Your eyes are not deceiving you - I am, in true Captain Kirk fashion, not going where no man has gone before; many have discussed this issue in the past few years. But I am going where no man should dare to go. So as I bravely grab my tricorder for analysis, my communicator for those times when I need to contact my ship but won't be able to, and a couple of those red-shirted guys to throw to the wolves so I can make my escape, we begin our "trek" through "The Great Debate".
When I was a kid back in the sixties and seventies, I can remember a live recording my family had of the Rambos. I used to listen to it a lot, as well as play and sing along with it. I thought it was one of the greatest records I had ever heard. A couple of weeks ago, XM Radio's Enlighten played that recording from beginning to end, and I sat in amazement hearing all the "flubs" and "goofs" the musicians made. I can't say that it was as "polished" as other recordings I've heard; but it was all real, and all live.
I can remember around the same time going to see Jimmy Swaggart in service. When that music kicked in you could feel the excitement rush through that auditorium. He had some of the best musicians in the business backing him up, and it showed in his performances.
Why am I writing about this subject? Well, I received a letter from a reader in response to the editorial I wrote last week. If you have been reading our letters section at all, it's no secret that Harold Moore is completely against the use of soundtracks. As I read his last letter, I began to seriously think about some of the points he made, and I must say I am in agreement with many of them. Now, that said, let's roll up our sleeves as I have the Gospel Music Times staff preparing for the letters I will probably receive about what I am about to write; but if we could agree to come together and talk about these issues, rather than fight over them, how much better could this industry we all love be?
As I read Harold's letter, I tried to imagine how different that Rambo's live album would have been. I then tried to imagine ol' Jimmy walking across the stage in a full auditorium with nothing on the stage but his piano and a mini-disk player (well, and about 150 different plants, trees and bushes). The effect just wouldn't be the same. Even Gold City has revived their "Band of Gold" for certain events.
Are there times when soundtracks work better than a live band? Of course. Soundtracks work great for a television program. And, if it weren't for soundtracks, many good groups would not be able to travel as they do now. Even with the soundtracks there are many people struggling to stay on the road. The cost of maintaining a live band is quite high; I know, I've seen drummers eat! Yet I fear that many have fallen into the trap of accepting mediocrity as the norm. A person doesn't have to be a great singer to be able to minister to people; I've known several that didn't have the best voice, yet when they sang it seemed as though all of Heaven came down.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this: I don't know what the "magic pill" is that will put Southern Gospel on more radio stations and store shelves. But what I do know is this: if we dont find a way to make that happen, we'll see our beloved industry continue to shrink until one day it could be a forgotten memory. So let's discuss this topic in a friendly, willing-to-agree-to-disagree kind of way. If you have any other ideas to help this industry, speak up! If we continue to stand idly by and do nothing, the mediocrity will continue.
What do you think? I'd like to know! Send your thoughts to: email@example.com.