew; I Know; I Have Not Forgotten; Shed For Even Me; At His Feet; When I Walk On Streets Of Gold; Living Like There’s No Yesterday; Led By The Master’s Hand; My Best Friend.


#2: On Heaven’s Bright Shore (1976)

inspirations1976heavensbrightshoremaxEvery list of this nature needs at least one surprise, and this is it. Ask casual fans and serious fans to name the group’s all-time strongest releases off the top of their heads; this isn’t always one of the first to come to mind. But that only goes to show just how much this album is underrated.

The Inspirations’ releases from this era, the era when they were the fan’s favorite group in the genre, are all distinguished by instrumental and vocal excellence. What, then, sets this apart is its song selection. Songs like “Land of Living,” “I’ll Live Again,” “Rose Among The Thorns,” “On Heaven’s Bright Shore,” “The Redeemed Are Coming Home,” and “When Fair Heaven I See” make this the group’s all-time greatest studio album.

Song list: On Heaven’s Bright Shore; Rose Among The Thorns; A Mansion Is Waiting; The Redeemed Are Coming Home; Land Of The Living; Far Better Than This; When Fair Heaven I See; Are You Listening For The Lord; He’ll Wipe Away The Tears; Help Me Lord; He’ll Do A New Thing; I’ll Live Again.


#1: A Night of Inspiration (1976)

inspirations1976nightofinspirationmaxThe 1970s were an era of compelling live performances. We’re still talking about the Kingsmen, Rambos, Happy Goodmans, and countless others from this era. A Night of Inspiration shows how, even in this august company, the Inspirations became the decade’s most popular group, winning six of the ten Singing News Fan Awards for Favorite Artist handed out that decade.

Some groups used live albums as an occasion to introduce new songs. Here, the focus was more on live versions of songs like “Touring The City,” “When I Wake Up To Sleep No More,” and “Jesus Is Mine” that were already beloved hits.

It would perhaps be a theoretical possibility to read about the Inspirations’ hit songs and live appeal and have an intellectual understanding of how this decade made them legends. But once you have listened to this album, it’s no longer theoretical. You feel it in your bones as you feel the energy and the messages in your soul.

Song list: Touring That City; When I Wake Up To Sleep No More; The First Million Years; When God Dips His Pen Of Love In My Heart; Amazing Grace; Tears Will Never Stain The Streets Of That City; I’ve Got More To Go To Heaven For; These Are They; Thanks For Loving Me; Jesus Is Mine.


A Video Highlight

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Andrew Goldman joins The Perrys

The Perrys announced this morning that Andrew Goldman will replace departing lead singer David Ragan. Libbi Perry Stuffle commented, “The Perrys are very excited about Andrew coming on board as a part of our team and family. He’s such an incredible singer!”

Goldman comments, “It’s such an honor to be a part of the great ministry The Perrys have. I have always been a fan, and I love their passion to see people’s lives changed.”

Goldman joins The Perrys after spending two years as the baritone for Ryan Seaton’s quartet, Union Street. We featured him in an interview, here.

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Song Snapshots #31: We All Come To The Cross

Just like the rest of us, Southern Gospel’s co-writers don’t always stay focused on the task at hand. But unlike the rest of us, that can sometimes be a very, very good thing.

One day, Kenna Turner West, Tony Wood, and Lee Black were working on a story song. Somehow, they got off of the topic at hand, and she started sharing her testimony.

“I’m fortunate that I grew up in Gospel music,” she recalls. Her father, Ken Turner, sang with the Palmetto State Quartet and the Dixie Echoes, before joining the Blackwood Brothers when she was seven. “I grew up backstage with the people that are on the mainstage now. I knew who Jesus was, but I didn’t know Him as Savior at all.”

“When I was eighteen years old,” she adds, “I was singing songs at a club in Memphis. I came to Christ watching Jerry Falwell on television on a Sunday night.”

West also shared her mother’s testimony with Wood and Black; her mother came to Christ at a Nicky Cruz crusade in the early ‘80s. “I was sharing how I came to the Lord watching Christian television. My mom came to the Lord at a crusade. We all have our story; somehow we all came to the cross.”

“I was just sharing my testimony with my friends,” she recalls. “I was crying, so I didn’t even notice what I had said. Tony and Lee were looking at each other, like, ‘She doesn’t even know what she said!’ Thankfully, they heard a song title in there.”

They never finished the other song. But they did write “We All Came To the Cross.”

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Never, No Never, No Never Forsake.

