Reviewed by Tony Cummings
I was looking through a list of Christian music all-time best sellers recently (well, we've all got to have a hobby!) and was puzzled by the listing for 'Alleluia! A Praise Gathering For Believers by Various Artists which, according to this list published by GMA went platinum (1,000,000 units sold) for Heartwarming Records in 1973. How come such a huge hit had completely missed my radar I mused and made a note to do some digging to investigate further. Then, low and behold, the said item gets reissued on CD - with one major change - unlike that vinyl original Bill And Gloria Gaither are now given front cover billing. Ho hum, I thought, such is the pulling power of the Gaithers' names since their marathon Homecoming Friends series made them rich and famous, such slight of hand on the sleeve designer's part can be forgiven particularly as the husband and wife team wrote all the songs here. So what of the music? Well, I have to advise that the 35 odd years since its original release have not been kind to 'Alleluia!'. This album, described at the time as "a praise and worship musical" and on the sleeve "the first inspirational album ever to achieve gold status by the RIAA - over 500,000 copies sold" (strange, that GMA list had it as a million) suffers from a production by Bob Mackenzie and Ron Huff which is so overblown it boarders on parody. Imagine a big string-filled orchestra, a very straight-laced choir (The Trevecca Nazarene College Concert Choir), various soloists like Dallas Holm, Doug Oldham, The Bill Gaither Trio and Suzanne Johnson and a whole heap of voices acting out parts (The Tax Collector, The Woman At The Well), giving testimony or offering blessed thoughts. The constant interjections of speech give the album a very fragmented atmosphere destroying any real sense of worship. In fact, during one track I literally jumped when a particularly strident exhortation followed a saccharine choir passage. The whole thing is stupifyingly overblown, exceedingly dated and surely too far from true Southern gospel to appeal to too many Homecoming Friends fans. Historically important 'Alleluia!' may be. But large parts of this high kitsch item are unlistenable today.
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