If it were rock, you might think of someone like The Eagles, or Crosby, Stills, & Nash, or Fleetwood Mac, or one of many others. But who would it be in CCM Music; by Philip Mayaab
If I were to say the word supergroup to you, who would be the first one you would think of? It could be anybody, depending on the genre. If it were rock, you might think of someone like The Eagles, or Crosby, Stills, & Nash, or Fleetwood Mac, or one of many others. But who would it be in the CCM field? My first pick would probably be the 1971-1976 lineup of the Imperials (the one with Sherman Andrus and Terry Blackwood), but I'm sure yours would be different. Well this week on Vinyl Revival, we are featuring the debut album by a CCM supergroup, made up of three men who had already made their names within the industry long before they teamed up for this one of a kind recording. One of them had seen action as a solo artist, an award winning songwriter, and as the leader of a very popular band, the second member had become popular as a solo artist, and as a writer, and the third member as an in demand record producer, as well as a songwriter and vocalist. Their first names were Dallas, Tim, and Phil, but on this album, they were Holm, Sheppard, & Johnson.
All three of these legends had already been friends for several years, in fact, this what not the first time they had sang together on a record. The final track on side one of Dallas Holm & Praise's Dove Award winning LP All That Matters is a song called Love In My Heart, and if you look closely at the credits, you will see that the background vocals were performed by Dallas, Tim, and Phil. So even though this is the trio's official debut recording, they had sang together in the studio previously. The dynamics of their voices were the perfect storm...Dallas Holm, a baritone as smooth as glass, Tim Sheppard, the perfect combination of baritone and tenor, and Phil Johnson, a tenor with a voice tailor made for the high notes. In addition, you had three fantastic songwriters, each capable of bringing some sensational songs to the table, so these three gentlemen really were a match made in Heaven. Since all three men had a long history with the Benson Company's Greentree Records label, they did not need a recording contract, so the business side was already taken care of. Whoever it was that came up with the idea for these three men to work together as a group deserves a medal, because this is a wonderful album, that I loved when I first purchased it in 1981, and I still love it just as much today, 38 years later.
At the time of this LPs release, Dallas Holm & Praise had just released one of the best albums in their catalog (I Saw The Lord), while Tim Sheppard had recently released a new album of his own (Forever), so the timing of this recording has always been something that I found to be curious, but that notwithstanding, Holm, Sheppard, Johnson is one of those albums that you just have to get out from time to time, and just listen to, purely as a CCM fan. This album is a descriptive picture of where the industry was in 1981...a time when artists were becoming bigger, the production was getting better, and the general product was improving with each passing year. This album can still hold its own alongside any other CCM recording from 1981, and that is a big part of its appeal today. You had three artists who were outstanding singers and songwriters on their own, but when they joined forces, they were a true supergroup, and this album proves that point.
Since Dallas' name is first, he is featured on the album's opening track, called Still Livin', which he also wrote. A great song, it actually sounds a little more progressive than the material Dallas would write for his band to perform, but for this album, it fits perfectly. I've actually wondered if Dallas and Praise ever performed any of his songs from this project live. and if they did, what they would sound like, but I digress. If you remember, back in those days, we did not have the internet as we do now, so the first time I even heard about this album was when I heard Still Livin' on our local CCM station, and being a DHP fan, I could not wait to get my hands on a copy of this album, and that was exactly what I did the first time I saw it in the store. Our station played several songs from this LP in regular rotation, and such was the case with Tim Sheppard's opening contribution on the album, the second track on side one titled The World Will Know. Tim's unmistakable voice leads the song, with a message telling Christians how we need to show Jesus with our lives, and not just with our words. My absolute favorite moment in this song is immediately after the sax solo, when the music drops out, leaving our three vocalists to sing the opening line of the chorus a capella, and the harmony is amazing! I encourage each of you to listen for it this week, you'll understand why I like it so much. Next up is Phil's song It's Real, which breaks the tradition on this album a little, because it actually features Dallas and Tim singing a line in the verse, before Phil takes over the lead vocal. Even though he made his name as a record producer and as a writer, the fact is that Phil Johnson has a very good voice, and he fills in that third part perfectly alongside two other outstanding singers, and he does a great job on this one.
