This post is part of the Encore Series, posts highlighting Southern Gospel songs of the past that should be brought back. All the entries in this post were appreciated and considered, but when my mom suggested this one, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for.
After over a decade off the road, the Statesmen returned in 1992. This was due (at least partly) to the Homecoming videos reawakening interest in the legends of the genre. This is not a historical stretch, either, since Bill Gaither himself produced Revival, a 1992 project reintroducing the group.
Revival drew criticism from some long-time fans for introducing more instrumentation than the Statesmen were known for in the 1960s. But it was far less a change from the instrumentation on their 1970s recordings, and the tracks were unmistakably rooted in the Statesmen tradition. However the project may have struck the years of a fan of the 1960s lineup who hadn’t heard the group since, the album’s sound stands the test of time and sounds fantastic now, almost two decades later.
When the Statesmen hit the road again in 1992, they did so with an all-star cast. Legends Jake Hess and Hovie Lister returned to reprise their roles at piano and lead. Johnny Cook sang tenor, Biney English sang baritone, and Bob Caldwell sang bass.
Though most of Revival stayed within the classic Statesmen style, the second-to-last track, “Every Eye Shall See,” is a monumental ballad featuring tenor Johnny Cook. The liner notes mistakenly credit the song to Bill and Gloria Gaither; according to BMI, Bill Gaither’s co-writer was Robert Farrell. (Bill and Gloria did co-write another song by the same title, a praise chorus recorded on the original New Gaither Vocal Band project.)
The song addresses the a topic is so relevant that it’s a wonder more songs haven’t addressed it. The first verse introduces the problem:
You may live like there’s no tomorrow
Be your voice of authority
Make your claim how the Gospel is failing
Speak your mind while speaking is free
“While speaking is free” implies that speaking won’t always be free, and sets up this magnificent lyric in the pre-chorus
For the day is coming when school will be out
There’ll be no more discussion and no more doubt
For the sky will open and Jesus descend with a shout
Every eye shall see
Every knee shall bow
Every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord
The second verse introduces and rebuts a specific criticism:
Some may say God’s Word is outdated
His commandments are all passé
But what they say, it won’t make much difference
When He returns with the last words to say
This leads into the second pre-chorus, using the familiar metaphor of a hammer and anvil to describe God’s word and its detractors:
For His truth is an anvil that’s righteous and fair
And many a hammer’s been broken there
So hammer away with a vengeance—just as long as you dare
This leads into the final choruses.
The magnificent lyric encapsulates one of the biggest problems facing the church, attempts by liberal theologians and academics who would seek to undermine the faith from within (or, in the case of a Bart Ehrman, from without). But the lyrics only introduce that to set up the heart of the message—that skepticism will not last forever, and Truth wins in the end.
The soaring melody was perfect for a legendary voice of Johnny Cook’s stature. Later renditions of the Statesmen continued to stage the song, as evidenced by this YouTube video [EDIT, 4/9/13: Broken link removed.] featuring Cook’s and Hess’s replacements, Tank Tackett and Jack Toney. Even though that later rendition doesn’t quite measure up to the original, it’s still worth a listen if you have never heard the song.
Group suggestion: A group like Triumphant Quartet would be a perfect fit for this song. Even before I realized that the Statesmen’s original rendition featured Johnny Cook, from the minute I first heard the song I was thinking “David Sutton.”