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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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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The Inspirations at 50, Part 1

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.

#10: Two Shoes (1998)

inspirations1998twoshoes1000The Inspirations’ Canaan era made them legends. After signing with Crossroads, they quickly returned to the top of the genre. Two Shoes is the strongest release of the interregnum. It contained two songs, “Two Shoes” and “Resurrection Ground,” that remained concert favorites for over a decade. Perhaps partially because of how much the song meant to him personally, the latter song became Matt Dibler’s signature song. With Dibler’s recent return to the group, the song returned with him.

Song list: Thousands Of Tears; In God’s Hands; It’s Been Worth Every Mile; Walk A Little Farther; Anything Goes; Don’t You Want To Come Along; Resurrection Ground; Always Have, Always Will; I Want To Go There; Two Shoes.


 

#9: Touring The City (1973)

inspirations1973touringthatcitymaxIf for no other reason, this album deserves a spot on any top ten list for its title track alone. “Touring That City” became tenor Archie Watkins’ signature song.

Song list: Touring That City; The Fa Sol La Song; I Know He Hears; Love Reached Down; I’ll Make It To Heaven Some Day; Matthew 24; On Higher Ground; Only One Door; I Believe He Died For Me; When I Walk On Streets Of Gold; I Can’t Do It Alone; After The Sunrise.


 

#8: Pure Vintage (2001)

inspirations2001purevintagemaxAfter spending over a decade as an independent artist, the Inspirations’ decision to sign with one of the genre’s premier labels, Crossroads, proved momentous for the group’s history. After years without a major presence in awards or #1 hits, this album, and its mega-hit “I’ll Not Turn My Back On Him Now,” immediately put the group back on top. The song was a #1 hit for two months in January and February 2002, and it also won Song of the Year at the Singing News Fan Awards.

Song list: I’ll Not Turn My Back On Him Now; The Great I Am; He Broke The Chains; Prayer Moves The Heart; Mercy At Midnight; Heaven Gets Sweeter; He Swept Me Off My Feet; When Jesus Shall Reign; The Book, The Blood, The Blessed Hope; Endangered The Christian Family.


 

#7: Cool Water (1964 or 1965)

inspirations1964coolwatermaxWith how amazing the Insiprations’ run with Canaan was, it’s easy to overlook how strong their early work is. (Or perhaps it’s because of how hard these albums are to find.) They had been together only a year or two when they recorded this album, yet it is filled with strong performances in their already distinctive style. Songs like “On The Sunny Banks” and “He’ll Hold to My Hand” would make at least intermittent apperances in their live concerts for decades. This remarkable release is the strongest of their early years.

Song list: On The Sunny Banks; I Will Follow Thee; Gettin’ Ready To Leave This World; Gonna Sit Down And Rest A Little While; When We Get Home; Cool Water; I Love To Call On Jesus’ Name; Glorified Body; Well Done My Child; He’ll Save My Soul; He’ll Hold My Hand; Come Spring.


 

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Inspirations Announce 50th Anniversary Celebration

Earlier this week, The Inspirations announced that this year’s July Singing in the Smokies will feature a lineup filled with past Inspirations members. 

The weekend lineup includes Archie Watkins and Smoky Mountain Reunion, Daron Osborne and Evidence of Grace, Chris Smith (the One Man Quartet), Baron Laws (son of Jack Laws), The McKameys (featuring former Inspirations guitarist Roger Fortner), The Troy Burns Family, and Mike Holcomb. The Inspirations’ announcement added: “Other former Inspirations have been invited, so if it fits into their schedule, you never know who might show up!”

Other artists appearing include Squire Parsons, The Dixie Echoes, and The Kingsmen. 

Mike Holcomb will do a devotion each morning at 10:00 A.M.

As in previous years, the event will be an outdoor event held at Inspiration Park in Bryson City, North Carolina.

