Produced by Gerald Wolfe & Trey Ivey
Release Date: August 4, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
SONG TITLES: There Is Hope (Chris Allman/Rodney Griffin) – Still (Rodney Griffin) – Rolled Back Stone (Lee BLack/Dianne Wilkinson) – I Believe It All (Janice Crow) – God Doesn’t Care (Chris Allman) – His Grave Wrote The Song (Rodney Griffin) – Jesus Stood (Rodney Griffin) – Forgiven By The Lord (Chris Allman) – Common Garments (Rodney Griffin) – All The Above (Babbie Mason/Rodney Griffin) – Nothing To See (Rodney Griffin/Marcia Henry) – The Gospel (Chris Allman)
Earlier this year, Gerald Wolfe announced that, due to ongoing vocal issues, Greater Vision was hiring Jon Epley on baritone and shifting the lead vocals to Rodney Griffin, while Wolfe would remain the group’s manager, producer/arranger, and on-stage pianist (with the occasional live vocal feature as he was able). With the release of Still, Greater Vision marks Epley’s studio debut as a member of the trio.
The album kicks off with “There Is Hope,” which features tenor singer, Chris Allman, on lead vocals backed by a mid-tempo country flavor. This country sound seems to flow throughout the album, including “Common Garments,” “Rolled Back Stone,” and “His Grave Wrote The Song,” a fine lead for Epley, whose strong baritone vocals fit with the country sound quite well.
Griffin, officially taking on the lead vocal role, really shines throughout this album, especially on ballads such as the title cut and “Jesus Stood.” I would hope to see his name mentioned in coming years among favorite lead singer nominees. Likewise, Allman turns in some stellar tenor vocals, whether it be on the moving “God Doesn’t Care,” or the bouncy “Forgiven By The Lord,” the latter of which would make a good single choice.
In the liner notes for the album, particular attention was given to the fact that Allman, Griffin, and Epley are the vocalists of the group. Wolfe doesn’t entirely disappear vocally, however; he provides a recitation at the beginning of “The Gospel,” which leans more on the gospel power ballad sound that Greater Vision (and Wolfe in particular) has become known for.
There are a couple “filler” songs in this collection; “I Believe It All” and “All The Above” sound somewhat similar in both style and content, with the former in particular sounding like a remake of “He’d Still Be God.” At 12 tracks total, these two songs could’ve probably been left off the final product and still given consumers a full album.
In terms of production, right off the bat, I noticed a tighter sound overall. The vocal blend is a bit smoother with Epley on board, and the arrangements and tracks are likewise cleaner and fuller than the last couple GV projects. I attribute this to the fact that the album was co-produced by Wolfe and one of his proteges, former Legacy Five pianist Trey Ivey, who is really coming into his own as a producer. In particular, the orchestrations by Ivey and Cody McVey are tasteful without being overdone and well-mixed with the rest of the tracks.
Greater Vision has admittedly been one of the most consistent groups in southern gospel music. They’ve seen very little turnover in their almost 30 years in existence, and the majority of their songs come from their own publishing house (usually by the pen of Griffin and/or Allman). This has worked in their favor for the most part, but on the last couple projects I’ve reviewed, it’s been a bit of a hindrance, in that they were starting to all run together. The addition of Epley, as a vocalist and bringing in Trey Ivey to co-produce has been a step in a new direction, giving the trio a fresh sound, and in my opinion, one of their strongest albums.
And yet, as the album title indicates, this is still Greater Vision.