Retro Review #2: Signed Sealed Delivered (Gold City)

The Gold City lineup of Tim Riley, Mark Trammell, Jonathan Wilburn, and Jay Parrack has always been my favorite.  Their albums released from 1996 through 2001 all rank among my favorite southern gospel projects of all time.  If you like southern gospel in a straight-up, driving style sung by elite vocal talent, these are the CDs for you.  It’s very difficult for me to choose a personal favorite among these projects, but in the end, I always come back to their 1999 release, Signed Sealed Delivered.  More than any of the others, this is a deep recording.  It has 12 tracks (OK, maybe more like 11.5), none of which have me reaching for the “skip” button.  Contained within are five infectious toe-tappers, two of the quartet’s most powerful ballads, and a few other more mellow, but not boring, songs.

1. “It’s Gonna Be a Good Day”

This uptempo number featuring Wilburn and Riley is a great way to kick of the project.  Indeed, it has you thinking “It’s Gonna Be a Good CD!” (rim shot, please)  It admittedly doesn’t have deep spiritual content, but it does serve to get the listener “warmed up”.  This is a very rare Bill Gaither song recorded by Gold City, and as far as I can tell, the only new Gaither song they have recorded.  Gaither isn’t known for writing this type of quartet song, but he does a pretty god job on this one.

Personal song rating: 8 out of 10

2. “Hide Me Behind the Cross”

We go from a sugar-stick kind of song without much spiritual meat to perhaps the most lyrically powerful song Gold City has ever recorded.  What a message this Rebecca Peck/Angelina McKeithen ballad brings: our primary goal as Christians should be to live in such a way that when people see us, they see Jesus.  To do that, we have to move ourselves out of the way and let Him take control.  While Jay Parrack does a great job getting into the rafters in uptempo songs, he is at his best in songs like this.  He turns in a sensational vocal performance, and the rest of the quartet fills in some fantastic harmony in the chorus.  This is just a great, great song in every way.

Personal song rating: 10 out of 10

3. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”

The quartet revs it back up in the third track, with a driving tempo and a well-crafted lyrical hook.  The chorus really does a great job of using a “postal” theme to relate great Biblical truth: “I’m signed on that list for the day of ascension/I’m sealed by His Spirit ‘til the day of redemption/Delivered from bondage and I want you to know/I’m signed, sealed, delivered, and I’m ready to go.”  Wilburn takes the first verse, and Parrack takes the second after a key change.  I love it when Gold City really turns loose on the last chorus of a song, and they do that here with Riley stepping out and dropping into the basement.

Personal song rating: 9 out of 10

4. “When He Calls I’ll Fly Away”

The group takes a page out of the Statesmen’s book on this old Vep Ellis convention song.  The arrangement is similar, with Wilburn playing Hovie Lister’s part, but the instrumentation and overall sound are obviously much bigger.  Wilburn is definitely in his comfort zone with this type of song, and this would indeed be one of his signature songs during his Gold City tenure.  This would be a common concert-closer for the quartet, and it rarely failed to get crowds on their feet.

Personal song rating: 8 out of 10

5. “My Savior’s Precious Feet”

Mark Trammell gets his first feature with this more reserved, contemplative track written by Doug Riley.  The unique lyric does a great job of highlighting just how important the feet of Jesus were in His life, and in our life, and ends up with us bowing at those feet in Heaven.  As always, Trammell expertly lets the lyric speak through him in the verses.  There’s nothing fancy here…just a good lyric delivered well.

Personal song rating: 8 out of 10

6. “Choose God”

The listener is allowed to rest a little more with a relatively subdued jazzy tune featuring Riley in the first verse and Trammell in the second.  The message is simple: choose to follow God, and good things will happen in your life.

Personal song rating: 7 out of 10

7. “Mighty Army Band”

The drums in this song appropriately give it a sort of military, marching feel.  Riley carries both verses, and Trammell has the lead in the chorus, sung together by all four members.  Again, there are no high-flying vocal acrobatics here, just straight quartet singing.  Speaking of high-flying…

Personal song rating: 7 out of 10

8. “He Said”

This Dianne Wilkinson burner of a song is what I consider to be Jonathan Wilburn’s signature performance with Gold City.  The relatively slow, but searing, rhythm is easily associated with the fire and brimstone message delivered by the preacher who is the subject of the lyric.  Wilburn lets loose in the verses and in the step-outs in the chorus; once again this style is right in his wheelhouse.  This was one of Gold City’s biggest hits: in fact, it is their most recent Singing News #1 charting song.

Personal song rating: 8 out of 10

9. “Calvary’s Hill”

Gold City originally recorded this song in 1988 as a Mike LeFevre feature.  That version is great, but Mark Trammell and the rest of the quartet breathe new life into it here.  You cannot go wrong taking a powerful ballad and handing it to Trammell, and I consider this to be the best vocal performance of his Gold City tenure.  The poignant lyric tells of how what once was a place of brutality and terror, through Christ’s finished work on Calvary, became the site of the world’s greatest victory.  Trammell really puts the exclamation point on the song at the end.  This is one of those songs you want to be careful with if listening while driving…you’re better off pulling over a few minutes and having yourself a time.

Personal song rating: 10 out of 10

10. “Everything You’ll Need”

The volume is turned down a few notches with this light, jazz-flavored tune.  Parrack effectively falsettos his way through much of the song, and the quartet fills in some nice, relaxing harmony.

Personal song rating: 7 out of 10

11. “When the Holy Ghost Shows Up (We’ll Have Church)”

As we near the end of the project, the group puts one more uptempo, can’t-help-but-sing-along, stamp on the album.  The melody and tempo are fun, but message is a serious and true one: our worship is empty, and isn’t even true worship, without the presence of the Holy Spirit.  The verses feature Wilburn and reach back to the day of Pentecost to show us the nature of true worship.  Once again, Riley is turned loose on the last chorus, and the song finishes with power, on a high note.

Personal song rating: 9 out of 10

12. “God Will Take Care of You”

After 11 songs have delivered great spiritual exercise to the listener, the CD closes with a soothing “goodbye” of sorts, an a cappella verse and chorus of a classic hymn.

Personal song rating: 7 out of 10

1 comment

    • quartet-man on April 16, 2012 at 9:28 am
    • Reply

    When this came out, Berean Bible Bookstore had autographed / numbered copies of this. I believe I got Mark Trammell and maybe Tim Riley too although I can’t be 100% sure. If I only got the the former, it might be cool to try to catch Tim and get his on it as well.

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