There had never been a group like Perfect Heart. They exploded onto the Gospel Music scene back in 1991. Their very first single, “Somebody Touched The Lord”, skyrocketed to Number 1 on the charts, a feat which no group had accomplished before or has since. The initial lineup (Danny Funderburk at tenor, Dale Shipley at lead, Mark Lanier at baritone, Mike Presnell at bass, and Jeff Stice at piano) rode a wave of popularity and were at the pinnacle of their popularity.
But 1994 would bring a drastic change to the group. Funderburk, the groups most popular member, would depart the group, and bring the first real personnel change in the groups history. The group replaced the beloved tenor with another well-known tenor, Garry Sheppard, formerly of the Kingsmen. It was a shock to many in the industry that the beloved and respected Funderburk would be replaced by “Squeaky”, as he was named by Jim Hamill.
On Time God, released in 1995, was an important album for Perfect Heart, and it is one of their best. The material recorded on this album is some of the best in the groups history. Theres A King On The Way featuring Mark Lanier, one of the best and most underrated baritones in the history of Gospel Music. The song was the projects first single, and one of the albums most well-known tracks. Mercy Sent Grace is an excellent song, featuring Shipley, who has been noted as one of the most sorely missed voices in Gospel Music, and I could not agree more.
God’s Been There Before features Presnell, and Sheppard respectively on the verses, and showcases a great, jazzy, group blend on the chorus, also highlighted by the piano artistry of Stice. Up There Somewhere, which has also been recorded by the Booth Brothers in recent years, features Sheppard, and it shocked many who heard it at first. A tender vocal, delivered brilliantly by Sheppard, was something people would have expected from Funderburk, not Sheppard. On Time God features some of Sheppard’s finest vocal performances.
Next up is another great cut. The Well, with Lanier and Sheppard featured on the verses. This one has a great western opening, borrowed from the Sons of the Pioneers. The next two cuts show off the singing machine that is Dale Shipley, the title track which is a straight ahead gospel song, and The Rose Arose, a power ballad written by Phil Cross, Lanier & Sheppard, which Shipley knocks out of the park. If anyone wants to know the definition of a powerhouse lead singer, you must look up Dale Shipley. Whether it’s a slow song, big ballad or straight ahead quartet singing, Shipley could flat out sing any style and sing with power.
Glorybound is a great quartet number, featuring Presnell on the second verse. Then Sheppard steps up to the mic, on What A Wonderful Day, and it is smooth, crooning tenor, that is a highlight of the recording. People who heard this song often would ask, “Is this the same Garry Sheppard that sang with The Kingsmen?” This group has an awesome blend on this song, and it is a fine recording. Home is a great group number, featuring Presnell on the 2nd verse. The album then closes with an a capella rendition of God Be With You Till We Meet Again.
This lineup was one of the best of the 90’s and IMO this recording is a must have. If you’re new to Southern Gospel or your knowledge of the genre only dates back to 2000, do yourself a favor and find a copy of On Time God. You’ll be glad you did.