The Making of "The Gospel Truth"
The Making Of...

“The Gospel Truth” CD

0 by Gospel Sax Player Greg Vail...


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Introduction

The Gospel Truth is primarily a collection of contemporary worship songs. Most of the music was written by my good friend, Rick Muchow, the Pastor of Music at Saddleback Church. Also included are a favorite song by gospel singer Morris Chapman, and a great Smooth Jazz Sax feature by Carlos Santana, “Europa”.

A little history ......

I have recorded 40 songs for Time Life Music, in the Pop Instrumental world, in addition to many CDs for Smooth Jazz artists and Gospel groups. I released my first solo CD, eMotion, back in 1995. The Time Life project, Sax By Candlelight (later released as Sax By Moonlight) was recorded and released in 96-97. My most recent release was a Christmas CD that I recorded in November 2000, entitled Christmas, The Hymns. I had a three-year period of time between 1997 and 2000 that I was very inactive as a recording artist due to some personal issues that needed to be addressed. When I got the green light to begin recording again, I had a real dilemma on my hands.

Christmas, The Hymns

I have played at Saddleback Church for 5 ½ years, and talked many times about doing a CD of the music we know and love there. But when funding became available to produce a CD, it was almost Christmas, so I decided to crank out a Christmas CD instead.

Christmas, The Hymns was a huge success. It was recorded and delivered in 3 weeks, and paid for in 3 weeks. I was in total awe. God really blessed that project, and in one foul swoop, gave me the opportunity to start my next CD project.

The Gospel Truth CD

The Gospel Truth had been done in my head for years. My years at Saddleback, plus the personal losses I’ve experienced the last few years, made me very attached to many of the songs we sing at church; they had been such a source of strength during these hard times. Every song on this CD has some personal importance in my life. The only real problem was deciding what to leave until next time.

The Music .....

Musical styles on this CD include Rock, a touch of Bebop, Smooth Jazz, R&B, Pop, Power Ballads, and Orchestral music.

The opening track was a huge undertaking. My producer, Rob Mullins, really liked the original recording of “Sing His Praises,” which we re-titled “People All Over The World.” Rob was so excited, he just started sampling the Gospel Choir and re-orchestrating the song around them. I told him I needed to see if this was OK, and called Rick Muchow. He said: “Go for it,” so we did. This track represents 50+ hours of work on Rob’s part. What we ended up with is very exciting. We included the Choir samples, the Church Rhythm Section intro as a breakdown, added the Choir building out of the breakdown, then slammed into a Bebop old school Soprano solo using parts of the original brass feature as punches. The track ends with the Tenor Sax screaming over a collage of samples reassembled to create some major energy.

I love the variety found in music. I took the most aggressive song on the CD and followed it with the only orchestral song we tracked. When I first heard “Healing Grace” I was a mess. Rick wrote this song in 1998, the year my marriage began its dreaded trip toward the courthouse. It still moves me to tears when I listen to it. I know “there are good things only suffering can bring,” and really needed to be able to thank Him for His “Healing Grace”.

Carlos Santana’s “Europa” was a bit of a stretch for this CD; it is the only secular song included. I have played this song for 15+ years in the clubs and decided to include it for those fans, whom I also wanted to introduce to the Gospel music I love. I brought the live band into the studio and we just did what we do. The cadenza at the end of the song is all improvised by Rob and myself, and was named by our Bass player, Melvin Davis. We got done recording and he said: “I really like that Italian Opera part.” So…I hope you enjoy a club favorite, “Europa” with the Italian Opera ending.

“Good and Worthy Of Praise” was another song I had to hang on to during that tough time. You can say you believe anything, but when everything falls apart, where do you stand? It is easy to be thankful when things are good, but what about the bad times? I needed to say it with my mouth until my heart heard it. I don’t understand it, I just know who He is and that He is worthy of our praise.

I was playing at a Baptist Pastors Retreat in central California with Rick Muchow. I don’t recall the speaker’s name. At one point while ministering to these pastors, he shared a story about a woman who came to a homeless shelter he was working at. She was at the very bottom, on the street, hungry, dirty and sick. After a few days she was doing better, and the pastor went in to talk with her. He asked how she had survived, and what kept her looking for help instead of just giving up. She said that there was this little song in her head that kept her going. She sang it to him and it touched him deeply. He shared the song with his account of the story by singing it to us; it was a powerful moment. Rick found the key and began playing along as the group joined in. That little song brought a whole room to tears and became the theme song for the conference. I remember the Speaker looking over at Rick and saying: “It sure would bless my heart to hear this on a CD one day.” It was on Rick’s next CD. The song is “Don’t Give Up”, and the lyrics read: “Don’t give up. Someone really loves you. Don’t give up. Someone really cares. Don’t give up. Someone really loves you. And that someone is the Lord.” I have played this song for thousands of Pastors over the years, and have seen this song encourage and strengthen over and over again. I wanted to include the “Author Unknown” in our arrangement, so Rob and I wrote what I call the “homeless woman section” – very sad and sparse. The song builds from a hopeless despair to embracing love as Heaven’s Angels join in song.

