Photo: Acappella in concert in Manaus, Brazil, near the source of the Amazon River, singing “Everybody Said But Nobody Did.”
#20 Everybody Said (But Nobody Did)
Believe it or not, some of the best sushi I’ve found was in this “way-out-of-the-way” location in the heart of the Amazon. Everybody Said But Nobody Did also brings back memories of our last-minute video recorded for the Rescue album in St. Martin, with Gary Moyers (Mo) wearing a Batman t-shirt and I’m making a cameo appearance driving the vehicle that is transporting Acappella (but you have to look closely.) This song also appears on Live From Paris.
#19 Glory And Honor
When I first pitched this song to Acappella, it was rejected. The “contemporary worship music movement” was in its infancy and most of Acappella’s repertoire was designed for concert presentation; thus Glory And Honor was too out-of-the-ordinary for the guys to contemplate at that particular time. This song finally appeared on Acappella’s Heaven and Earth album and is now being sung in churches around the world after being recorded by the Praise & Harmony Singers for the Glorious God album, with sheet music and power point slides available.
#18 I’m At Your Mercy
Some vocalists have such a gift of interpreting songs that you will always associate the song with them. Robert Guy interprets I’m At Your Mercy in such a way on Beyond A Doubt album. At the time I wrote this song, there seemed to be nothing on the news except the ongoing O.J. Simpson trial. It was only last month that Acappella sang in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic for the first time, with this song being a crowd favorite. Although their native tongue is not English, they provided a back-up-choir for this very song.
#17 Teaching The Truth In Love
Originally inspired as a plea against self-righteousness, legalism and the spirit of harshly judging others, this song encourages us to study the Rabbi Jesus in learning how to interact with people. An original version of Teaching The Truth In Love featuring Steve Reischel was recorded for the Act Of God album, while Barry Wilson sings lead on The Collection album. We also have recorded videos featuring Steve Maxwell and Brishan Hatcher interpreting the lead vocal for The Acappella Company youtube channel.
#16 Amazing Grace
I had the privilege to stand in the very place where this song was written in the U.K. It is interesting to note that although the author was ministering to a church, they were not allowed to sing Amazing Grace because it was a “new song’”. This song has appeared on multiple Acappella albums, including, Conquerors, Hymns For All The World and Live From Paris (which was recorded in my home town of Paris Tennessee, by the way.) I love to hear our basses begin this song, while various veterans ad-lib the upbeat portion of the song.
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#15 Shut De Do
This Randy Stonehill song is featured on Acappella’s Travelin’ Shoes album. Shut De Do harkens back to the days when A.V.B served as back-up singers for Acappella when Rodney Britt garnered Satan sun glasses and was harassed by A.V.B. during the concert. Some of the funniest moments resulted from comedian Kevin Schaffer’s routine, humorous noises, and his sternly shouting, “You better shut the door!” We have heard of families playing the so-called “Acappella game;’ when one person sings an Acappella song, the next person has to guess the next song on the album. Those are serious fans!
#14 Now To Him
One of the unique characteristics of our music is the priority of Scripture songs. We even have an entire album devoted to Scripture Songs called Word Of God Longplay. I cannot tell you how many times people inform us how they have memorized Scripture as a result of Acappella’s music. Now To Him features a musical round based on Ephesians 3:20, 21 and is included on the Growin’ Up In The Lord and Platinum albums. Acappella’s video channel has begun to feature “Song Spotlight Playlists” which are collections of multiple videos of a singular song, sometimes including other artists singing the song from around the world and often in different languages. We will be adding another video here soon.
#13 Walking That Line
The closing song of the Act Of God album is a very positive anthem for every disciple who is aware of their many shortcomings yet determined to follow the Good Shepherd. Kevin Schaffer’s soaring tenor voice is the perfect vehicle for delivering this hopeful message, reminding us to “keep on keeping on” in spite of life’s set backs. Walking That Line is a favorite of many Acappella fans, but happens to be one of those songs that is difficult to mimic. I hope you get a chance to hear Kevin singing this song “live.” Check out this video.
#12 Abba Father
Who would have thought that this song would strike such a chord to become The Acappella Company channel’s most popular video? Abba Father will forever be tied to Acappella’s life-changing trip to China, during which our vocalists fell in love with the people of China. Part of the All That I Need album, Abba Father is an intimate and desperate cry for help from people who find themselves in the depths of heartache and struggle. The world is full of suffering. God brings healing and peace. Ken McCalpin is yet another Acappella vocalist whose voice amazingly covers the broad range of bass to lead vocals.
