10. I’ll Fly Away (1932)
This is very obviously not an original Gaither piece, which is something that has disqualified many other possible entries to this list. Originally written by Albert Brumley in 1929 and published in ’32, “I’ll Fly Away,” has been a favorite of gospel and country singers for nearly one hundred years. That being said, The Gaithers have put an excellent spin on the old classic more than a few times, and David Phelps’ jaw dropping verse is enough to earn it a spot on this list.
9. Mary Did You Know (1984)
Perhaps the biggest crossover hit in the Gaithers’ catalog, Mark Lowry’s Christmas masterpiece is a yearly favorite in church services across the country. Unlike the majority of Gaither tracks, “Mary Did You Know,” is primarily lyric driven. That being said, the power that blasts through each and every chorus, particularly when David Phelps’ awe-inspiring tenor is present, can’t be denied. It’s only held back by the fact that it is much more a Mark Lowry track than a Gaither track.
8. Give It Away (2006)
A quintessential piece of mid-2000’s gospel, “Give It Away,” is one of many Gaither cuts which are driven and highlighted by booming bass and baritone parts. Featuring Guy Penrod’s smooth baritone over impressively rhythmic drum lines, the song is a testament to the group’s timeless sound and ability to meld technically remarkable harmonies with fun lyrics and instrumentals.
7. These Are They (2003)
For my money, there is no more incredible member in the Gaithers’ long history than David Phelps. His unfathomable range and otherworldly power and control stands among some of history’s greatest vocalists and though his abilities can sometimes be overused by the group, perhaps his best showing during his tenure is his lead on “These Are They.” He performs each verse with an incredibly expressive tone and his wailing finish is simply breathtaking.
6. A Few Good Men (1991)
One of the older cuts on this list, “A Few Good Men,” is based on the US Marine Slogan, and is one of the better lyrical works in the Gaither collection. The track’s best quality is the sheer wealth of parts available as it is a perennial choice for performances which feature large numbers of former and current vocal band members. It’s often used as an occasion to celebrate the long and impressive history of the group, and for that reason, it simply can’t be left off the list.
5. Alpha and Omega (2002)
Another classic track in the group’s long career, “Alpha and Omega,” borrows several elements from classic gospel hymns, not the least of which the lyrical style. While the instrumental is a bit stale, the vocal work on this track is undeniable. It’s far tighter than most, with much of the verse sung in unison with a few break away tenor lines here and there. The chorus its the most memorable section of the piece though, a perfectly woven four part with a tenor line for the ages.
4. The Old Rugged Cross (1912)
Another classic even older than the Gaithers themselves, “The Old Rugged Cross,” written in 1912, is as central to the cannon and culture of Baptist Christianity as any other piece of art. It would follow, then, that one of the most iconic and moving versions of this hymn was recorded by The Gaither Vocal Band. While the tenor lines are soft and flashy on this cut, in classic Baptist fashion, it’s the thunderous bass vocals which anchor the spacious harmonies and drive the track along.
3. Because He Lives (1999)
Perhaps one of the most iconic tracks in the Gaithers’ catalog, “Because He Lives,” is a classic gospel hymn if ever one was written. Lyrically, it has a poetic power that few other tracks can achieve and the brass section carries an explosive style that crescendos to a fever pitch in the final chorus. Of course, the harmonies are air tight and each vocal performance is excellent, but this is one of the few Gaither cuts which is as defined by it’s instrumentation as it’s vocals.
2. He Touched Me (1963)
One of Bill Gaither’s many long lasting contributions to the greater Baptist cannon, “He Touched Me” has been covered by everyone from Lawrence Welk to Elvis. However, there’s no beating the original. The song bares many of the classic marks of a hymn from the evangelical boom of the 60’s and 70’s, including soaring tenors and a sort of bombastic waltz timing, but it stands somewhat outside of time in it’s ability to wow virtually all ages of gospel fans. Add on some excellent lyrics, a timeless opening verse, and excellent backing instrumentation, and “He Touched Me,” only narrowly misses the top spot on this list.
- I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary
- You Are My All in All
- Sometimes it Takes A Mountain
- Loving God, Loving Each Other
- Let Freedom Ring
1.I Bowed On My Knees (1984)
With a career spanning more than 30 studio albums and nearly 40 years, The Gaither Vocal Band is the single most iconic Southern Gospel group in history, and there is perhaps no better example of why than Michael English’s 1984 classic, “I Bowed on My Knees.” A lyrical trip to heaven, the song blends perfectly the prescient awe of heaven itself with the long-lasting majesty and history of the Christian faith. Most importantly, though, the song feels almost regal with a bombastic horns and commanding drums. The final moments are some of the most powerful in music history and the final repetitions of the chorus are nothing if not pure, musical perfection and a testament to just how much the Southern Gospel genre has to offer.