Joint CD Review: A Wonderful Life, by Legacy Five

Joint CD Review: A Wonderful Life, by Legacy Five September 9, 2011

Nate’s Southern Gospel Ponderings and Southern Gospel Yankee are uniting for our first joint review! Enjoy our thoughts on Legacy Five’s latest release, A Wonderful Life.

1. A Wonderful Life
Yankee Gospel Girl: The title track, penned by Jim Brady, is very smooth. It sounds, not surprisingly, like something the Booth Brothers might do (compare it with “Don’t Hang Your Head And Cry” from Jubilee 2). Brady is great at writing new songs that sound old. Jazzy piano coordinates well with (I think) an accordion.
Nate:  This song is a nice way to start the album; it showcases Legacy Five’s harmony and smoothness as a quartet. The song has a soothing quality that eases the listener into the album. The lyrics written by Jim Brady tell the believer how good life is with Jesus as your guide and friend.
2. God Had a Hand In It
YGG: A cute little song about creation with a breezy New Orleans-ish swing (great fiddle). Every member is allowed to shine as they all trade off lines on the verses. Very fun listen.
Nate: This is a jazzy number that is immensely fun to listen to. I am sure the quartet had a fun time while recording this one. The verses are split among all the members of the group which makes the song even more of a fun listen.
3. Ask Me Why
YGG: A slow, thoughtful song which is IMO the best original on the project. The music is beautiful and has a slight swing, rather like what Brian Free & Assurance might do. It paints a picture of a woman who slips into a church and accepts Christ after spending her life “somewhere between doubt and believing.” As the second verse describes, she is then able to share the answers she has found with “others who are right where she’s been.” The chorus is an effective set of questions and answers:
Ask me who, and I’ll tell you it’s Jesus.
Ask me how, and I’ll say it’s the blood.
Ask me where, and I’ll take you to Calvary.
Ask me why, and I’ll tell you it’s love.
Of course, some people do require more detailed answers because their questions are more detailed, like “How can we know the Bible is reliable?” But for those who simply come broken and aware of their need for Jesus, these are all the answers they need. Scott Fowler sings the verses, and Gus sings the chorus (love his voice on this). The production is excellent. I love the instant key change at the end.
Nate:  Penned by Kenna West (“Faithful To The Cross”) and Jason Cox this is probably the strongest original song on the project lyrically. There is a remarkable story behind Legacy Five recording this song. As some of you may know Scott Fowler has been a significant influence on a young girl who was a Muslim; Scott was able to witness to her, and little Hanna became a Christian due primarily to Scott’s influence. Well about ten months ago Hanna’s mom also got saved due to Scott’s influence; her husband is a Muslim so you can only imagine the difficult circumstances in Hanna and Patty’s life. Well when Scott heard this song he knew he had to record it for Patty because the lyrics just fit her story so well. According to Patty twenty four people that they know of have become Christians due to Hanna and Patty’s story! Keep praying more people continue to be touched by their story.

The song itself describes a woman who slips into a church service with a broken heart and life. Where she becomes a Christian much like Patty. Scott Fowler turns in a sensational lead vocal on this song, and you can tell he is singing it from his  heart for Patty, and he now calls it “Patty’s Song.” It is a heart wrenching, and incredible ballad that will just grab you from the beginning and will not let go.

4. Nobody Ever Loved Me Like God Does
YGG: This is a lively Tim Parton and Dianne Wilkinson collaboration. Tim wrote the music, and Dianne wrote the lyrics. Both words and melody are very cleverly done. The production is great as well—fantastic electric guitar and brass backup.
Nate: This is an upbeat song that will have you singing along in no time. There are several influences at work in the music on this one. I hear a little country (the electric guitar being a huge highlight), and some traditional Southern Gospel (the brass produced by Steve Mauldin is also excellent). The music, combined with some fantastic lyrics written by Dianne Wilkinson, makes for a song that I go back to and play over and over again.