#11 Better Than Life
Speaking of desperate cries, the words of Psalm 63 speaks volumes: “Earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you, My body longs for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” The antidote to lukewarm Christianity is a whole-hearted desire to seek the face of God and to know His heart. Although this song is fan-favorite, Acappella has not included Better Than Life (from the album of the same title) in the regular concert lineup for 30 years. It resurfaced this year for our 35th-anniversary concerts for a special segment of multiple song snippets as we assemble in a casual cirlce and I extemporaneously surprise the singers by starting varioous songs – – a “stump the vocal band” if you will. Check out this video in Santo Domingo.
#10 Well On My Way
The story behind Well On My Way always makes us laugh. Acappella was sound checking for a youth rally in central Arkansas when I pitched another song idea to the guys. The lyrics were, “Listen well I’m on my way, I’m singing every day . . . “ in a moderately slow tempo. The folk-country direction of the music was not quite appealing, so I stuck the lyrics back in my pocket and joined the sound check. During sound check, I started another song idea and coached the guys into singing a very upbeat jam of “Sing! His! Praises! Sing His Praises!” which we repeated over and over for an extended time. All of us enjoyed that song fragment but determined it needed lyrics and verses. After retreating to the green room, I pulled out the lyrics from my pocket of “Listen well I’m on my way . . .” and converted them to a rocking melody appropriate for the new “Sing His Praises” motif. Thus, Well On My Way was born and later recorded for the Sweet Fellowship album. It has become a favorite concert closer, complete with customized hand claps and audience participation.
#9 John The Revelator
I should probably not tell you this, but many of our songs have been ruined from bored singers on the road making humorous parodies of our concert repertoire. The words, “John the Revelator, he saw Jerusalem coming down,” did not escape such parody. Since Acappella set up their own heavy sound system on tour, extra assistance was always encouraged and welcomed. Huge sub-woofer “bass bins” were so heavy that they required two men to carry each speaker cabinet. A volunteer named John, who happened to work for a local hotel, offered to help carry our speakers. To our amazement, John lifted one of the bass cabinets all by himself and quickly carried it into the concert hall. Afterwards, he took the other heavy speaker in by himself, declining any assistance. We could not believe our eyes. From that time on, we began to sing, “John the elevator man, he worked at a big hotel…” We apologize if this “behind the scenes” story spoils this song from the Conquerors album for anyone.
#8 A cappella
As Acappella began to work with major record companies, music consultants suggested that we add instruments with a backup band. This idea was not entertained for one second due to our relentless commitment to being all vocal, a la, “a cappella;” — so much so that we chose this to be our name. In fact, one of our slogans was, “Acappella is Acappella.” I remember in the late 70’s how a major music executive told me in his office, unequivocally that “A cappella music will never be commercially successful.” Tell that to Pentatonix! Some churches rejected our music because it sounded too much like instruments. Well yes, we celebrate and demonstrate the fact that the human voice is the greatest “instrument of music” ever created and is astonishingly versatile. Rodney Britt can’t open his mouth without sounding like a bass. Some of our vocalists specialize in the art of vocal percussion. This song appears on the Conquerors album well ahead of the vocal innovations evolution that was yet to come.
Speaking of vocal percussionists, Acappella singer, Robin Brannon reminded me of a unique memory during one of our tours in Brazil, which happens to be the most visited nation for us outside of the United States. Many of the concert goers were shouting titles of their favorite songs, even though most could not speak English. As you know, things can easily get lost in translation and such was the case with their request of the song, “Hush” from the Set Me Free album. We distinctly heard the crowd shout, “Hush!,” “Hushy!” “Hushy!” “Shut-Up!”. Even though hush can mean “shut up!”, the song seems to lose some of its intended flavor if we sing, “So ‘shut up!’ don’t you worry, don’t cry.” If you have followed Acappella for several years, you will know that the arrangements will develop over time with new embellishments. One of my favorite examples is what I call the “trumpet trio” of the words, “God is standing by” which enters at the end of the audience-participation section of this song, as heard in this video.
#6 Sweet Fellowship
There is a bond that can only come through singing together. In fact, a recent study revealed how singing together can affect the physiology of people so their hearts begin to beat in sync! How cool is that? When we sing and harmonize, our hearts start to synchronize! That’s one reason why we are dedicated to the parallel priority of Acappella Ministries’ “Praise & Harmony” efforts which equip entire churches and train every member how to sing, especially those with no musical training. Singing has always been important to God’s people. Fortunately, singing should not be limited to the trained musicians, as the Scriptures encourage every believer to experience this joy. Singing brings unity. Sweet Fellowship is a popular and simple album. Acappella’s concert model features many fascinating combinations of “musicianaries” who have toured with us over our 35-year history. Our collection of veterans are uniquely bonded through music ministry and are honored to continue presenting concerts around the world.
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What is your all-time favorite Acappella album? Please take this survey and we’ll announce the results soon.
