During the 1990s and 2000s, it was common for a half dozen Gaither video titles or more to be released per year. The frequency has diminished considerably since 2011, the last year more than two titles were released in a single year. 2018 adds A Few Good Men and Country Roots And Gospel Favorites to the collection. For these, the Gaither Vocal Band is joined by country music legends, the Oak Ridge Boys and the Gatlin Brothers, and for good measure, A Few Good Men adds a song by the Hoppers (“Be An Overcomer”) as well as a solo spot for Kim Hopper on “Life’s Railway To Heaven.” Each DVD clocks in at approximately 90 minutes.
Before I get to the content, there’s a technical detail I’d like to mention. When all twelve men are singing at the same time and the video editor chooses a close shot of a singer, the audio editor has emphasized that particular singer’s voice (just slightly) in the mix. Attention to detail is a wonderful thing.
“I’ll Fly Away,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “Loving God, Loving Each Other,” “Life’s Railway To Heaven,” “A Few Good Men,” and “He Touched Me” are ensemble songs where all three groups participate. Larry Gatlin steps out for a solo on “Life’s Railway” followed by Kim Hopper. “You Happened To Me” features the Gatlins and the Oaks together. As individual groups, the GVB and Gatlins are each featured on six more songs over the two DVDs, while the Oaks are featured on five. Duane Allen also sings a verse on “Sheltered In The Arms Of God.”
The selection of songs are mostly gospel, as you’d expect. The Oaks detour into country for “Elvira,” naturally, while the Gatlin Brothers add “Houston” and “All The Gold In California.” I had expected a performance of “Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored,” since the opening notes of that song were influenced by “All The Gold.” It’s possible they recorded it at this session, but if so, it didn’t make the final edit.
It’s also worth noting that each of these DVDs includes one song from the upcoming studio CD by the Oaks (17th Avenue Revival, releasing March 16). “A Brand New Star” is found on A Few Good Men while the beloved Rhea F. Miller/George Beverly Shea hymn “I’d Rather Have Jesus” appears on Country Roots And Gospel Favorites.
Between songs, we’re treated to scenes from the museum at Gaither Studios, vintage photos, reminiscing, a touching Ben Speer tribute, and more. Also, let me say this particular line-up of the Gaither Vocal Band may end up being the most under-rated version in the history of the group. They lack the star power of the Penrod/Phelps and English/Lowry line-ups, but they’re doing some very compelling singing of some not-so simple arrangements.
Some mistakes are left in the finished product. On “Elvira,” for example, several guys including Bonsall (who has the melody), start singing another full chorus as the song is transitioning to the tag. On “I’ll Fly Away,” the camera has Steve Gatlin in a close-up shot when he’s singing the wrong words. Stuff like this just adds an element of authenticity.
About the only thing missing from these DVDs is a creative quartet combining members of different groups in the room. Imagine an arrangement featuring Bill Gaither, William Lee Golden, Larry Gatlin, and Connie Hopper. You won’t get that, but just about anything else you’d want or expect can be found on these two DVDs.
Producer: Bill Gaither
A Few Good Men Song Titles: Life’s Railway To Heaven; Heartbreak Ridge And New Hope Road; Heart O’ Mine; Elvira; A Few Good Men; You Happened To Me; He Touched Me; All The Gold In California; Dig A Little Deeper In God’s Love; Be An Overcomer; I’d Rather Have Jesus; I Can Build Another House; There’s Always A Place At The Table; We Have This Moment, Today
Country Roots And Gospel Favorites Song Titles: I’ll Fly Away; Prodigal Son; A Brand New Star; Hallelujah Band; Rest In You Tonight; Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer To You); Jesus Loves Me; Thank God For Kids; Chain Breaker; Loving God, Loving Each Other; Sheltered In The Arms Of God
A Few Good Men Rating: 5 Stars
Country Roots and Gospel Favorites Rating: 5 Stars