Yesterday morning at church, we were singing one of the grand old hymns of the faith.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

The song was keyed low enough that I was singing an alto harmony. I heard a voice in the row behind me joining in. I didn’t have to look back to know who it was. There is a precious elderly saint in our church who, years ago, sang alto in a local Southern Gospel quartet. When I started attending this church, she was on the worship team.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

She had to step down from the worship team when she came down with Alzheimer’s. The brilliance that made her a high school valedictorian has faded away. Yet she still remembers the old hymns, and on this one at least, the alto part.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of grief shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

Then I realized what I was hearing. She has been called to go through the deep waters. Yet she still sings this song.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

She knows a promise. I say “knows”; whether or not her mind remembers, her heart still knows: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

That’s why she can sing:

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

I’ll admit, I cried through the last few verses. I don’t know if I sang a word.

But it was just as well, because it meant that I could just listen to her sing. It was one of those moments that I will never forget—unless, of course I am someday called to walk through those same deep waters. But hearing her sing this song reminds me that should that day come, I have the same promise that was made to her: Nothing can pluck one of Jesus’ sheep out of His Father’s hand.

Not even Alzheimer’s.

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Joy O’Neal recovering from stroke

The Dixie Melody Boys are run by Ed O’Neal; his wife, Joy, who travels with the group, suffered a mild stroke on Saturday. She was taken to the hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Thankfully, the stroke was mild, and she was released from the hospital and is recovering. In a statement sent out by group tenor and publicist Matt Felts, he commented:

As many of you know, Ed O’Neal’s wife, Joy, travels with the Dixie Melody Boys. We affectionately call her Mama Joy because she is like a mother to us. On Saturday, she suffered a mild stroke and was rushed to the hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ed O’Neal made the right decision and stayed with her at the hospital while she was treated and as a result had to miss the performance later that night at The Assembly in Broken Arrow. The guys all stepped up to fill Ed’s shoes the best we could and we had a great concert. We want to thank everyone last night including Peter Enns for their understanding and prayers for the O’Neal family. Miss Joy was released from the hospital and is recovering. She will receive additional treatment this week back in North Carolina. Ed was able to be back on stage with us on Sunday morning and does not expect to miss any future dates. We covet your prayers for Mama Joy and for Ed.

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Friday News Roundup #221

Worth Knowing

  • Tribute Quartet bass singer Anthony Davis is graduating from Bethel University in Mckenzie, Tennessee, with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Notably, he maintained a 4.0 GPA through his baccalaureate studies.
  • The McKameys were scheduled to appear at Oak Bowery Baptist Church in Saltillo Community, Arkansas on Saturday, May 10th. That church’s sanctuary has suffered tornado damage so severe that the concert has been postponed to February.
  • Old Paths tenor Jeremy Peace and his wife Jennifer welcomed their third daughter, Elizabeth, yesterday morning. Mother and baby are both healthy and doing well.

Worth Watching

To commemorate Mark Trammell Quartet bass singer Pat Barker’s final weekend on the road:

Also worth watching: Matt Fouch interviews Ronnie Booth.

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Southern Gospel Journal to retire in June

This has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. But “to every thing there is a season,” and this season is coming to an end: I have decided to retire Southern Gospel Journal in early June.

For my entire adult life, writing a post every morning has been the only routine I have known. So this decision was certainly influenced by a number of factors.

Perhaps most significant is how the world has changed over the last eight years. In 2006, we needed news websites. Now, we follow our favorite artists directly on Facebook or Twitter. That has decreased the need for this site. But I truly don’t regret it, because it is better for the genre.

Something similar happened with CD reviews. Thanks to Spotify, we don’t need a reviewer to tell us if a CD is any good when we can hear it for ourselves.

When it comes to commentary, I have said my piece. After writing over 3,100 posts here, I find that most of my post ideas are ones I’ve had before.

There are also a few personal reasons. I need to lose weight, which means that I need to spend more time away from the computer, exercising. And I am ready to pick back up several book and songwriting projects that had been on the back burner.

I’m making this announcement a month early, for several reasons. First, there are several posts already promised or scheduled for the next few weeks. Second, this will allow time for anyone who wants to pick up the mantle of daily news and commentary to get up and running. Finally, it lets me get this post out of the way and save the final post for a more fitting subject.

I have been very active in this genre behind the scenes. That won’t change; I still love this music deeply.

With this season in my life drawing to a close, I’m tempted to complicate the transition by refusing to let go of the past. Instead, I’ll focus on the future, looking forward to seeing what the road ahead may hold both for me and for this genre of music that has touched all of us so deeply.

Thank you to all of you who have made this project one of the greatest blessings I have ever experienced.