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Dallas Rogers, Melton Campbell return to Inspirations

Two months ago, the Inspirations announced that former lead singer Matt Dibler had returned. Yesterday evening, they announced that two more alumni, tenor Dallas Rogers and baritone Melton Campbell, are also returning to the group. In a statement posted to Facebook, the group commented:

Well it’s time to finally make the announcement… After much prayer and consideration, we can now announce the official 2014 lineup for The Inspirations!! We could not be happier to announce that Dallas Rogers is returning to sing tenor, and Melton Campbell is returning to sing baritone! That means the 4 singers will now be Jon Epley at bass, Melton Campbell at baritone, Matt Dibler at lead, and Dallas Rogers at tenor. The positive feedback and support from our fans has been AMAZING during this time of transition, but as Martin Cook stated, we are “excited beyond words” about this new lineup! We believe that God has worked in a mighty way to bring all of this together, and the new sound of these 4 voices is something you are definitely gonna want to hear! We can’t wait to hit the road this weekend and look forward to seeing all of you in the following months and years. Thank you all for the kindness and patience you have shown us, and we will do our best to continue on with this wonderful tradition of The Inspirations– good ole Southern Gospel Quartet singing! We love y’all!

Dibler and Campbell are cornerstones of the recent years of the Inspirations’ legacy; both were members for most of the 2000s, when the group rose back to the top of the genre. Dallas Rogers’ run at tenor in the late 2000s left a shorter but still significant mark.

It is heartwarming to see the Inspirations enter their fiftieth anniversary year with a vocal lineup that fully does justice to one of the greatest legacies the genre has seen.

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Devin McGlamery wins vote for 2013 Best Southern Gospel On-stage Video

The results are in! The readers of Southern Gospel Journal voted this video as the best Southern Gospel on-stage video of 2013:

With over 3,000 votes cast, the second and third place finishers had such an overwhelming showing as to deserve an honorable mention. In fact, the second-place finisher, The Inspirations’ “He Broke The Chains,” had more votes than the total votes cast in the concept and behind-the-scenes polls combined:

Meanwhile, the third-place finisher, The Old Paths’ “Long Live The King.” Their showing would have been enough to win either of the first two polls!

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2013 in Review: Southern Gospel’s Biggest News Stories

Site Statistics

In 2013, SouthernGospelBlog.com reached a significant milestone: It was our first year with more than 1 million unique visits (1,070,730). We’ve come close several previous years, but this was our first to actually pass that mark. Thank you for reading! For anyone interested, here a report with other interesting site statistics.

Top Posts of 2013

The top posts of 2013 included several from previous years, and several that were not news stories.

  1. Michael English and Mark Lowry to Leave the Gaither Vocal Band (October 29, 2013; 13,509 views)
  2. Updates on Tracy Stuffle [Update 5] (May 21, 2013; 8,982 views)
  3. Tim Duncan Joins Canton Junction (October 7, 2011; 5,886 views during 2013)
  4. Joseph Habedank Leaves The Perrys (May 22, 2013; 4,619 views)
  5. Tim Duncan leaves Ernie Haase & Signature Sound; Ian Owens Joins (January 19, 2011; 4,609 views during 2013)
  6. Where is Glenn Dustin Now? (April 25, 2013; 4,461 views)
  7. National Quartet Convention posts 2013 Schedule (January 18, 2013; 4,380 views)
  8. An Interview with Tim Duncan (October 27, 2011; 4,302 views during 2013)
  9. Tracy Stuffle Suffers Stroke [Update 1] (January 22, 2013; 4,004 views)
  10. Gaither Vocal Band to perform 2014 tour with Phelps/Hampton/English/Gaither Lineup (October 24, 2013; 3,606 views)

Due to the mixture of posts and topics, this list doesn’t really answer the question of what were the year’s top stories.

Top News Stories of 2013

The two biggest stories of 2013 unfolded over multiple days and were covered in multiple posts. To determine the top stories, we combined the view counts on all posts in the unfolding story.

  1. Tracy Stuffle’s stroke (1 2 3 4 5) (18,653 total views)
  2. Michael English and Mark Lowry leave the Gaither Vocal Band (1 2) (17,115 total views)
  3. Joseph Habedank leaves The Perrys (4,619 views)
  4. Where is Glenn Dustin Now? (4,461 views)
  5. National Quartet Convention posts 2013 Schedule (4,380 views)
  6. Mike Holcomb Leaves The Inspirations (2,407 views)
  7. Dan Keeton Leaves Gold City (2,189 views)
  8. Shane McConnell Joins Canton Junction (2,157 views)
  9. David Ragan leaves The Inspirations (1,959 views)
  10. Debra Talley injured in fall (1,825 views)

Incidentally, these view counts do not count readers reading the post on the home page, via RSS, or via email. So they don’t measure a story’s full reach; however, home page, RSS, and email views stay steady enough that the numbers provide a valid apples-to-apples comparison, even if the numbers are similarly incomplete for each post.

