Based out of Ontario, Canada, The Torchmen Quartet has been singing Southern Gospel music for well over four decades. They also perform in and are respected in the United States. I remember seeing them live in concert at a Tillsonburg Hymn Sing back in the 1980’s. The group’s current roster is: Sandy MacGregor (tenor), Jeff Tritton (lead), Mike Moran (baritone), and Jon Hisey (bass). Their latest recording is RUN THROUGH THE GATES (2015). The tracks were recorded at Daywind Studios in Hendersonville, TN, while the vocals were recorded at Grant Avenue Studios in Hamilton, ON. Michael Booth says: “I believe all who hear this CD will walk away energized and encouraged. Something we are all in need of”.
The album opens with ‘Good News’, an upbeat Southern Gospel song written by James Tomen of Nations Quartet fame. It testifies to God’s faithfulness: “There’s one thing that picks me up/It never seems to fail/It’s the good news of my Jesus’ love and it ain’t no fairytale/Good news, oh my Jesus is the same/Good news, He hears me when I pray, when I pray/Good news, on Him I can depend/He said He would never leave me/He’d be with me to the end”. ‘Shout and Shine’ is the shortest song at just two minutes. It is a real toe-tapper that looks forward to life in Heaven: ”Many, my loved ones, my neighbours’ll be there/In Heaven I’ll shout and shine/I’m gonna shout, gonna shine/In that city of Love divine/Over there, free from care/With the saints I’ll shout and shine”. ‘He’s All I Need’ is a quiet song that reminds us Christ is all-sufficient: “He’s all I need, I dare not turn to any other/For He’s a Friend, a friend who’s closer than any brother/And on this Friend I can rely to be my strength as life goes by/And He’s the Lord of all/And He’s all I need/He comforts me when I’m weary, He eases every pain/Fills my deepest longing time and again”.
‘He’s Made A Change’ is one of two Jim Brady songs on this album. This one is a country gospel ballad offering these words of testimony: “He made a change in my soul/He made a change/When I was stumbling down sin’s road He turned me around/Now I am standing on solid ground and I am Heaven bound/I am so glad He made a change down deep in my soul”. Bass vocalist Jon Hisey takes the lead on the title track, which is Rebecca Peck’s ‘Run Through the Gates’. It has a happy, Jewish feel to it musically and again anticipates eternal life: “I’m gonna move past the walls of purest jasper/My feet will barely touch upon the golden streets/Till I’m kneelin’ in the presence of the Master, not gonna take a stroll around the crystal sea/I’ll wait to take a guided tour of my new mansion/I’ll even wait to see my loved ones gone before/My one desire and eternal satisfaction/Is to behold the face of Jesus Christ my Lord”.
‘I Stand in Awe’ is a great song of worship: “Your glory Lord just takes my breath away/I stand in awe of Your mercy, grace, and majesty/Overwhelmed by the love You showed at Calvary/That You who knew no sin would die to clothe me in Your righteousness/I stand in awe”. ‘Fight to the Finish’ may be my favourite. It is a song of spiritual determination with a bouncy Southern Gospel chorus: “When others have/Backed down, turned around, given up their callin’/Walked away, gone astray, dropped the sword and fallen/Put the holy standard of the truth of God up on the shelf/Well, I want to be standing true, going through the battle onto vict’ry/Lifting Jesus Christ, knowing He is with me/Keeping on the armor that will quench the fiery darts of hell/Well, I tell ya/It’s a fight to the finish and I want to finish it well”.
‘The Cross was His Own’ reflects on the crucifixion: “On Calvary’s mountain the cross was His own/The cross was His own/Where He died all alone/For your sins and mine He left His heavenly Home/No kindness or mercy to Jesus was shown/But on Calvary’s mountain/The cross was His own”. ‘The Ground is Level at Calvary’ is a song of invitation: “He said ‘Whosoever will can come unto Me’/For the ground is level at Calvary/The ground is level at Calvary/And it’s fully accessible for you and for me/No matter who or what, when, or where you may be/The ground is level at Calvary”.
Next up is ‘Fat Baby’, a fun, light pop/jazz tune penned by Steve Millikan and Rod Robinson. Amy Grant recorded it on her 1982 hit album AGE TO AGE. The song is about spiritual immaturity: “I know a man, maybe you know him too/You never can tell, it might even be you/He knelt at the altar and that was the end/He’s saved and that’s all that matters to him/His spiritual tummy, it can’t take too much/One day a week he gets a spiritual lunch/On Sunday he puts on his spiritual best/And gives his language a spiritual rest”. ‘There is A Fountain’ is the longest song at 4:37. This Southern Gospel ballad uses orchestration to good effect and is all about the precious blood of Christ: “There is a fountain that’s flowing still today/A crimson fountain that washes sins away/And once you plunge beneath this flow from Calvary/You’ll find your life will never be the same”.
Scott Inman and Daryl Williams wrote ‘My Faith is Built on A Rock’. It is a song of certainty: “My faith is built on a Rock, the Cornerstone of the ages/My feet are on a firm foundation no matter how hard the hurricane rages/What a joy just to know, this Rock will never let go/In the shelter of grace/My faith is built on the Rock”. The Cathedrals recorded the album closer ‘Don’t Thank Us Thank Jesus’ back in 1977. It is somewhat cheesy, but concert friendly: “If it were meant for us to be some other place but here/Then Jesus would have worked it out for us to have been there/So if you’re glad we’ve come your way and want to thank someone/Don’t thank us, thank Jesus/Thank the One who made a way for us to gather here/He’s the One who blessed each song that brought a smile or tear/If He spoke to you my friend and filled your heart with cheer/Don’t thank us, thank Jesus”.
As long time fans of The Torchmen Quartet have come to expect, the vocals (both solo parts and harmonies) are performed with excellence on this album. Fans of old school groups such as Gold City and Ontario’s The Watchmen Quartet should add this album to their playlist. The messages in these songs are unashamedly Christian in nature and point directly to Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t say that this is my favourite Torchmen Quartet album ever, but it certainly proves that the group still has lots of life in them and that they have not grown stagnant. Next time out though, I hope the group writes and records a few original songs. I’m rating RUN THROUGH THE GATES 83%. For more info visit: www.torchqt.com.