5. There’s Only One Well
YGG: Nate and I independently noticed that this fast-pickin’ barn-burner bears a striking resemblance to Greater Vision’s “The Only Way,” both thematically and musically (compare the chorus melodies in particular). It’s great fun to listen to and features some awesome production. Piano, organ, and electric guitar come together for a classic sound. Scott Fowler is featured on the first two verses, and Gus Gaches takes over when it changes key with some great power singing. I hear traces of tenors like Chris Allman and Ernie Haase in his voice, yet somehow he remains himself.
Nate: As Yankee pointed out, this song bears a striking resemblance to Greater Vision’s newest title song “The Only Way.” It is also quite upbeat, and Legacy Five really shines in the ensemble on the chorus. Gus Gaches takes over with power at the end making for a terrific ending. It should be a excellent live number.
6. Just Because of You
YGG: Fans of the Cathedrals will remember this slow Gaither ballad from Master Builder. The arrangement follows the original closely, with Glen singing George’s first verse. But it’s Gus’s beautiful take on Danny’s part that really makes this cut shine. His smooth, easy voice is a much better fit for this song than Danny’s “hammer tenor.” I consider it superior to the original.
Nate: This is an excellent cover of the Cathedrals song. Gus Gaches truly stands out in a big way; his voice has that rare quality about it that you do not always find in today’s tenors. While he is exceptionally skilful in ensemble work, I believe he is even better solo. His voice is supremely clear and soothing, and he alone makes this song better than the original IMO…
7. God Cares For Me
YGG: Typical jazzy Legacy Five. Nothing special to say about this track, just a cute song with fun piano and harmonies.

Nate: This is a charming little ditty that features some lovely harmony, and good power singing at the end. It is like the first two songs on the project a  very fun listen. The piano playing on this track is particularly enjoyable as well. Dirk Johnson (studio pianist) is a extremely country music influenced piano player (he has played for several country acts on their studio albums) and his playing complements this song and others on this album extremely well.
8. Living In the Palace
YGG: Of all the up-tempo songs on the project, this is easily the best. Featuring Scott Howard and Scott Fowler (with Gus taking over at the end), it has a slightly progressive feel (again, very BFA). It draws from two biblical illustrations—first the prostitute who washed Jesus’ feet, then Lazarus the beggar—to create a beautiful story-song about how even though these people were poor and outcast on earth, they are now “living in the palace, dining with the King.” The bridge then identifies the singer as someone who was also broken and in need of forgiveness, but will also be able to partake of heavenly joys through Christ. I just love this song and the way it sounds—the piano is gorgeous. I was especially struck by Howie’s performance here. In my opinion, this is one of his best vocals. He sounds lighter than usual. What with one thing and another, this song should definitely be sent to radio.
Nate: This is probably the most progressive song Legacy Five has ever done (it would find itself right at home on a Brian Free and Assurance album) and it is also one of the best performances of a song by Legacy Five I have personally ever heard. It grabbed me from the moment I first heard it and it is probably my favorite song on the album. The lyrics are crafted beautifully, and paint quite the scene in your mind. The song is upbeat but still gets the message in the song across very well. This song will leave you begging for more after it’s over. There is a exceptionally high suspension at the end that sends Gus through the rafters to a high Bb with power. This song would do extremely well at radio for Legacy Five, I also can not wait to see it done in a live setting.
9. Destination Known
YGG: Pleasant country-flavored fare for Scott Howard’s voice. The title is (of course) a play on the phrase “destination unknown.” As Christians, we’re in no doubt of where we’re going. Would make a good driving song. Nice piano.
Nate: This country infused song penned by Rebecca Peck is a terrific song featuring Scott Howard. The guys have fun with this one on the chorus where there is some exceptionally close harmony singing behind Howard’s lead. Dirk Johnson once again shines on the piano.  This is a favorite of mine for sure.
10. I’m Still Amazed
YGG: Not to be confused with the Perrys song, this is a fresh barn-burner. Once again, shades of Greater Vision—this time I’m hearing a resemblance to “He Didn’t When He Could Have Passed By.” The vigorous beat goes together with lyrics that manage to be both catchy and insightful. I especially like this two-liner:

