Thursday, June 27, 2013


The Cathedrals began as a trio comprised of Glen Payne, Bobby Clark, and Danny Koker in 1963.  Evangelist Rex Humbard hired them on to accompany him at his services at The Cathedral of Tomorrow in Ohio.  In 1964 bass singer George Younce joined what became The Cathedral Quartet.  In 1969 they broke off on their own.  They appeared on the Gospel Singing Jubilee tv show and at Bill Gaither’s Praise Gathering in Indianapolis, TN.  This gave the quartet more exposure and put them in demand.  The quartet was a favourite on the Gaither Homecoming videos in the 1990’s.  In 2012 StowTown Records released the cd THE CATHEDRALS LIVE IN CHICAGO.   It was recorded live at Moody Memorial Church in Chicago on March 16, 1996.  The group’s roster at the time was the same from 1991 until their farewell in 1999. 

The Cathedrals are introduced by Moody Radio personality Chris Fabry.  ‘O Come Along’ penned by Dianne Wilkinson, is the first song performed.  It is a happy song that features pianist Roger Bennett tickling the ivories: “Oh, come along with me and go to that land/Where milk and honey flow so free/God has prepared that city with His own hand/And there’s a mansion waiting me/We’ll spend the endless ages praising His Name/As we sing redemption’s song/Oh, we’ll be leaving just any day/Suddenly called away/Don’t stay behind, oh, come along.”  ‘Step into the Water’ penned by former group member Kirk Talley, is one of the most popular Cathedrals songs of all time.  Some may not like its militant lyrics: “It’s time we the people stand up for what is right/It’s time we squared our shoulders back and raised our swords to fight/For the Bible is my weapon and the Spirit is my shield/The Church needs more of its members to be workers in the field.”

George Younce affectionately jokes about lead singer Glen Payne being an ‘old man.’  Payne had been in full time music ministry for 52 years at the time!  ‘Your Blesser ain’t never Been Blessed’ has a cool, relaxed sound to it: “When the saints begin to gather just to sing about the Savior/It’s a blessed time for me/You really know you’re livin’, it’s the closest thing to heaven/Hear that old-time harmony/When the singers get inspired and the tenor sings up higher/And the bass goes lower than the rest/If you haven’t ever listened to an old-time singing/Then your blesser ain’t never been blessed.”  Adger M. Pace and JT Cook wrote ‘The Heavenly Parade’, a song dating back to 1937.  Here we have a fast paced acapella version of it.  Lyrically, it offers spiritual motivation for those who are weary: “Our traveling days will soon be over here/And we shall cross the rolling tide/For we are down here for just a little while/Our home is on the other side/Ambassadors true for Jesus our Redeemer/And it’s a love crusade/For right against wrong/But soon we’ll join the throng in Heaven when the saints parade.”

Stuart Hamblen wrote the lively song ‘This Ole House’ in 1954.  It reminds us that this physical life we live is only temporary and greater things are to come: “Ain’t gonna need this house no longer/Ain’t gonna need this house no more/Ain’t got time to fix the shingles/Ain’t got time to fix the floor/Ain’t got time to oil the hinges/Nor to mend the window pane/Ain’t gonna need this house no longer/I’m getting ready to meet the saints.”  The Cathedrals even break into ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’  ‘Life Will Be Sweeter Some Day’ was penned by Luther G. Presley.  It is a slower paced number featuring talented harmonica player Buddy Greene.  The song shares the hopes so many Christians have for eternity: “Don’t you know I’m gonna sing, sing/With the angels above?/I’m gonna talk, talk/To the ones that I love/I’m gonna tell Him/About my troubles/After awhile, after awhile.”

Marvin P. Dalton wrote ‘Oh, What a Savior’ in 1948.  This powerful ballad spotlights tenor Ernie Haase: “Once I was straying in sin’s dark valley/No hope within could I see/Oh, but they searched through heaven/And they found a Savior/To save a poor lost soul like me/O what a Savior, O hallelujah!/His heart was broken on Calvary/His hands were nail scarred/His side was riven/He gave His life-blood for even me.”  ‘Jesus Saves’ features baritone Scott Fowler.  The song admits that not everyone is excited about the Gospel message: “But the world still tells us daily that God is not alive/And salvation’s plan is just a fairy tale/But their lies don’t change the truth that Jesus died for you/And the Word says His returning could happen any day.”  ‘I Thirst’ by Beverly Lowry is a reverent song that reflects on Christ’s time on the cross: “He said ‘I thirst’/Yet He made the rivers/He said ‘I thirst’/Yet He made the sea/’I thirst’ said the King of the ages/In His great thirst/He brought water to me.” 