“My Life Will Worship You” is the first Smooth Jazz Baritone Sax tune I have ever heard. I love the message and love that I got to play the BIG Sax on this one.

My producer, Rob Mullins, really pulled this one apart, and put it back together very differently. There is a real advantage to having a producer who is not familiar with the music he is producing. Rob had no mental restrictions as to how it is supposed to go, or how we do it now. Rob just took great songs and reworked them as he felt moved. On “Take Time To Pray”, Rob wrote an intro that replaced the bridge later in the track, changed up all the form, and made it a smooth jazz hit. I could never have done that.

Shortly after my separation from my wife in 1998, I found out she was going to have a baby. Of all the times, what was this all about, and where is God in that? I was so freaked that I was bringing a child into such a mess. I had worked on a new CD a few months prior, meeting Morris Chapman through producer Stan Endicott. I think I had a minor breakdown listening to “I Know The Plans” for the first time. I hated it at first. It’s based on a verse in the Bible: “For I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” I had the hardest time with that concept. When my Vanessa was born, I gave that verse to her. I had to believe God had a good plan for her life. I didn’t get to see her much at first, and my heart was breaking all the time for her. I found there were times she didn’t seem to know me from Adam, but as I starting singing this little gift of a song to her, she would become my baby. She knew this song; I sang it all the time. It became my first real connection with my new baby.

It was New Years Eve, 1999, and Saddleback was out in the rain celebrating the new Millennium with thousands of our closest friends. Morris was a guest soloist that night. I had told him how the song had ministered to me and my new baby, but also had told him about the dreaded court dates ahead in 2000. Morris started singing “I Know The Plans” during his part of the show, and called me out on stage as he was singing. I thought he needed something. He just put his arm around me and loved on me. At one point he pulled the mic away from his mouth and said: “God wants you to hear this.” I was blown away. After he left the stage, he pulled me aside and said he didn’t really consider himself a prophet or anything, but he just felt like God wanted to make sure I knew that this promise was not only for Vanessa, but for me too. He said not to worry about the court dates and to trust God. I still worried some, but what a powerful word of encouragement I was given that night.

“Only The Lord Of Love” was an Easter Choir special at Saddleback for years. I have sat through 9-10 Easter services a year, and felt the power of the cross through this song every time.

“Fall On Me” closes the CD. I spent two months working on the recording system at my house, and at least six full days tracking Flute and Piccolo overdubs on this track. This was the first horn arrangement I have had the time to work out since being in my own environment where I could experiment with how the parts fit together on my own time. There are so many tracks playing, and in the context of the song they blended in so well that I decided to fade the band out early to feature the Flutes. By the end of the track there are two Flute Choirs, the melody in octaves, a solo Flute, two sets of duet Flutes, and a Piccolo choir playing with one low string note for bass movement. When we mastered this track, Wally Grant suggested a reverb fade-in during the Flute fade-out. It sounds like the music stops, and the angels are still in the room for a while, and then they disappear into the distance. One totally weird thing that happened was the harp-runs near the end. It sounds like there is a Harp playing, but it is just Flutes and the Bass note. We went through each track and listened; the harp effect is only there when all the tracks play together. Rob was kind of freaking out at it, and I told him the song lyrics read: “Holy Spirit, fall; fall on me,” and He did. I love this track!

Sequencing the Songs

The sequence of the songs is pretty “Saddleback”. We usually start with more up-tempo songs and move into worship as people get a chance to relax and get focused, ending with more first person songs sung directly to God. When I was arranging the songs, I envisioned people starting the CD doing stuff, and then being drawn into the first couple of songs with the turning point being “Good And Worthy Of Praise”. I then see people relaxing and focusing on God through the remainder of the disc. I don’t know why I get so into the emotional response, but I really hope that when the music ends, it will be minutes before the listener realizes it is quiet. I have prayed that it would be useful in personal quiet times and worship. My voice is a Sax, and I pray God uses it as He sees fit.


God Bless - Greg Vail



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