Dallas steps back up to the mic for Let's Go To Jesus, and this time, he contributes a song that sounds like one that he would've released on a Dallas Holm & Praise recording. Though he was always accomplished at writing songs of different tempos, it seemed the power ballad was Dallas' strong suit, and that is exactly what this particular song is, in fact it is my personal favorite of the three songs that Dallas wrote and sang on this project. It could have been released as a single. and I think it could have been a hit. Tim finishes off side one with Driftin', a textbook Sheppard song. Again, if you listen to this track closely, you will hear the amazing harmony that this trio possessed. Their voices just seem to effortlessly lock together, and it is as tight as a trio can get. The vocal arrangement on this track is also one of the best on the project. We move on to side two, and the song that put Holm, Sheppard, & Johnson on the charts, that being :Drawin' From The Well. Written by Phil, this is the song that just defines the essence of this album...a great song, written by a great writer, and sang by a fantastic group. This song carried HSJ to number 3 on the CCM Magazine chart, and somewhat surprisingly, was the only top 40 chart single from this album. Okay, next comes the only song from the album that I wasn't a big fan of, that being Tim's He May Be Our Father. I know other people who like this song, and that's okay, but I just never have cared as much for this song, and I don't know why. You can decide if it's your cup of tea as you listen to it this week.
Back to keeping the songs in the order of the singer's names, Dallas contributes the final of his three pieces of work next, a mid tempo song called Jesus You Are Mine. Again, this is vintage Dallas Holm, a well written, well executed track, with tight harmonies throughout. This song could also have been performed by Praise, and would have probably sounded right in place with the band's other songs at the time. Tim Sheppard's final song on the project is Ready To Go, and this one I really like. This song sounds like it might have been written for Tim's album Forever (which if you have never heard, you should check it out), and this is one of those songs that draws from the playbook of a lot of southern gospel writers, it deals with the subject of going home to be with the Lord. It is a great song, and certainly fits perfectly among the tracks on this album. The closing song on the album is Phil Johnson's final piece, and it's called Always With Jesus. This is one of my favorite tracks on this album, and features Phil singing a little bit more than he did on his previous two tracks. We finally get to hear more of what Phil does vocally, and the lyrics to this song are just wonderful, and will minister to your soul.
In closing, I know that I have gushed about this album, and may have layed it on a bit thick in my descriptions of the tracks, but believe me when I say this is a fantastic album, and it is one of my personal favorite albums from 1981. I know that albums such as the Imperials Priority and the Archers Spreadin' Like Wildfire may be better albums sonically, but in terms of the quality of the writing and singing, you will find that this album really is a fan's delight. How often is it that you get three amazing songwriters and vocalists in the studio to do a special recording like this? And the good news is that this album really did live up to the expectations that fans had when it was released, it wasn't just hype. These guys brought their A game to the studio, and made a record that can still be enjoyed many years later. Of course, this is not their only album together, because eight years later, the three men reunited, this time for DaySpring Records, and released a follow up called Soldiers Again, which we feature from time to time on CCM Classic. It too is a great recording, and has some very memorable songs, but to me, this debut recording from these three early titans of the CCM industry will always be my favorite of their two. These guys were a true CCM supergroup, and we are happy as can be to celebrate this amazing project this week on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival, so I hope that each of you will tune in, and give it a listen.
Side 1 -
1. Still Livin'
2. The World Will Know
3. It's Real
4. Let's Go To Jesus
Side 2 -
1. Drawin' From The Well (#6, CCM Magazine Chart)
2. He May Be Our Father
3. Jesus You Are Mine
4. Ready To Go
5. Always With Jesus
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