‘Because He Lives’ written by Bill and Gloria Gaither is a wonderful song of hope we sang during my grandfather’s  burial: “God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus/He came to love, heal, and forgive/He bled and died to buy my pardon/An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives/Because He lives I can face tomorrow/Because He lives, all fear is gone/Because I know He holds the future/And life is worth the living/Just because He lives.”

At this point in the concert, pianist Roger Bennett gives a testimony.  In August of 1995 he was diagnosed with leukemia.  He felt as if life had stopped.  He began praying that God would heal him so he’d have a great testimony.  God showed him though to praise Him even while he was sick and going through chemo.  The Bible says God is with us as we go through the valley of the shadow of death.  At the time of this 1996 concert Roger’s leukemia was in remission, but he had made peace  with the fact that it could come back.  The Cathedrals proceed to sing a song Roger and his wife Debbie wrote (‘Don’t Be Afraid’) a year and a half before they found out Roger had cancer.  Here are some of the words: “The disciples were tossed on a cold, raging sea/But Jesus was sleeping so peacefully/They cried, ‘Master, don’t you care that we die?’/He spoke three soft words, ‘Peace, be still’/It was the storm that had to die.”  Appropriately the last song performed is an acapella version of William Cowper’s ‘There is a Fountain.’

I’m rating THE CATHEDRALS LIVE IN CHICAGO 90%.  They are one of the best quartets of all time and really put on a good show balanced with humour and sincerity.  It’s hard to believe three of the five group members on this recording are deceased (Payne, Younce, and Bennett).  What a legacy they left though!  Visit:,, and


Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Michael English was born on April 12, 1962 in Kenansville, North Carolina.  Over the years he has been a member of The Singing Samaritans, The Singing Americans, The Goodmans, and The Gospel Couriers.  He is currently a member of The Gaither Vocal Band.  His debut solo disc which was self-titled won two Dove Awards for him in 1992 for Male Vocalist and New Artist of the Year.  In 1994 he confessed to having an affair with Marabeth Jordan of First Call, a group that was touring with him.  She suffered a miscarriage.  English divorced and tried his hand in mainstream music.  He recorded the duet ‘Healing’ with Wynonna Judd.  Later, his cover of John Berry’s 1994 hit ‘Your Love Amazes Me’ did well.  Eventually English would return to Christian music. He also remarried.  SOME PEOPLE CHANGE (2012, Curb Records) is his eighth solo album.

The album begins with an upbeat country number ‘I Ain’t Givin’ Up on Jesus’.  CCM vet Chris McHugh plays drums, and banjo and fiddle are also  used.  This song makes it clear where Michael places his faith: “Hard times can make a grown man cry/Some folks wanna cuss their Maker/I say just give Him time/I ain’t givin’ up on Jesus/He ain’t never give up on me/Ain’t nothin’ gonna come between us/I ain’t givin’ up on Jesus.”  ‘Come to the River’ features Michael’s vocal hero and former Imperial, Russ Taff.  This song has an old time gospel feel.  It is an invitation to be spiritually rejuvenated: “You weary soldier with battered shield/Come bathe your wounds and you will be healed/Your heart renewed and your hope restored/Just go under the water and thirst no more/Come wash in the river/Come drink your fill/Let healing waters/Bear away your guilt/Lay down your burdens/On that beautiful shore/Come wash in the river/Come be reborn.”  ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus’ was penned in 1939 by Rhea Miller and George Shea.  Michael delivers a moving version of it here, with Charlie Judge on strings.  The song describes our Saviour as a priceless treasure: “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold/I’d rather have Him than have riches untold/I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands/I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand/Than to be the king of a vast domain/And be held in sin’s dread sway/I’d rather have Jesus than anything/This world affords today.”

