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on September 14, 2004
While I was a member of Chanticleer when this CD ("How Sweet the Sound") was recorded, I have been away from the group for over a year. When I listened to the advance copy, I was transformed.

The 12 singers of Chanticleer are hyper-critical when it comes to reviewing their work on recording and I'm certainly no exception. Having said that, this recording goes beyond just a casual listen and touches the soul.

Chanticleer is known for its prestine tone and perfect blend and this recording has many moments of that. On the other hand, what this album offers is something rarely recognized on other Chanticleer CD's: life, energy, and, dare I say it, FUN!

Another rarity is the decision to use only arrangements by Chanticleer's music director, Joseph Jennings. Having been with the ensemble for over 20 years, Joe knows each voice intimately and his arrangements are tailor-made for the twelve voices on this recording. Joe's gift is not of this world (even his piano playing is otherworldly) and his heart, soul, and spirit permiate this CD.

Chanticleer is joined by Bishop Yvette Flunder for this album. She is an inspiration and a joy to work with. Her energy, selflessness, and pure love of what she does is infectious. It was a privilege to work with such a consummate performer and spirit.

Not to be forgotten is the producer, Steve Barnett. Steve has produced countless recordings for Chanticleer and this one is, in my opinion, his best work. With engineer Preston Smith at his side, they created a blend that remains faithful to Chanticleer's "sound" and yet pushes the envelope ever so slightly to allow the "soul" of the ensemble to shine.

To end; Joe's original composition "Be still and know" is an anthem for the world! In this age of so much uncertainty and pain, this piece reminds us that there is something greater. Between "Be still" and "Balm in Gilead", well, get the idea.

This is a recording for our time. You will not be disappointed whether your a fan of Chanticleer or not. I highly recommend this CD. And, it makes a good stocking stuffer!
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Before this recording, I have to admit that I thought Chanticleer was a pleasing though rather pristine choir, a classic case of style over substance, granted a mellifluous group of voices but not all that stirring to my ears. Fortunately that perception has changed with this latest recording, which taps into a rich tapestry of spirituals and traditional gospel music. Recorded live at St. Ignatius Church here in San Francisco, this disc reflects pure and unbridled vocal beauty provided by the twelve men who make up Chanticleer plus an indispensable 13th voice, that of Bishop Yvette Flunder, a member of the fabled Hawkins Family Singers and a solo artist in her own right. No soul shouter, she unearths her power through her commitment to the words, an approach that grounds the fanciful vocal fireworks the men can generate.

What's nice is that this recording has no multiple tracking, no overdubs, just pure singing. Even with such familiar standards such as "Amazing Grace" and "There Is a Balm in Gilead", the combined effect of Chanticleer and Flunder is wondrous. But even by themselves, the sound these men achieve is incredibly full and rich, obviously inspired by the sacred program and nicely complemented by music director Joseph Jennings' expert arrangements. Jennings himself shows off some powerful vocal chops of his own on "You Can't Hide," "Sit Down Servant" and "Plenty Good Room". Even the one number that borders on camp, the opener "Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb" has a nice, doo-wop feel that allows the listener to sidle into the mainly gospel program easily. This is an unexpected surprise. Highly recommended, and I agree with the first review from Mr. White (who does a fine job on "Walk in Jerusalem")...this seems like the ideal holiday gift.
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on September 27, 2004
I bought "Where The Sun Will Never Go Down" and found it "nice". Fine singing, nice arrangements, but very concert-like, very correct, and uninspired, except for "Twelve Gates of the City". The possibilities of that cut made me buy this CD, and there is no doubt that the guys got it right this time. This is as fine gospel singing as you will hear. If you think of the Dixie Hummingbirds or the Golden Gate Quartet or the Abyssinian Church Choir or Aretha Franklin and James Cleveland's "Precious Memories", this CD has a place right up there with the recordings of those luminaries.
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on October 7, 2004
I've been a Chanticleer fan for many years now and own almost all of their recordings, including "Where the Sun will Never Go Down, but, like another reviewer said, most of the gospel music on that CD was too "concert like"; but this one is just about the best gospel recording they've ever done. My CD arrived yesterday and it hasn't been of the player yet. If you're a gospel music fan, don't miss this CD!
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VINE VOICEon February 9, 2006
On this standard red book 16-bit CD we are offered that rare and special invitation: Come now, pilgrim - take yet another good step forward in gospel praise or supplication. How can we progress in our individual and collective spiritual journeys towards whatever transcendent glories ground us, revive us, and lead us on despite life's challenges, unless we sing?. Are you having set backs? This CD is good medicine, and it is both a worthy addition to the gospel music shelf and perhaps just the sort of musical medicine that turns out to be good for you, on more than one level of body, mind, and soul. Not a bitter root aftertaste, nor a nagging fishy oil payback in any of this welcome elixir. I guess that is why we call it, Good News.

The arrangements of new and old gospel standards have been set by counter-tenor Joseph Jennings - a leading Chanticleer member of long standing - intently drawing upon both the florid improvisations of the soloists and gospel groups climbing ever so dazzlingly into the fiery chariots that sacred texts say carried off the prophet; and yes, rooted as well in the impeccably crafted close harmonies and inwardly solid strength of gospel quartets and ensembles like Fisk University's Jubilee Singers and many other exemplars.

So, when you listen to this one you will be immediately surrounded by that amazing and great, gathering could of witnesses. The messages are familiar: Keep your hands on the plow. Surely God is able. There is a balm in Gilead.

