The legacy of the Cathedral Quartet in gospel music is quite immeasurable, and numerous musical tributes have been made to that legacy since they retired in 1999. The Cathedrals Family Reunion event was the first time that all of the currently touring Cathedrals alumni have officially gotten together to celebrate the music of gospel’s finest quartet. Credit IMC Concerts and the alumni involved for making it happen. Out of the reunion event came a studio recording, featuring former Cathedrals Scott Fowler, Danny Funderburk, Ernie Haase, Mark Trammell, and Gerald Wolfe, with help from the active groups led by these men. With this extraordinary musical talent and the guidance of producer Wayne Haun, Cathedrals Family Reunion is a worthy and enjoyable musical tribute.
One would assume based on the personnel involved that the recording would sound terrific, and it does. So for a collection of older material like this, the main aspect to be discussed is the song selection, and how the songs are used. It’s easy for bloggers like me to sit back and say things like “This song gets recorded all the time,” or “I wish they’d gone outside the box more.” But the reality is that most of the people going to the product table to buy CDs are looking for the tried and true hits. So it’s a no-brainer that most of the songs on Cathedrals Family Reunion are some of the first songs you think of when you think of the Cathedral Quartet, and especially the individual alumni on the recording.
Gerald Wolfe (“Champion of Love”), Ernie Haase (“Oh, What a Savior”), Danny Funderburk (“Somebody Touched Me”) and Scott Fowler (“He Made a Change”/”Champion of Love”) are all featured on their signature songs as Cathedrals members. Mark Trammell doesn’t get a similar signature feature on this recording (“Master Builder” would be the expected choice), but he is featured in various spots throughout the album (like a verse on Kirk Talley’s “We Shall Be Caught Up”) and is the most consistent vocal foundation, participating on every song.
Most of the songs on Cathedrals Family Reunion are performed by a “scrap iron” quartet of three Cathedrals alumni and one of the bass singers from the active groups: Pat Barker, Paul Harkey, and Matt Fouch. These are three great basses and all do a superb job. Barker is the only one who gets a solo feature, on “Wedding Music,” which is a testament to his vocal similitude to George Younce. Four songs are sung in a more ensemble form, including the other members of Mark Trammell Quartet, Signature Sound, Legacy Five, and Greater Vision. The album’s most majestic performance, Younce’s composition “Yesterday,” is one of these, and is my favorite track.
Each of the three longest-tenured and Heaven-residing Cathedrals are honored and featured on the recording with the help of a little technology. A recording of Roger Bennet singing the first verse kicks off “I’ve Read the Back of the Book,” and Younce and Glen Payne’s duet rendition of “Search Me, O God” from the Cathedrals’ Farewell Celebration concert is woven into that track. Neither insertion seems forced or cheesy, and they are executed well.
I’ve covered what songs are sung, and who’s singing them, so I’ll wrap up with how they actually sound. The tracks, at least to my knowledge and ear, are all new. The arrangements, all by Haun with the exception of the Lari Goss-arranged “Champion of Love,” stay mostly true to the original. One new wrinkle that is effective is in “Wedding Music,” where instead of going into a chorus after the first verse, the key is raised by a half step and Barker steps right on out for the second verse. Throughout the recording, from a vocal standpoint you get the excellent sound you’d expect from a lineup of hall-of-famers and all-stars.
Just the significance of the collaboration of these great performers, singing such classic songs, is enough to make Cathedrals Family Reunion an essential part of any gospel music fan’s collection. But it also stands on its own musically as one of the most well-executed releases of the year. There are so many more Cathedrals songs that could be brought back by this group, and I sure hope we haven’t heard the last of the Cathedrals Family Reunion.
Album Rating: 4.5 stars
- Bloodwashed Band (Savana Foust) – Ensemble
- We Shall Be Caught Up (Kirk Talley) – Ernie Haase, Scott Fowler, Mark Trammell, Paul Harkey
- Wedding Music (Talley/Phil Cross) – Haase, Fowler, Trammell, Pat Barker
- We’ll Work (Haase/Joel Lindsey/Wayne Haun) – Danny Funderburk, Haase, Trammell, Fowler, Gerald Wolfe, Harkey
- Oh, Come Along (Dianne Wilkinson) – Ensemble
- I’ve Read the Back of the Book (Roger Bennett) – Roger Bennett, Haase, Fowler, Trammell, Matt Fouch
- Yesterday (George Younce) – Ensemble (feat. Wolfe, Haase)
- Can He, Could He, Would He (Dwight Liles/John Chisum) – Funderburk, Fowler, Trammell, Barker
- Oh, What a Savior (Marvin P. Dalton) – Haase, Fowler, Trammell, Harkey
- He Made a Change (Haase/Lindsey) – Haase, Fowler, Trammell, Harkey
- Somebody Touched Me (Foust) – Funderburk, Fowler, Trammell, Barker
- Search Me, O God (J. Edwin Orr) – George Younce, Glen Payne, Ensemble
- Champion of Love (Phil & Carolyn Cross) – Funderburk, Haase, Fowler, Trammell, Wolfe, Fouch
Available: Any website or concert of Greater Vision, Legacy Five, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, or Danny Funderburk