Neil Thrasher, Jason Sellers, and Michael Dulaney wrote the mid-tempo country song ‘Some People Change’.  What a wonderful title track!  It is a story song about the evils of racism and alcoholism.  It encourages relatives of those trapped in sin not to give up on their loved ones: “Thank God for those who made it/Let them be the Light/Here’s to the strong; thanks to the brave/Don’t give up hope, some people change/Against all odds, against the grain/Love finds a way, some people change.”  ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’ features super talented vocalist Crystal Lewis.  It is a groovy song with horns and saxophones.  It is about the power of romantic love: “When the river was deep, I didn’t falter/When the mountain was high, I still believed/When the valley was low, it didn’t stop me, no/I knew you were waiting/I knew you were waiting for me/With an endless desire/I kept on searching/Sure in time our eyes would meet.”

‘On That Great Day’ is a mellow track featuring The Martins.  It looks forward with anticipation to the glorious future awaiting us as believers: “We’ll meet at the river/We’ll be delivered of every chain/Down into the water/Children, mothers, and fathers in His sweet Name/To drown all our sins/And come up again forever changed/Never to return/To the people we were before that great day/We will patiently wait ‘til we see His face.”  A creative remake of Michael’s signature song from 1991 ‘In Christ Alone’ follows.  Ilya Toshinskiy plays acoustic guitar, Kenny Greenberg and Sean Neff play electric, and harp is also used.  The lyrics point to Jesus as the only reason to boast: “In Christ alone/I place my trust/And find my glory/In the power of the cross/In every victory/Let it be said of me/My source of strength/My source of hope/Is Christ alone.”

A new imagining of the old gospel classic ‘I Wouldn’t take nothing for my Journey’ (1964) for a younger audience, is up next.  Harmonica, fiddle, and dobro are used, while Gaither Vocal Band members Mark Lowry, David Phelps, and Wes Hampton lend vocals.  This is a song of gratitude: “There’s nothing in the world that’ll ever take the place of God’s love/Silver and gold could never buy a mighty touch from above/When my soul needs healing and I begin to feeling His power/I can say ‘Thank the Lord, I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.```  Jennie Lee Riddle and Michael Farren wrote `Waking Up the Dawn` which finds Michael in CCM territory.  It is a song of celebration: ``With the yearning for our King to come/Every tribe and tongue with a voice of one/Hear the melodies of hearts in love/Arise and shine one and all/We’re waking up the dawn/Soon the sun will never set again/All our sorrows will finally end/With the waking of the dawn (2X).”  ‘Stubborn (Psalm 15)’ is a mighty fine CCM ballad that finds Michael struggling with the devil: “There’s a molecule of faith in this room/What they used to call a mustard seed/There’s a molecule of faith in this room/And a book that says that’s all I’ll ever need/I don’t know where it is, but I hope I find it soon/’Cause nothing else will ever set me free/There’s a molecule of faith in this room/And even though it’s much too small to see/If I have the courage to believe/I’ll find the One who left it here for me.”  As a special bonus cut, Michael covers ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ (1949) by Hank Williams.  It is a sad tune: “Did you ever see a robin weep/When leaves begin to die?/That means he’s lost the will to live/I’m so lonesome I could cry/The silence of a falling star/Lights up a purple sky/And as I wonder where you are/I’m so lonesome I could cry.”

SOME PEOPLE CHANGE finds Michael’s voice in fine form.  It is an album of great maturity and depth.  Fans of Guy Penrod, Russ Taff, and Clay Crosse will enjoy it.  Michael is one of my all time favourite male vocalists.  You can catch him live at Church on the Queensway this New Year’s Eve.  I’m rating SOME PEOPLE CHANGE 90%.  It was mainly produced by Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts.  Visit for more info.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Psalm 104:33 reads: “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;/I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.”  In 2000 The Watchmen released the album WHAT KIND OF CHURCH recorded at Sound on Sound Recording Studio in Kitchener, Ontario.  At this time the group members were: Doug Jones (lead), Tim Harden (tenor), Dave Yake (bass), Dave Jantzi (baritone), and Brian Winger (pianist).

The album begins with ‘We Represent the King’ which has a cheerful sound and an evangelistic message: “Hear ye, hear ye, people of all nations/We have all been called to spread the Word/To tell the whole world of His mercy and His love/So they might come to know the Master that we serve/Oh, we represent the King, He’s the reason that we sing/The life we live is dedicated to His majesty/From His mighty throne He rules by grace alone/We’re here to praise His Name in everything/We represent the King.”  ‘Arise My Love’ is an inspiring ballad about the resurrection of Christ: “Sin, where are your shackles?/Death, where is your sting?/Hell has been defeated/The grave could not hold the King/Arise my love, arise my love/The grave no longer has a hold on you/No more death’s sting, no more suffering/Arise, arise, arise.”