He knew well what I was, but he saw who I could be
And from glory to glory, he keeps changing me.
Nate: Another upbeat message song, features some of the best blend I have ever heard from Legacy Five. The lyrics are remarkably well crafted and the arrangement on the track is superb,and they even threw in the chorus of the hymn “My Savior’s Love” to make a lovely bridge.  They end the song on a strong note. This is Gus’s personal favorite from the project, and it is certainly one of mine as well.
11. For What Earthly Reason
YGG: This was easily the most highly anticipated track on the project. All of us couldn’t wait to hear what Gus would do with this classic, originally a signature piece for Danny Funderburk with the Cathedrals.
It not only does justice to the original. It surpasses it.
True, there’s nothing like that Cathedrals blend, so in that respect the original cut is a little richer. But Gus simply out-sings Danny. I know that’s saying a lot, but you just have to hear Gus’s version to know what I mean. If any more evidence was needed that Gus deserves a place among today’s elite tenors, here it is. I will sue if L5 doesn’t sing this at NQC. Do you hear me Scott Fowler? I. Will. Sue.
Nate: I have been looking forward to hearing Gus tackle this one for a long time. This song just fits his voice like it never quite fit Danny Funderburk’s. It is just downright tailor made for Gus Gaches, and he proves that by turning in a unforgettable performance that will probably go down as one of his best ever. The blend on the chorus is almost on par with the Cathedrals’ rich blend; Gus’s performance here pushes it over the top, and makes this cut IMO the better cut.

12. God Is Still in America
YGG: Some of you will remember that Legacy Five recorded this song last year for election day. I’m glad they decided to put it on an album. It’s a very heartening song for those of us who tend to get depressed when thinking about the state of country. It’s a great reminder of all the people who are still willing to stand for God (“A judge in Alabama… a girl in Columbine…”) and the many Christians who have continued trusting in Him even through disasters like the 9/11 murders and the New Orleans flood. However, I have to admit that the music doesn’t really grab me. It’s good, but it doesn’t quite seem to rise to what the lyric demands. “Under God” is a more memorable song along similar lines. Still, it’s a great lyric with a wonderful message. It will make a strong live moment for sure.
Nate: Penned by Ben Storie and Belinda Smith, this patrio-gospel song is particularly strong and just what we need to hear as a country that needs to turn back to God in a extremely desperate way. The vocals are excellent with Gus shining once again.  The arrangement on the track while not as big as what it could have been to match the powerful lyrics, is still very good. I believe this is the first radio single from the project. It should do very well as songs written in the patriotic theme seem to do well both on radio and in a live setting.
YGG’s radio single picks: “Ask Me Why,” “Nobody Ever Loved Me Like God Does,” “Living In the Palace,” “I’m Still Amazed”
Nate’s radio single picks: “Ask Me Why,” Nobody Ever Loved Me Like God Does” “Living In The Palace” and “I’m Still Amazed”
[YGG: Yes, in case you were wondering, we really did come up with those separately! Actually, I technically only added “I’m Still Amazed” after seeing Nate had put down four picks to my three, but I was already leaning towards that one when considering potential radio singles anyway.]

