Back On: Light Records
Interview with Light VP, Phillip White
If you can dig back into your crates of Gospel LPs and pull out the first Commissioned pink album, or maybe Walter Hawkins’ Love Alive II, or even some early Beau Williams, then you are already familiar with Light Records.
— interview by Stan North —
Home to some of the greatest artists that contemporary Gospel has ever heard, the label was instrumental in introducing names such as The Winans, Danniebelle Hall and Andrae Crouch.
After an absence of several years, Light Records has broken free from its dusty archive chains, and has re-emerged as a full-service record label under the direction of industry veteran, Phillip White.
Gospelflava.com recently spoke with White about the revival of the esteemed Light name, and asked him to describe the role that the label played in its heyday, and to outline how the label has come back to life.
“Light Records was simply a renaissance of creativity. It heralded a step taken in Gospel that has never happened since, in terms of innovation, in terms of music that became more relevant and more accessible. Light Records released music that crossed outside the church and crossed racial boundaries.”
He explained that for him personally, Andrae Crouch was influential.
“I was a singer in junior high and so on, and those songs from Andrae crossed right over into the white church. Before him, there was Bill Gaither and his singers, but then came Andrae Crouch. “Soon and Very Soon” and songs like this, we were all singing them.”
“Light Records had a history of being the beginning of contemporary Gospel with some of the genre’s greatest names. The label gave birth to so many other Gospel greats: The Winans, Tramaine and Walter Hawkins, Commissioned, Danniebelle Hall, Kurt Carr and the Kurt Carr Singers, just to name a few.”
For various reasons, the label began to peter out, and by the mid 1990s, was cruising along on the power of its catalogue strength, under the ownership of Platinum/CGI. Then in the late 1990’s, Platinum/CGI itself went under.
White explained that new entity Compendia Music Group subsequently acquired the Light Records imprint in the financial re-organization of Platinum/CGI. Compendia Music Group is comprised of three full service labels and a distribution arm: Compendia Music, Light Records, Intersound and Compendia Distribution Group.
Compendia Music Group will produce and distribute a wide variety of music including classic rock, country, R&B, Texas-based Americana, Christian, Gospel, Inspirational and classical. Compendia Music Group is a division of Compendia Media Group, an integrated entertainment and media management company operating in the areas of music, home video, direct marketing, publishing and interactive TV.
As a veteran of the Gospel music industry, White is well-positioned to bring back Light into the fold of today’s Gospel labels.
With more than 20 years experience in the business, he helmed the rise of CGI Records from the 8th largest Gospel label to the 4th largest in 1998, which culminated with the label being recognized by Billboard Magazine as the #1 Independent Gospel Label in 1999. White worked with artists such as Vicki Winans, Mighty Clouds Of Joy, James Hall & Worship and Praise, among others.
After a hiatus of a few years, White is back in the ring.
“So little has changed [in the Gospel music industry]. I went into the internet world for a couple of years and it forced me to look at everything differently, with a new set of eyes. And yet, over the decades, so little has changed.
Addressing the challenges on the plate of the Gospel industry as a whole in 2002, White strongly believes that so much of today’s music has run parallel with the needs of the local church.
“The church desires fresh music that will lead their congregations into real worship experiences. Cross-over successes are great, but our industry needs to focus more on the needs of the local church.”
Now as VP and GM for Light Records, he states his goals simply.
Light Records Walter Hawkins
Walter Hawkins, Andrae Crouch and The Winans are the first on the catalogue whistle stop from Light Records.|
Titled the Legends of Gospel, the series promises to recall the glory days of the label be connecting today's Gospel enthusiasts with the contemporary pioneers of yesteryear.
See series review.
“We want to seek partnerships with artists where their visions will be clearly understood, their ministries will be embraced, and their business transactions will be dealt with in an ethical and generous manner.”
“Our hope is to introduce a whole new generation of Gospel artists who are not only talented, but who are focused on ministering to the local church. We want to carry the mantle of great Gospel music by putting artists first, and by investing in and partnering with the Gospel community. We will take a fresh approach to artist relations in terms of understanding their vision and ministry and working with the artist to achieve their individual goals.”
“We desire that Light Records be a reliable source for the local church, offering them quality music that will complement their ministries. We want to create and market projects that have the local church in mind.”
The first new artist on Light Records is Youthful Praise. The choir’s debut project entered the Billboard Gospel charts at position #18 in January 2002, rising to #13 soon thereafter, and still going strong.
“Youthful Praise was birthed over 13 years ago within their home church of Turner’s Faith Temple in Connecticut. Awesome God is the group’s first release, and we have entered into a creative partnership with the Evidence Gospel record label to introduce this dynamic group of 30 teenagers to the world. We believe Youthful Praise is truly a church choir for the new millennium.”
"We have also signed The Mighty Clouds of Joy, and plan on releasing their project in August 2002. We will be announcing similar signings in the coming weeks."
With the extensive array of catalogue material that Light has in its vaults, the re-energized label has in no way forgotten the continuing extreme popularity of its roots.
“Our first collections will be the Legends of Gospel series, due out in mid-February. The first three projects of this series will feature Andrae Crouch, Walter Hawkins and The Winans. Each project will be a compilation of original recordings dating back to the 70s and 80s, many of which are no longer available anywhere else.”
Phillip White has been pleased so far with the re-entry of Light Records.
"We’ve been very well received, people in the industry have been good to us."
And then he summed up the challenge for both himself and for Light Records in one word.
“When Jesus came, he ministered to people at the point of their need, the blind, the sick, he met you there. Christ, although we see him as the big picture theologically, to the people of his time, He was someone who first of all met them at their need.”
“He was not the first religious experience that these people had, but He was the first religious experience that actually met the people at their needs.”
"So, we want to sign artists that are relevant. The events of September 11, 2001 created a spiritual turn. Our call is to meet people at their need through Gospel music. The here and now.”
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