‘I Will Build My Church’ penned by Tim Harden, has as its subject matter the Bride of Christ: “A shining light for you and a beacon clear/Over the years O Lord, you’ve seen our joy, our tears/Come fill our hearts anew with holy awe/As we exalt and lift Jesus high, Your people draw/And He said, ‘I will build My church, I will make it strong/I will manifest My glory as you worship and share My story/Yes, I will build My church.”   ‘What Kind of Church’, the title track, is an upbeat, introspective Southern Gospel number: “How many times have I said I loved Jesus but turned a deaf ear to a need?/How many times have I said I’m a Christian but never one soul did I lead?/How many luxuries have I passed by to have more to give to the Lord?/Jesus I promise as long as I live from now on, I’m gonna do more/I wonder what kind of church would my church be if every member was just like me?/How many souls would be saved today/If it all depended on what I say?” 

The familiar gospel song ‘In the Presence of Jehovah’ is next.  It is about finding one’s refuge and sense of belonging in Father God: “Through His love the Lord provided a place for us to rest/A place to find the answers in the hour of distress/Now there’s never any reason/For you to give up in despair/Just slip away and breathe His Name/He will surely meet you there/In the presence of Jehovah/God Almighty, Prince of Peace/Troubles vanish, hearts are mended/In the presence of the King.”  ‘Once in Every Life’ written by Brian Winger, is a song that lovingly calls out to those who are spiritually lost: “Once in every life we must realize that there’s a choice for all eternity/O come to Him today/Please don’t delay/This chance may never come again my friend/Won’t you let Him in, Christ the sinner’s friend?/God’s own priceless treasure given at Calvary.”

‘City of Gold’ has an upbeat country feel to it and looks forward to the eternal home we as believers will dwell in: “There will be no more sorrow, pain, sickness, or death/And the saints they will never grow old/How I long for that city.../Where the sun never sets/And the leaves never fade/And the righteous forever will shine, shine like the stars/In that beautiful city of gold.”  ‘When the World Looks at Me’ is a ballad about living with a sure purpose: “I want my life to be a light to those around me/I want my life to be a roadmap that says home/I want my life to be a beacon on life’s raging sea/I want the world to see Jesus when they look at me.”

‘Out of His Great Love’ is a short, catchy ditty about God’s love, care, and salvation.  ‘Great, Great Morning’ is however this album’s shortest track at 1:39.  The song equates earthly faithfulness to God with eternal rewards: “O  it’s a great, great morning your first day in heaven when you stroll down the golden avenue/There are mansions left and right and you thrill at every sight/And the saints are always smilin’ sayin’ ‘How do you do?’/O it’s a great, great morning your first day in heaven/When you realize your worryin’ days are through/You’ll be glad you were not idle/You took time to read your Bible/It’s a great, great morning for you.”

The album’s longest track runs 6:29.  It is a decent cover of Ray Boltz’s 1986 classic story song ‘Watch the Lamb’.  The song tells the story of Simon, the man made to carry Jesus’ cross for Him before the crucifixion.  It is an emotional song.  Here are some of the lyrics: “And someone said ‘There’s Jesus’/I scarce believed my eyes/A man so badly beaten He was barely still alive/Blood poured from His body, from the thorns upon His brow/It was running down the cross He bore and spilling on the ground.”  ‘I Love to Tell the Story’ is a happy hymn: “I love to tell the story, t’will be my theme in glory/To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.”

The Watchmen say: “It is the deep desire of the group to minister to and for the Lord first, and then to provide good Christian entertainment as well.”  WHAT KIND OF CHURCH is on the traditional side and features great instrumentation.  The musicians are: Brian Winger (keyboards), Dave Lonsbury (guitar), George Lonsbury Jr. (bass), and Dale Lonsbury (drums).  The album is well produced and fans of the 100 Huntley Street Trio should enjoy the vocals.  I’m rating it 84%.  For more info and to purchase visit:


Wednesday, June 05, 2013


The Watchmen began their ministry in 1968 as a group of friends wanting to sing for a talent contest sponsored by Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener, Ontario.  Their latest recording is HALLELUJAH (2008).  The CD booklet lists seven men as being part of the group at the time.  Tim Harden (tenor) pastored ten years at Sauble Christian Fellowship and is now at Rosebank BIC.  Doug Jones (lead) joined the group about a year after it began and has been involved in selling Canadian solid wood furniture in Markham.  Dave Jantzi (baritone) pastors at Glenridge Bible Church.  Filling out the group at the time of this recording were: Dave Yake (bass), Brian Winger (piano/keys), Nick Succi (bass guitar), and Dave Roth (audio tech).

