CD Review: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound – “Clear Skies”

CD Review: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound – “Clear Skies”

Clear Skies
Produced by Wayne Haun
StowTown Records
www.erniehaase.com
Format: CD & Digital
Release Date: January 26, 2018

Format Reviewed: Spotify

Tune-O-Meter: High

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

SONG TITLES: Clear Skies (Ernie Haase/Joel Lindsey/Wayne Haun) / Heaven Is (Lee Black/Sue C. Smith) / Give Me Jesus (Ernie Haase/Fanny Crosby/Joel Lindsey/Wayne Haun) / Sailing With Jesus (Ernie Haase/Joel Lindsey/Wayne Haun) / As For Me And My House (Karen Whitt) / Give Them All To Jesus (with the Booth Brothers) (Bob Benson, Sr/Phillip Johnson) / Long Line Of Love (Jeff Bumgardner) / Love Took His Breath Away (Ernie Haase/Joel Lindsey/Wayne Haun) / Three Men On A Mountain (Joel Lindsey/Wayne Haun) / You’ll Find Him There (Ernie Haase/Joel Lindsey/Wayne Haun) / My Hallelujah (with Voices of Lee) (Ernie Haase/Joel Lindsey/Wayne Haun) / Walking Through Fire (Devin McGlamery/Lee Black/Sue C. Smith) / Longing For Home (Ernie Haase/Joel Lindsey/Wayne Haun)

Since their inception in 2002, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound has had a knack for following the beat of their own drum. They don’t follow the “norm,” and they’re not afraid to experiment and try something different. With Clear Skies, their latest offering from StowTown Records (the label co-founded by Haase), they seem to be settling into an identifiable formula of more traditional stylings mixed with some experimentation.

On the traditional side, we have “Three Men On A Mountain,” a mellow 3/4 number that seems to call back to the Cathedrals’ “Plan of Salvation” both in content and musical stylings, and a couple bouncy quartet numbers in “As For Me And My House” and “You’ll Find Him There.” In the experimental category, we have “My Hallelujah,” an homage to modern black gospel stylings (and backed by Voices of Lee), and “Love Took His Breath Away.”

The experimenting that EHSS are often known for sometimes backfires, however. “Love Took His Breath Away” suffers from an out-of-place Spanish/Mexican musical arrangement (complete with castanets), while Haase’s vocal performance is the equivalent of musical overacting. “My Hallelujah” (backed by the Voices of Lee) fairs a little better (despite the limited lyrical value), although since I am reviewing the streaming edition, I’ve not heard the “bonus track” version that was included in the CD that I’ve been told pushes the musical boundaries a bit.

A few of the songs sound a bit too close to each other – the title track (a fine lead by newest member, Dustin Doyle) and “Sailing with Jesus” are easily interchangeable, both being a bouncy shuffle reminiscent of the classic Sesame Street theme song (in fact, the album cover seems to combine the two themes, with the group sailing under clear skies). The mid-tempo “Give Me Jesus” (based on lyrics by Fanny Crosby and released as a single in 2017) and “Give Them All To Jesus” are likewise strikingly similar in both style and title (the latter of which features an appearance by their Brotherhood Tour partners, The Booth Brothers). Even “As For Me And My House” and “You’ll Find Him There” are awfully close to each other.

The strongest songs on this collection are the ballads, something that EHSS has excelled in throughout the years, but never put much emphasis on in terms of singles/promotion. Bass Paul Harkey shows off his wide vocal range on “Long Line Of Love,” easily moving into a baritone range during his solos. Harkey is easily one of Haase’s biggest assets in the group in that respect. “Walking Through Fire” gives Devin McGlamery a strong and tasteful lead that builds into a nice crescendo (as well as a co-writing credit).

The closing number holds the distinction of being both my favorite and least favorite song on the album. I love the song, I love the arrangement, I love the backing vocals, even the lines from “Suppertime” thrown in work well, but the auto-tune on Haase’s lead vocal is so distracting at times that it takes away from the otherwise great recording (while tuning is prevelant across the album, it stood out the most on this particular song).

The production is typical Wayne Haun style. Everything is crystal clear, although the dynamic range compression (not to be confused with audio data compression) is a bit overdone at times, where some of the arrangements could’ve used a little room to breathe. The vocal arrangements are strong and often innovative, although again, the digital perfecting of tuning and phrasing is sometimes a distraction, even if subconsciously.

At 13 tracks, they probably could’ve been a bit more decisive in dropping a couple of the sound-alike tunes, but for the most part, this is what listeners have come to expect from Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. I wouldn’t call this a landmark album, but for fans of the group, it’s par for the course.

Overall
3.5 out of 5

3.5

Average
3.5 out of 5
Category CD Reviews

Kyle Boreing

Kyle has been writing for MusicScribe since 2008. He is a musician, producer, arranger, and occasional quartet singer, who pays way too much attention to recordings. He is an alumni of Stamps-Baxter School of Music and has shared the stage with many different artists. He also really likes movies that are "so bad they're good." Visit his website at www.kyleboreing.com, or follow him on Twitter @kyleboreing.

MusicScribe Comments

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4 Comments

  1. B
    Reply March 28, 12:59 #1 B

    I don’t understand where you’re getting the “tuning” from? I saw them in concert last Friday where they did about half of the songs from this project and they all sounded the same on stage (which was better by the way) as on the cd. They’re obviously not lip syncing so I’m a little confused by this review. Sure it’s not the usual Signature Sound but having not listened to them for a few years, brought me back to their music. Friends of mine who don’t even listen to Christian music loved them and this album. I would have given this a 4.5 or at least a 4.0.




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    • Kyle Boreing
      Reply March 28, 13:11 Kyle Boreing Author

      I’m referring to auto-tuning on the vocals, which can lead to an overly-robotic sound if too prevelant on a recording. It’s a very common practice in studio recording, but one that is often overly used. It has nothing to do with live performances or lip-syncing.




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  2. disneygator
    Reply March 29, 23:29 #2 disneygator

    I’m pretty sure you missed the point of this album…. Which is how an album or group of songs affect the listener. And when I listened to it this week for the first time, and second and third and fourth, it was exactly what I needed for the place that I’m in. It was like this album was written for me for this time.

    As for the autotune on Longing for Home, I just cranked it on my studio reference speakers…and I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I think I heard one flip that was autotuned, though the average listener would miss it. Everything else was pretty clean….and I like to think I have good ears when it comes to that stuff. I’ve been in the studio enough to know what it sounds like.

    The style of Love Took His Breath is not Mexican in style. It has a spanish (from Spain) guitar in it, but it was combined with symphony in minor overtones to give it a Mediterranean/MiddleEastern feel. I’ve used that effect on a track before – oddly enough for a song about the cross. As for the musical overacting comment…. wow.

    I thought this album was excellent. But I am a big fan of his style of keeping the Cats traditional stuff alive while pushing SG to the next level. The Cathedrals were a lot like that, though most will deny it. Sure they had the traditional stuff, but they also pushed the envelope on the albums of Symphony of Praise and Jesus Saves and others.

    If there’s anything I love in SG Music, it’s “flavor”. And Ernie ALWAYS delivers on flavor.




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  3. David Bruce Murray
    Reply April 01, 23:01 #3 David Bruce Murray

    My rating for this recording is 4 Stars.

    There’s a lot to like, but it’s also VERY scattered in terms of musical styles. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just what it is.

    I’m not as bothered as Kyle by vocal tuning, but so far, I’ve only heard the streaming version via Spotify on my laptop’s rather inferior speakers. I might notice it more if I were to listen to the CD on my studio monitors.




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