YGG’s closing thoughts: Although I enjoyed this album, it could have been better. For one thing, I would have liked a few more ballads in the mix. Out of twelve tracks, eight are up-beat, and though all are enjoyable, most of them don’t leave a really lasting impression on me (with a few exceptions like “Living In the Palace”). Also, Gus Gaches was not featured nearly enough. George Younce said, “When you have a good horse, ride him.” Not to take anything away from Frank Seamans or any of the tenors L5 has had, but I would consider him to be their best yet. The few times he is featured just leave me thirsty for more.
The production is less grand and sweeping than Just Stand, making for a more relaxed listen. I personally enjoyed the scaled-back feel even though there’s nothing as towering as “When They Found Nothing” or “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” There are a few key stand-out tracks that make the project, most notably “Ask Me Why,” “Living In the Palace,” and of course Gus’s stunning cover of “For What Earthly Reason.” I’m looking forward to seeing what other Cathedrals songs L5 chooses to go back and revive on future releases. It will also be fun to see how much more “progressive” experimenting they do. They really only dipped their toes in it here, but I think it worked well. They’re still most comfortable with a traditional style, but a little branching out never hurts! All things considered, this is a solid album and a worthy addition to L5’s catalog. Fans won’t be disappointed.
YGG’s rating: Four Stars

Nate’s closing thoughts: Legacy Five has released 21 albums (including table projects) in their twelve year career, and I own every one of them. This one certainly ranks in my top three of those 21, it may go down as one of their best… It is not nearly as big in scale production-wise (orchestration, etc.) as the label release preceding it, “Just Stand.” Instead it is almost a complete opposite (though yes there is some terrific orchestration). What I am saying is that it is much more laid back than past albums. Legacy Five has developed a brandable sound with Gus Gaches manning that tenor spot. I believe there is truly something for everyone on this album. Steve Mauldin produced it for them, and I believe he did a  fantastic job, he seems to have become L5’s go to producer, and for good reason as he is very adept at what he does. I am looking forward to future L5 releases without a doubt, I would love to see them continue in the direction they are heading… A harmony rich music style, with just enough of that great quartet power singing to keep them one of the best quartets on the road.

If there were a couple of things I could change with this album it would be giving Gus maybe one more feature, and adding another ballad; but those are minor personal preferences. This is still an album worth adding to your collection without a doubt. I highly recommend this album to just about anyone that loves Southern Gospel music. The official street date is October 18th. So as of right now you can only purchase this album from Legacy Five’s website as either a CD order or digital download or you can buy it at a Legacy Five show near you!

Nate’s rating: Five Stars

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  • Very interesting review.
    I will say that you’ve certainly set my expectations high for “For What Earthly Reason”. I am not sure how Gaches’s version could be better than Danny’s, as I consider his rendition one of the greatest of any song, by any singer, in gospel music history.

  • quartet-man

    I enjoyed the review, but what is it with talking smack about Funderburk? 😉 I really like Gus a lot, but am doubting I agree that he outdoes Danny.

  • If you recall, I have had (and still have) nothing but the highest praise for Danny’s original:
    In the end I think it comes down to a matter of taste. What Danny does have going for him is that he belts out the notes with more “oomph” than Gus. What Gus has going for him is that his more relaxed style makes for a smoother sound, which IMO fits the tenderness of the song better. And he’s no slouch when it comes to power either (obviously you do need some power to make the song work).

  • quartet-man

    Yeah, but I also know we’ve been on opposite ends with Funderburk for a long time. :p. Danny could be soft, sweet, and smooth. Granted, that isn’t his forte as much as the power tenor, but he can do it. Gus, is an opposite type of tenor. He too can do both, but his strength lies in the smooth stuff the most, and Funderburk’s the power.

  • Well I think we agree there, and one of the reasons I like Danny on “For What Earthly Reason” so much is that it was a lot sweeter and smoother than the norm for him. But I was comparing the choruses mostly in my mind.

  • Nate Stainbrook

    I actually really like Danny Funderburk, and I wasn’t intending my comments about his singing of “For What Earthly Reason” or “Just Because Of You” to come across as “smack”; but I just have a personal preference to Gus’s version.