Like the famous vocal work by Ralph Vaughan Williams, his Serenade to Music as written for a star-crossed group of well-known British soloists of the era; so this gospel outing brings the small male ensemble Chanticleer to the fore - both as a vocal group and as a fabulous collection of solo voices who are prodigiously gifted vocal stars in their own rights. Capping off Chanticleer as an embarrassment of riches is a guest turn by San Francisco's own Bishop Yvette Flunder. She is the real deal, too, as both an ordained minister whose leadership in black churches has blazed fireworks in celebration of melding religion with social justice, and a Jen-U-Wine good news singer who can preach and pray and moan with the best of them.

Only the superhumanly perfected intonation of their cappella group singing, as well as the superb blend and polish of the Chanticleer dozen, will remind a listener than this group is as famous for its Flemish medieval polyphony or its unerring Purcellian clarity, as any other ensemble of twelve voices now appearing before us.

So, forget all the categories and musicology boxes which would seal off gospel music from pre-Bach cathedral masters of polyphony. With this CD we can just revel in the mysteries of good music, regardless. Yeah, Josquin, I'm talking bout you - Sit down servant, there's plenty good room.

Five stars. Highly recommended.
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on April 5, 2013
Easter Sunday morning I woke to a KUSC broadcast on my ITouch of Chanticleer's ''Amazing Grace':'How Sweet the Sound'. For a moment, I wondered whether I'd finally crossed over.

From a vantage point that sees over 70++ years I was allowed the momentary gift of 'sight beyond time'. ( After all: the Ba'al Shem Tov told us:'G-D is truly beyond time'.) And I've no doubt that, as she sings, Bishop Flunder is indeed a witness in G-D's time

Amazing Grace: How Sweet the Sound-- my Story:
For my family, WWII was a time of travel over great distance. In 1946 we lived north of Seattle, my father had returned from a short tour as US Navy Chaplain and subsequently served as Chaplain/Community Worker to the returning Pacific Coast military. This was Scandinavian Country with Nordic folk songs, guitars, fiddles, and zithers. Later, we toured with a Rabbi who would tuck his fiddle in his arm, play and dance the Hora with me! Then my Mother sent me to a (Dutch) Christian Reform private school where English was the Second Language-- We'd visit its large church with a pipe organ that rumbled and shook the pews-- and a carillon. But I never heard a breath of Amazing Grace!

In early 1947 we set out heading East from Seattle, across the Rockies for a return to the family home in the midwest. The King family home was set on a small, remote mountain in Southern Indiana. There was no electricity, at best the roads were gravel, more often they were dirt trails. Most of the mountain people traveled horseback or by mule.

The church was the community center; an ancient wood placard stated that the structure was built by the King family in 1878.
There was no electricity; kerosene lamps were used after nightfall. The congregation seating consisted of two pews at the front followed by rows of back-less split-log benches. Up front there was a pump-organ but the mice had devoured the bellows long ago. There were a few seldom used hymnals with shaped notes. Few congregants were literate.
The music consisted of the obligatory Anglican 'Glory Be to the Father'
followed by:
Precious Memories
Amazing Grace
Coming Home

For this small congregation of (perhaps) twenty-five people the Songs were lined out, verse by verse, by a deacon standing at the front with responses shouted back by a senior-citizen lady, blessed with a big contralto voice with timbre just on the tenorish side of Jimmy Durante.

I was fascinated with the music, because to me it was fresh and 'stuck inside'. This was the Music of my ancestors. Furthermore I'd been blessed by observing how they must have lived and worshiped from the late 19th Century to that time.

Further History:

I was twice blessed during 1980's with the participation in Jestor Hairston's concerts. Long before Bob Marley then so-called Christian Reggae, Hairston brought us 'Mary's Boy Child' and long before Lilies of the Field, Hairston brought us "Amen" as sung by Wings Over Jordan Choir and the Golden Gate Quartet.

Twenty years ago I served a bass soloist in Seattle's First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) All-Male choir. FAME had five choirs each responsive to a differing congregational generation. I also sang and soloed in a small Choir led by former Wing's Over Jordan conductor Charles King. To listen, participate, and observe stylistic differences within African-American music across more than five generations remains an a priceless ongoing learning experience.

The CD Title: "How Sweet the Sound" is a a line from John Newton's 18th Century Anglican Hymn: 'Amazing Grace'. Later, in America 'Amazing Grace' then became the thematic verse of the 19th Century's 'Second Great Awakening'. Coincident with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, 'Amazing Grace' became an iconic African-American Spiritual which continues to reflect a long, oft-tenuous, intensely shared African-American and Northern-European religious experience.

The CD: takes time to absorb and appreciate. The Music is flawless. Bishop Flunder and Joseph Jannings are consummate artists. Eric AlaTorre's bass is certainly centered in the gospel tradition.

Easter morning, after a few blinks, I cleared any confusion of Bishop Yvette Flunder with that dear soul ~ 70-years past. I did get my Keurig Coffee cup and then ordered the this CD 'How Sweet the Sound' Poste-Haste!

And, as I recall: Paul Robeson expanded the verse as: Amazing Grace: How Sweet the Sound, that saved a SOUL like ME!

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on January 12, 2013
I especially enjoy the real Spirituals on this CD, beautifully sung. I wish the recording was all
Spirituals, but at least the Gospel songs have some of the stellar qualities of the Spirituals
and there's no screaming.
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on November 27, 2004
From "Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb" to "Amazing Grace", this CD is packed with glorius gospel spirituals and terrific talent. Highly recommend to music lovers of all faiths!
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on January 31, 2005
This is the Best Chanticleer CD yet. I have listened to it dozens of times. Money well spent. I have even given copies to several of my friends.
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on February 5, 2013
I owned this CD before. It is great. Bishop Flunder has a voice that won't be stopped! I was glad it was still available for purchase since I lost mine.
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