This album begins with ‘Heaven’ which is an upbeat track that looks forward to the eternal home of believers in Christ: “Now when I feel discouraged and my burdens get me down/I’ll pray till I touch heaven/Now my feet are on higher ground/Heaven, had a little taste of heaven, had a little touch of heaven, had a little glimpse of heaven/Wanna go where the milk and honey flow/No more sorrow, pain, or woe/Had a little taste of heaven and I wanna go there.”  ‘Had it not Been’ reverently reflects on the atonement: “Had it not been for a place called Mount Calvary/Had it not been for the old rugged cross/Had it not been for a man called Jesus/Then forever my soul would be lost.”

‘My Name is Lazarus’ is a peppy song about the miracle working power of our God: “My name is Lazarus, could I testify?/My name is Lazarus, feels good to be alive/When I in chains of death was bound this man named Jesus called me out/If you think your little problem is too big for Him to solve, take it from the one who’s heard the mighty voice of God/A living testimony of His death defying touch/My name is Lazarus.”  ‘I am Redeemed’ reveals a God who actively pursues and changes us for the better: “I was a slave in a foreign land/So very far from the Father’s loving hand/He rescued me one glorious day/He brought me out and paid the debt I could not pay/I am redeemed, I am redeemed/Jesus loosed the chains of sin and set me free/I am redeemed, I am redeemed/Jesus loosed the chains of sin and set me free.”

‘Loving God, Loving Each Other’ is a pretty ballad that boils Christianity down to two basics: “We tend to make it harder, build steeples out of stone/Fill books with explanations of the way/If we’ll stop and listen and break a little bread/We will hear the Master say/’Loving God, loving each other/Making music with my friends/Loving God, loving each other/And the story never ends.’”  ‘Grace and Glory’ is a hand-clapper and toe-tapper that speaks of the gratitude of those God redeems: “There’s splendor for the sinner saved by God’s amazing grace/There’s glory in their story as they run this pilgrim race/They spend their days to give their praises to the Lord and King/Till the work is done they’ll serve the One who gave them everything.”

‘I Will Glory in the Cross’ is a mellow ballad that should humble us all spiritually: “I boast not of works, nor tell of good deeds/For naught have I done to merit His grace/All glory and praise shall rest upon Him/So willing to die in my place/I will glory in the cross, in the cross/Lest His suffering all be in vain/I will weep no more for the cross that He bore/But I will glory in the cross.”  ‘Try Jesus’ speaks of the faithful and reliable nature of God: “If you ever need a healer when the doctor walks away, friend, try Jesus/If you never thought you’d have the strength to face another day, try Jesus/If you ever needed someone to walk with you to the end, try Jesus/And if you ever need to hear the words ‘I forgive you’ again/Try Jesus.”

‘Hallelujah Chorus’ joyfully declares that Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, and that He will reign forever over His Kingdom.  This familiar song of praise is no doubt where this album’s title comes from.  ‘Haven of Rest’ calls us all to find refuge, security, and salvation in Christ: “I yielded myself to His tender embrace/In my faith I took hold of His Word/My fetters fell off and I anchored my soul/The haven of rest is my Lord/Oh, come to the Saviour, He patiently waits to save by His power divine/Anchor your soul in the haven of rest/And say my Beloved is mine.”  A beautiful instrumental version of Andrae Crouch’s ‘My Tribute’ showcasing Brian Winger on piano is included as a bonus track on the CD.
HALLELUJAH presents a clear Gospel message and features great harmonies.  Fans of the Torchmen and the Nations Quartet should pick this album up.  Since this recording Brian Winger retired from the group.  Don McNiven, who is Executive Director of the International BIC Association, is the new pianist.  Also, Dave Yake had to depart due to health issues.  Roy Lewis from Belfast, Northern Ireland now sings bass.  You can catch The Watchmen live on July 27/13 at 7pm at Stayner Missionary Camp.  Visit  I'm rating HALLELUJAH 87%.