Title: "Back To The Roots"
Chadley - April 23, 2008 04:43 PM (GMT)
Group Name: Imperials
Album Title: “Back To The Roots”
1. Your First Day In Heaven
2. No Shortage
3. I Believe
4. We’ve Got A Great Big Wonderful God
5. Be Still My Soul
6. He’s Everything To Me
7. Praise The Lord
8. My Child, Welcome Home
9. More (Than You’ll Ever Know)
10. Water Grave
11. I’m Gonna Be There
The Imperials are one of the most storied groups in Southern Gospel music. They were founded in 1964 by legendary lead singer Jake Hess. Since that time, they have won 17 Dove Awards and 4 Grammy Awards. They have appeared on national television many times, and they have traveled and ministered in 21 different countries. Their discography includes 42 albums. The Imperials have long been known as a group that is not afraid to “push the envelope”. The current personnel are Jeremie Hudson (tenor), Shannon Smith (lead), Jason Morales (baritone), and Ian Owens (bass).
“Back To The Roots” is the Imperials’ latest album, and it is exactly what the name implies. The group went back and picked out some classic Imperials’ songs from throughout their history and re-recorded them with the current personnel. With the sheer number of well-known songs the Imperials have recorded throughout the years, they could do several volumes of albums such as this. However, I think they picked a good lineup of songs for this one.
Now, let’s take a look at each of the songs on the album. Since I have some older Imperials’ material in my collection already, I looked to see which of the songs on “Back To The Roots” I already had in my collection. I found that I had older/original recordings of 5 of the 11 songs. On these songs, I will try to offer some first-hand commentary and comparison. Also, since the album cover has a list of which Imperials album each song originally appeared on, I will also include that information with each song as well.
The album kicks off with the classic “Your First Day In Heaven”. This originally appeared on the 1965 Slightly Regal album. However, I have the recording of it from the 1970 album “Gospel’s Alive And Well”. The new group gives it a bit more of a country flair than the original group did, but the original group was just a bit smoother in their blend. However, you can tell from each of the brief solos that each of the current group members has an excellent voice. Next in line is “No Shortage”. This was the title track to the 1970 album No Shortage, and I have the recording of this song from that album as well. I like how the verses are all unison before breaking into harmony on the choruses. I have to say that I much prefer the current group’s remake of this song to the original version. Song #3 is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful songs the Imperials ever performed. “I Believe” is a slower ballad that features bass singer Ian Owens. Owens has a smooth, rich voice that has a nice upper range to it.
The fourth song is the medium-tempo “We’ve Got A Great Big Wonderful God”. This song was originally recorded on the 1968 album New Dimensions. This song has a lighter feel to it, and the last part of the song allows us to hear the soaring tenor voice of Jeremie Hudson. Hudson has to have one of the highest full-voice tenor vocals I’ve heard in a while, and his voice has a lot of power. Immediately following that song is a slower song entitled “Be Still My Soul”. Lead singer Shannon Smith is featured here, and the smoothness of his vocals really makes this song.
Song #6 is entitled “He’s Everything To Me”. This is also from the 1968 album New Dimensions. The current version of this medium-tempo song features baritone singer Jason Morales on the lead vocals. Jason has a smooth, pleasant voice that shines either on lead vocals or on the baritone harmony part. In fact, the entire sound of the group changes when he takes the lead vocals as opposed to Shannon Smith. It’s a definite plus to have a lead singer and a baritone singer that each have their own distinct sound. The seventh song is one that most Gospel music fans will recognize almost immediately- “Praise The Lord”. This powerful song was first recorded on the 1979 Heed The Call album, and I have a copy of that particular rendition of this song. It’s hard to remake a song as classic as this, but the current group does a good job. This rendition is easily on par with the original while giving it a new and fresh sound.
The eighth song is a medium-tempo number entitled “My Child, Welcome Home”. I have the rendition of that song from the 1975 No Shortage album, but I think that the current group’s remake of it is just a bit better. Bass singer Ian Owens is once again featured here, and the overall sound of the group on this song is solid. The tempo slows down for the following song, “More (Than You’ll Ever Know)”. This one is from the 1974 Follow The Man With The Music album, and it’s another one that I happen to have in my collection. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the current group’s remake of this song.
Song #10 is probably the most contemporary-sounding song on this album. “Water Grave” is a hard-driving remake of a song found on the 1977 Sail On album. This song catches your attention from the beginning with the arrangement and the lyrics, and it’s easily one of my favorite songs from this album. The album ends with another short, up-tempo song similar to the first one. “I’m Gonna Be There” is a more traditional-sounding Southern Gospel song that was originally recorded on the 1968 New Dimensions album.
As I mentioned earlier, the Imperials could do a few more volumes of “Back To The Roots”-type albums. Fresh takes on old songs can be a very good thing. The overall sound of the current group is one that I enjoy very much. The only complaint that I have is that, at times, the blend of voices is a bit off. One of the voices will overpower the others. With the powerful voices that each of the vocalists have, I can see where getting the right blend can be a bit of a challenge. Still, I would recommend this album to anyone who either likes the more contemporary side of Southern Gospel or who is a long-time Imperials’ fan. I would give this album a rating of 9 out of a possible 10 microphones!
Favorites: “Your First Day In Heaven”, “No Shortage”, “I Believe”, and “Water Grave”
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