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Inspirations Announce Matt Dibler on Lead, Jon Epley on Bass

Over the last couple of months, the Inspirations’ lineup was in transition. In comments made yesterday to SouthernGospelBlog.com, the Inspirations answered most of the questions by announcing that former lead singer Matt Dibler has returned to his old job, and baritone Jon Epley has officially moved to bass.

Manager/pianist Martin Cook said, “The group is going on more determined than ever to have a good time, do our absolute best, and continue the legacy of The Inspirations.”

“We are very excited about Matt returning to the group,” shared Jon Epley, “and the morale of the group has been better the last couple of weeks than it has in a long time. Great things are in store for The Inspirations, and we eagerly anticipate the future and what God has planned for the group. Change is inevitable, and rocky times are going to happen, but we are so thankful for the privilege we’ve been given to spread the Gospel through song, and will continue to do our best to be good stewards of this responsibility.”

With Epley’s move from baritone to bass, the baritone position is the only one not completely settled. Daron Osborne, who has filled in on various occasions in the past, is presently filling in.

Here’s a look at the new lineup:

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Video: The Four Gospels

Last weekend, Inspirations lead singer Steve Srein had the weekend off. So, given Mike Holcomb’s departure last week, the Inspirations filled their dates for the weekend with a rather unusual vocal lineup: Former lead singer Matt Dibler filling in on lead, tenor Mark Clark, and utility instrumentalist Luke Vaught filling in on baritone to free regular baritone Jon Epley to fill in on bass. As someone observed, it was a four-Gospels sort of vocal lineup!

Perhaps the aspect that makes these videos most worthy of mention, though, is Jon Epley’s remarkable strength as a bass singer. It’s rare, though not completely unheard of, for baritones to make a temporary or permanent move to bass. It’s incredibly rare for a singer with enough upper-end range to be able to earn a baritone job to have this sort of cut, clarity, and all-around pleasing tone at bass.

Several more videos also included significant bass parts: I’m Bound For That City, Just a Little Talk with Jesus, When I Wake Up To Sleep No More, Overwhelming Joy, and a solo on If You Only Knew.

It seems that, if they so choose, the Inspirations might have to look no further than their current baritone singer for their next bass singer.

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Mike Holcomb leaves The Inspirations

Yesterday afternoon, The Inspirations announced that long-time bass singer Mike Holcomb has left the group.

Folks, we have an announcement to make. Today, October 1st, Mike Holcomb has announced that he is resigning from The Inspirations. Mike has been singing bass for 42 years with us, and is one of the greatest bass singers to ever step on the stage. However, not only is Mike an incredible singer, but he is an amazing preachers as well! He feels that it is time for him to begin a “new season” in his life, and will be hitting the road full time in preaching and singing evangelism. We know God will use he, and his sweet wife Bavaria, in a tremendous way, but we are devastated to lose him. We love Mike and Bavaria dearly.

If you would like to book Mike Holcomb at your church, conference, or camp meeting (and we HIGHLY recommend that you do) here is his contact info: Mike and Bavaria Holcomb / “Heart’s Desire Ministries” / PO Box 1007 / Bryson City, NC 28713 / (828) 488-2025 / heartsdesiremin@frontier.com

God bless you all, and keep us all in your prayers.

For decades, Holcomb and long-time tenor Archie Watkins were the vocal anchors of the group’s sound. Add in any lead singer and baritone, but keep Watkins and Holcomb in the mix, and it was still The Inspirations. Since Watkins’ departure, Holcomb has anchored the group’s sound.

It is a bittersweet moment for many of us who have observed The Inspirations for years. Holcomb’s heart for preaching—and skill at preaching—has been unmistakable for years. While we hoped Holcomb would stay on stage until the group sang its final notes and retired, I think we all knew, deep down, that there was a chance this day would come.

The preaching circuit has gained a great preacher, but the Southern Gospel quartet circuit has lost one of its finest bass singers.

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