Before we list the top five favorite Acappella songs, here are three that did not make the top 20, but almost did:
Honorable Mention: La Song
La Song was a novel idea to write a song for the group with no words, only music. As the song developed however, we couldn’t help but add a drop section with a nod to classic Acappella lyrics, “All I do is ask for Your forgiveness . . . “ I was not present when Acappella sang for a major music festival in Holland, but the guys share how the crowd called for an encore by singing “la la la la la la” continuously for a period of time. La Song was recorded for the Growin’ Up In The Lord and Platinum albums.
Honorable Mention: Not My Will But Thine
It’s hard to imagine a song that evokes more emotion than this one, penned in the 1970’s when I was still in my early 20’s. Singing in various choirs definitely influenced the tone of this piece, with two distinct movements: the slow and dark Gethsemane intro, moving ominously and inevitably into a recounting of torturous Calvary. Many of us attempted to sing the lead vocal on this song, but Not My Will But Thine never reached its apogee until George Pendergrass personalized this song with inexplicable passion on the Set Me Free album.
Honorable Mention: Wedding Day
God chose such beautiful imagery in claiming the church to be HIs bride. As C.S. Lewis speaks of this life being a preparation for the next life — during which true happiness will arrive, we can fondly anticipate the blessings God has in store for those who believe. The brevity of this life is yet another reminder of why everyone must prepare for the coming of the Bridegroom. Christians should joyfully long for His return. Wedding Day is featured on the raw and transitional milestone Travelin’ Shoes album — the one with the ugly (travelin’) boots on the cover.
This month is the time to sign up for Acappella’s Singing Vacation!
And now for the results for the top five all-time favorite Acappella songs:
#5 Water From The Well
This song is dear to our hearts, primarily because the two precious children solos happen to be our two oldest daughters, Melissa and Kimberly. Kim’s solo is often mimicked because she seems to pronounce the words “Rater from the Rail.” We also love the latest version as Kimberly sings Water From The Well as an adult for this youtube video. Kimberly learned how to walk on Acappella’s touring bus while Melissa began singing solos in concert when she was only two years old. This song is part of the Growin’ Up In The Lord and Platinum albums.
#4 Criminal On The Cross
One of the most controversial reactions from all the songs I’ve written happened to be inspired by a chapter from Max Lucado entitled, “Tale of the Crucified Crook.” This message reminded me that there will never be any human being who deserves salvation in any way. Period. Although many look down upon the criminals of this world, the truth is, no one can earn or be worthy of God’s salvation. The criminal didn’t deserve salvation — and neither do I. Criminal On The Cross was originally recorded for the Sweet Fellowship album, and is being sung by groups in many languages around the world. Acappella was also included in Bill Gaither’s homecoming video series singing this song.
#3 We Have Seen His Glory
The album, We Have Seen His Glory is one of the most thematic collections we have ever recorded. Angels long to look into these things — the glory of Jesus. We have seen his glory; we glory in his name; and we sing to the glory. To him who sits on the throne be glory . . . We will see Jesus in all of his glory. Regarding the arranging, I remember becoming tired of the same old “go to” chord progressions that I gravitated to, and decided to seek a more pleasingly complex and less-predictable arrangement approach for the verses of this song. I’d like to hear a music theorist analyze the progressions (so I can understand what we did).
#2 Lead Me To Rest
It should surprise no one that the top all-time favorite Acappella songs, as indicated by this survey, feature the unparalleled voice of Wayburn Dean. His unique style and interpretation is unmistakable, and in my mind, is unsurpassable. It was such a joy to sing with Wayburn in Malibu and Amarillo earlier this year for our year-long 35th-anniversary celebrations – – and we look forward to singing with Wayburn this October in Houston and Detroit. In writing Lead Me To Rest, I remember pulling the guys aside in the Minneapolis airport while returning from a tour in Canada to sketch out the harmonies. As a producer, I love the value that back-up choirs can bring to a recording as demonstrated on the Set Me Free album.
Sometimes, the unsuspected happens. God takes a few loaves and fishes to feed the multitudes. Thus, we could not have anticipated how this particular song surprisingly became a declaration of dependence for countless sojourners. Rescue has become a theme song for those who surrender to the indescribable compassion of a loving God. This song also reminds me of a recent Praise & Harmony recording of “I come broken to be mended, I come wounded to be healed.” Rescue articulates our personal stories, at least those of us who realize we need rescue. It’s the title song of the Rescue album, intended to tenderly remind us that the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost — meaning us.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in this survey.
Which album do you think will reach the pinnacle of the next survey of the all-time favorite Acappella albums? Please take the Acappella album survey by choosing your favorite album from the list and we’ll announce the results.