  • quartet-man

    Nate, my comment was pretty much tongue planted firmly in cheek. YGG and I have teased around about that and Phelps for quite some time. 🙂 I have no problems with respectful, alternate opinions to my own even though it means they are wrong. 😉 I actually haven’t heard Gus’ version, so I can’t even say I disagree yet. :p

  • matt

    Danny demonstrated more tender/sweet singing on “Whosoever Will” from The Cathedrals Travellin’ Live, and Poet Song on I’ve Just Started Living.

  • I think I like Danny better than Phelps. That’s probably about as far as I should go, because I have some devoted readers who also happen to be devoted Phans. 🙂
    “I have no problems with respectful, alternate opinions to my own even though it means they are wrong. ;)” Now that makes me laugh, because it’s so funny and true. I do think it’s odd when people say things like “Just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you’re right about everything!” as if that was a claim I ever made! I even had someone attempt to say, “The reason I am right is that I don’t claim to be right about everything, while the reason you are wrong is that you do.” *scratches head*
    Of course we wouldn’t be asserting something if we didn’t consider ourselves to be right. That’s true of everybody. Now if somebody comes up with a contradictory argument, you consider it and see if you still believe what you thought before hearing it. But it’s a case-by-case thing.

  • Another good one Matt (“Whosoever Will” that is). I haven’t heard “Poet Song.”

  • matt

    I’m a diehard Cathedrals man, so any talk of a group besting them is hard to take :-)) Having said that, I do feel Gus is an awesome tenor. So was/is Danny. Different voices, different strengths….they each bring something new to the table so to speak.
    Back in the glory days of SG (meaning the late 80’s early 90’s) I always thought it would be neat to have some top tier groups swap albums. More specifically, I would’ve loved to hear the Cathedrals do a Kingsmen live album, and the Kingsmen do a Cathedrals release like Goin’ In Style. I know, I’m drifting offffffff topic!!

  • Don’t worry. I won’t make you carry your off-topic remarks to an open thread, where they will stick out awkwardly and no natural discussion will be had because the flow has been broken. 😀

  • quartet-man

    Matt, that would have been cool from a novelty standpoint. I can hear Funderburk and the Cathedrals pulling off “The Judgement”. That would have been great. Danny had the power and rough voice to do the tenor lead, but a better voice. Mark could have done the high second tenor harmony that Tim Surrett did while Glen took the baritone. They probably would have dropped it about a step though, but that would have been no problem with George on the bottom. Of course Glen could have taken Hamill leads etc. The Kingsmen would have done a better job pulling off “Goin’ In Style” CD than some of the other Cats ones as it had more of a country gospel feel.
    The closest I can think of such happening is instances such as Gold City cutting other people’s hits on their table projects. That gave us a little taste of a group doing another’s hits (although they did their own arrangements and instrumentation. Are you referring to each group putting their own arrangements / tracks etc. or using the ones from the other groups?

  • matt

    For example, if the Kingsmen would take the 10 songs on the Cathedrals Goin’ In Style, and do them the way the Kingsmen would with their spin on vocals/tracks. Then the Cathedrals could do the Kingsmen Better In Person album….I’m gonna get shredded here for O/T.
    Back to the original topic, I enjoyed the shared review format, and would encourage doing it again. I have purchased some of their recordings, but I still don’t have a group that really has filled the #1 spot in my heart/mind/ears, like the Cathedrals did.
    For me, Legacy Five is close to filling the void, but a number of their albums have left me indifferent. We’ll see how this one sounds. I think with each tenor, they have improved, and vocally, they are better now than ever.

  • *starts up the shredder* Just kidding. Rabbit trails are fun.
    You have made a very interesting comment about that one group who holds the #1 spot that may have inspired a blog post.

  • quartet-man

    Staying on topic:

  • Ahahaha!
    (Okay, for the benefit of a few of my readers who totally won’t get that, “shreds” means somebody else deliberately distorted vocals and pasted them on top of the performance.)

  • matt

    Bless you quartet-man!!!!!!!!!! I hadn’t watched those Kingsmen shreds for some time….I laughed myself sick!!!! :-)))