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Upcoming Southern Gospel Releases: May 2014

This list aims to be inclusive of Daywind, Crossroads, Horizon, Sonlite, Gaither Music Group, Stow Town, New Haven, Difference Media, Song Garden, Mansion, and major independent group releases where known.

May 2014

  • 5/20: This Is What It’s All About, Mark Bishop (Sonlite / Crossroads)
  • 5/20: Decade, The Old Paths (Sonlite / Crossroads)
  • 5/20: Years of Gold: The Best of Jonathan Wilburn: A Collection of Hits (Daywind / New Day)
  • 5/27: A Cappella, The Martins (Gaither Music Group / Capitol)
  • 5/27: Worship, Guy Penrod
  • 5/27: Captured: Live In The Studio, Devin McGlamery

June 2014

  • 6/1: Isaiah 12:2, Booth Brothers
  • 6/10: Measure of Grace, The Taylors (Stow Town / Provident)
  • 6/10: Love, The Hagees (Difference Media / Capitol)
  • 6/24: Awesome God, Triumphant Quartet (Mansion / Provident)

Is this list missing anything significant, especially among major independent releases? Let us know!

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Sharleanae Dotson (Collingsworth) to begin performing with The Collingsworth Family

On June 10th, Phil Collingsworth Jr. will marry his fianceé Sharlenae Dotson. In a post on their Facebook page yesterday, the Collingsworth Family posted a picture of Phil and Sharlenae singing together. The caption noted that it was “a new si[ght] that will be added to all Collingsworth Family performances shortly.”

The announcement did not specify whether Sharlenae would become an official group member, or whether Phil and Sharlenae’s performances together would be a separate duet portion of the program.

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The Inspirations at 50, Part 2

This year, the Inspirations celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. We’re going to commemorate this landmark milestone with a series looking at ten of their all-time greatest albums. Also see: Part 1 (7-10).

#6: Wake Up In Glory (1972)

inspirations1972glorymaxThe Inspirations’ first album with Canaan, Our Inspiration (1971), was a nice first step. This, their second, seems to have been a breakout album. Granted, I don’t have Canaan’s internal sales numbers from the era to back this up, but it’s not hard to make an educated guess based on the relative rarity of Our Inspiration today, compared to the plentiful copies of this album still in circulation.

This album may not have had a single signature song—the closest is “Rocked On The Deep,” a popular feature for Mike Holcomb for years—but it was a solid all-around performance. It was probably the first Inspirations record in many households. Fans decided they liked what they heard. They came back for more, and they’re still coming today.

Song list: I’ll Wake Up In Glory; Oh, What A Day; Bring Your Burdens To Him; I’ll Never Die; Where The Shades Of Love Lie Deep; We’ll Be At Home Again; I’m Going Up; Rocked On The Deep; A Place Called Heaven; Everybody Will Be Happy Over There; Obey The Spirit; One By One.

#5: The Son Came Down (2009)

inspirations2009thesoncamedownmaxWhile we didn’t know it at the time, this ended up being a transitional lineup; baritone Melton Campbell and bass Mike Holcomb were long-running fan favorites, while Dallas Rogers and David Ragan were debuting. But what we did know at the time was that this was a really, really good project. I reviewed it here, giving it five stars, and if it were possible, my respect for its strength has only increased as the years have gone by.

In the five years since this came out, there have been a number of personnel changes. But within the last few months, two of the vocalists featured on this project (Rogers and Campbell) have returned to the Inspirations lineup, bringing with them an infusion of energy and excitement—not to mention spectacular live renditions of “Dealing With Gold.”

Song list: I Know Where He Lives; Dealing With Gold; Stone’s Throw Away; The Son Came Down; Crown Him King; Heaven Knows Where I’ve Been; Thinking More Of Heaven; The Potter; Thank God I’ve Made It; Walkin’ By Faith.


#4: Golden Street Parade (1975)

inspirations1975goldenstreetparademaxThis album comes squarely in the middle of a 1972-78 run where the Inspirations were named Favorite Group in the Singing News Fan Awards for six out of seven years. Perhaps it is no surprise that fully half of the top ten albums we’re commemorating in this series come out of that era. With songs like “Golden Street Parade,” “I Love To Tell Of His Love,” “On The Sea of Life,” and “When God Dips His Love,” the Inspirations produced one of the most exceptional studio albums of the decade.

Song list: Golden Street Parade; Tears Will Never Stain; I Love To Tell Of His Love; I Found A Treasure; Will Someone Be Waiting; Glorybound; When God Dips His Love; I’m Going To Meet You In Heaven Someday; When The Saints Gather Home; Haven Of Rest; On The Sea Of Life; God Still Cares.


A Video Highlight

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