CD Review: Give It Away (Gaither Vocal Band)

RATING: 4 1/2 Stars

Title: Give It Away
Artist: Gaither Vocal Band
Label: Gaither Music Group
Producers: Bill Gaither, Michael Sykes, and Gaither Vocal Band

Song Titles: “Bread Upon The Water,” “I Catch ‘Em, God Cleans ‘Em,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “I’ll Tell It Wherever I Go,” “My Journey To The Sky,” “Through,” “Glorious Impossible,” “Worthy The Lamb,” “Eagle Song,” “Love Can Turn The World,” “Child Forgiven,” “Why Me,” “I Will Go On,” “Place Called Hope,” and “Give It Away”

The promo material that came with Give It Away had a heading that read Bill Gaither Thinks New Gaither Vocal Band CD May Be Their Best Yet. It’s true that it’s an excellent CD compared to most recordings by vocal groups both inside and outside Southern Gospel, but I think Gaither is kidding himself if he really believes it’s the best GVB release ever. Not to go overboard breaking down his meaning, I did notice he used the word “may.” Fair enough. I suppose it MAY be their best, but looking over my stack of GVB CDs dating back to A Few Good Men and the original Homecoming release, I only see a couple I’ll probably listen to less than Give It Away in the future.

The last “normal” studio release from the GVB came in the fall of 2002 (Everything Good), so fans should be chomping at the bit for Give It Away. They get their money’s worth with fifteen songs that come up less than a minute shy of being a full hour of music.

Ten of the fifteen songs on Give It Away have been recorded previously. Two were first popularized by the Imperials (“Bread Upon The Water” and “Eagle Song”). “Bread Upon The Water” has been updated a bit with more complex vocal harmonies on the chorus. Two songs are from circa 1949 and employ the same vocal arrangements as the Jordanaires‘ originals (“My Journey To The Sky” and “I’ll Tell It Wherever I Go”). Marshall Hall takes the lead for a slowed down version of the classic children’s song, “Jesus Loves Me.” Guy Penrod is featured on Kris Kristofferson‘s weathered “Why Me.” Two tracks are self-remakes for Gaither (“Worthy The Lamb” and “I Will Go On”). It’s expected that a GVB recording will include a couple of classic Gaither songs, but I was glad to see them deliver some lesser known tunes this time rather than doing the fortieth version of “He Touched Me” or “The King Is Coming.”

Two remakes on Give It Away have more recent sources. The first is Guy Penrod’s take on Gordon Mote‘s “I Catch ‘Em, God Cleans ‘Em” from 2005. The other is a worship song co-written and originally performed by Carl Cartee (also in 2005) called “Glorious Impossible.” It has the potential to re-open doors for the GVB on contemporary Christian radio, and may be the best cut on this CD.

Original material on Give It Away includes “Through,” a dynamic Guy Penrod feature with light piano and strings for accompaniment. “Love Can Turn The World” features a jungle beat (think The Lion King, not hip-hop) and a children’s choir from Africa. “Child Forgiven” is one of two driving Country songs on the CD…”I Catch ‘Em, God Cleans ‘Em” being the other. A slower tune called “Place Called Hope” is positioned near the end of the CD. (It’s not the Michael English song.) The CD then concludes with the mid-tempo “Give It Away,” with the GVB joined on vocals by their tour-mates, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound.

I will spare tenor singer Wes Hampton the obvious comparisons to previous tenor David Phelps who he replaced in 2005. I will compare him to Phelps’ predecessor Jonathan Pierce, though, by saying I prefer Pierce’s version of “I’ll Tell It Wherever I Go,” but Hampton still does a great job with the song. Hampton’s voice compliments complements Guy Penrod’s and Marshall Hall’s, and he proves on songs like “Bread Upon The Water” that he can hear and sing tight harmonies.

Despite its bulk and consistently excellent vocals and production quality, the songs on Give It Away are all over the place musically and thematically. All these songs are great individually, but do they go together? No. “Why Me,” “I’ll Tell It Wherever I Go,” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonig…er…I mean…”Love Can Turn The World” are from totally different musical worlds. It’s like you’re hearing parts of three or four different projects. In the final analysis, we have a recording that comes across as less than the sum of its parts. It’s a significant enough flaw to knock off a half star from what would otherwise be a five star recording.

Category CD Reviews

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

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5 Comments

  1. Josh Parker
    Reply February 06, 16:40 #1 Josh Parker

    See http://www.xanga.com/BigRedDaddy for my review. I think I liked it more than you did, but I’m a dyed-in-the-wool GVB fan.

  2. Ken Church
    Reply July 10, 08:19 #2 Ken Church

    I too am a devoted GVB fan. I first bought “Give It Away” this for my wife and then a good friend.This summer I really had time to listen to it and I love it. I like the variety. It is not “sleepy” like some Southern Gospel. It reminds me a lot of the projects by Cook, Dixon, and Young who celebrate many musical styles in their projects. I am a great jazz and blues fan and the GVB arrangements of “Jesus Loves Me” and “I’ll Tell It Whereever I Go” takes me to The Delta! Thanks, Bill Gaither for having the courage to showcase such great music and for putting together another terrific quartet! You are a treasure and not just in Christian Music circles. By the way, when is someone going to push for Bill and Gloria Gaither to be honored at The Kennedy Center or The Presidential Medal of Freedom? They deserve it.

  3. Tom
    Reply September 13, 09:01 #3 Tom

    Strange, I have thought about that several times as for the Kennedy Honors. Does the committee even recognize SG as a legit genre?

    As for the GVB best, I still listen to Loving God, Lovin’ Each Other asthe best I have heard but am looking forward to this most recent offering.

  4. Susie
    Reply August 12, 21:10 #4 Susie

    If you are going to write reviews, learn the difference between “complement” and “compliment.”

  5. David Bruce Murray
    Reply August 13, 00:00 #5 David Bruce Murray

    Thanks,
    I actually know the difference, but sometimes my fingers don’t listen to my brain.

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