Forever Friends - (Frontline)
John Gibson

By Kelvin Bailey

I was recently paid a visit by my best friend who lives in another city one of those unexpected "I was in town, thought I'd drop by' occasions. Needless to say, it was a great visit same ol' Brad . . . no ground lost. However, as is typical, he always has something new to tell me and occasionally a new way of telling it. This is very much the case with Forever Friends, the latest release from Jon Gibson. I first "met" Jon in 1988 when, during a most devastating and trying summer, I heard "Friend In You" for the first time.

Over the past few years this relationship has proved quite beneficial I have been challenged by my friend to remember that Jesus loves me, to recognize my need for Him and to learn how my relationship with Him can transform my life and relationships with others. Now Jon has popped in for another visit, to remind me of all the old things that bear repeating and to tell me some new things in some new and interesting ways.

There is a lot that can be said about friendship and many have done so. However, not a lot can be said above and beyond the simple statement Jon Gibson makes here. The song "Forever Friends" appears at first to celebrate the joys of human friendship. Even the music itself is reminiscent of a lazy afternoon spent with a comrade. It becomes evident very soon, however, that this song instead celebrates that friendship by which all others are judged our friendship with Christ.

One of the nicer surprises on Forever Friends (which really isn't a surprise at all) is the inclusion of "Happier Than the Morning Sun" by Jon's friend Stevie Wonder. I don't want to be accused of beating a dead horse, but how can we be sure it is Jon Gibson singing here and not Mr. Wonder himself? I don't know . . . . The oft-told similarities are still astounding. This song is typical Stevie Wonder "share-care-feel-and-be-real" music: happy melody, happy lyrics and a happy little chorus consisting only of the words "bum, bum, bum." The only thing not typical here is the addition of a sitar played by Lanny Cordola. But in the hands of Jon Gibson, this song becomes anything but trite. It becomes very pleasant listening. – Most of Forever Friends is the kind of great stuff you would expect from Mr. Gibson.

Lots of funk, lots of soul, great ballads and some wonderful input from some incredible musicians. Most noteworthy is the contribution of Qandra Stephens and Allegra Parks, two gifted vocalists from the Scott Blackwell/ Myx Records camp. These two lend background vocals throughout the project and even share lead vocals, along with Jon and Kathy Brandelino, on "Happy to Know Jesus." This is a great song which for some reason reminds me of the Staple Singers' classic "Respect Yourself." As great as the song is, it's a shame to be distracted by the less-than-perfect rap contribution by MC Peace from Freedom of Soul. But then again, I don't like rap.

The only other song on Forever Friends not written by Jon Gibson is "To My Father's House," written by Gospel legend Edwin Hawkins. This, my friends, is one HAPPY song, complete with a gospel choir, hand-clapping, tambourine and everything else needed to faithfully recreate a Gospel classic while still maintaining Gibson's signature sound. This is a great praise song. I dare you to stand still!

'To My Father's House," lyrically speaking, is a most fitting finale to this album from our friend Jon. What greater thing could one wish for his friend than for him to know Jesus, the Christ and to spend eternity together in His presence. This is the mark of a perfect friendship, to unselfishly wish for another all the glory that is held for them in Jesus Christ. This seems to be exactly what Jon Gibson wishes for his friends and listeners.

Thanks for the visit, Jon. And please, come again soon. The door's always open for forever friends like you.

(Kelvin Bailey is a music buyer at the Wellspring Christian Book Center.)