Still playing after all these years

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The Infinite Realm has been playing gospel music with a unique sound since 1969. They are, seated, from left: Paul Wright, drums; Steve Brown, tambourine; Neal Wright, keyboard/bass; and Dave Sherman, lead guitar. Back row: Dave Taylor, acoustic guitar; Ricky Mahoney, bass/piano/mandolin; Ken Boyer, sound engineer; and Tony Gossom, 12-string guitar. All but Boyer have vocal parts.

 

Infinite Realm never lost the desire to present the gospel in song

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

BEDFORD, Ky. — There’s a subtle irony in the way The Infinite Realm sings gospel music.

The group is a bit of a throwback, with a repertoire heavy on popular hits of the late 60s and early 70s. But when the group began singing those same songs, they were considered cutting edge or groundbreaking.

But that might be the appeal of a group that might be one of Kentucky’s best-kept secrets despite first coming together in 1969.

Fifty years ago, four students at Trimble County High School started singing gospel with a style heavily influenced by The Oak Ridge Boys and Imperials. “They were the hottest thing in gospel music,” smiles Dave Taylor, a founding member of the group who is still singing and playing guitar.

Today, the world is much different, but The Infinite Realm has much of the same sound.

“We do ‘It Won’t Be Long’ and it is like the Oak Ridge Boys’ arrangement,” Taylor says of the great Andrae Crouch song from the Oaks’ acclaimed “Light” album of 1972.

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The Infinite Ream in April, 1971. From left are Tony Gossom, Steve Brown, pianist Nancy Petit Burrows, Dave Taylor and Neal Wright. (All photos courtesy Dave Taylor.)

“I really liked the contemporary Christian music then,” says Realm pianist and vocalist Neal Wright. “I loved Andrae Crouch. The Second Chapter of Acts. I remember going to the Ichthus festival in Wilmore (Ky.) and Truth played before 20 or 21 thousand people.”

There are times when The Infinite Realm can be a trip back in time. And that’s just fine with the group and its fans. There’s no taped music as all seven performing members of the group play at least one instrument.

“I’m stuck in the past,” smiles Taylor. “It’s just hard today to replicate those sounds from The Oak Ridge Boys or Imperials or The Statesmen.”

The Infinite Realm has been creating and delivering a unique sound most of the last five decades. Originally called The Chordettes — “There was no (specific) reason for that name,” Taylor remembers. “It was suggested by the mother of our piano player.” — the group quickly took north central Kentucky by storm.

By early 1971, The Chordettes had become The Infinite Realm. About the same time, Wright jumped at a chance to fill an opening. That quartet — Taylor, Wright, Tony Gossom and Steve Brown are still singing together today.

The following year, The Infinite Realm established itself as an up-and-comer in Kentucky music circles, placing second out of 55 entries in a statewide contest at the Capital Plaza in Frankfort. Bookings in central Kentucky followed and by 1973, the group had recorded its first album at Rusty York’s famed Jewel Recording Studio in Cincinnati.

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The Infinite Realm in 1981, upon the release of their third album. They are, from left, Dave Taylor, Ken Taylor, Neal Wright, Rick Mahoney (kneeling), Paul Wright, Ron Shelton and Tony Gossom.

“I still have about 25 copies of that album,” Taylor says of the first recording, which was all vinyl.

Four years later, The Realm group cut another album at Queen City Album (QCA), where J.D. Sumner and the Stamps recorded their “Elvis’ Favorite Gospel Songs” work and the group continued to branch out in its ministry, eventually going to Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana as well as the home state.

Eventually the quartet and pianist became a full band, but life happened. In 1991, more than 20 years after coming together as a group, The Infinite Realm disbanded. “We had jobs and responsibilities that made it difficult,” Taylor recalls.

Most of the band members stayed in the Madison, Ind.-Bedford, Ky., area, but Wright relocated to South Bend, Ind., for his job with the U.S. Postal Service.

But the itch to sing and play never went anywhere and after a 14-year absence, the members of the band living near their hometown reunited. The reason was very simple: “We missed it,” Taylor says with a smile.

But five hours away in northern Indiana, Neal Wright was oblivious to the band’s resurrection. “For a while, I didn’t know,” he says. “I was away but when I heard them, I thought, ‘Man, I wold love to do that again.’”

In 2009, he got the chance. The Realm’s pianist left and from South Bend, Wright answered the call, driving five hours one way to play with his old group. After his first wife passed away two years later, Wright, now retired, moved to Campbellsburg, Ky., just a few miles from his childhood home.

Over 50 years, The Infinite Realm has remained remarkably consistent. Taylor and Gossom have been there from Day One. By 1973, five of the current seven musicians were on board. Since the reunification, Wright coming back as pianist and the addition of guitarist Dave Sherman have been the only changes.

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The Infinite Realm in 1973 upon recording the group’s first album. Front row, from left: Tony Gossom, Gary Kidwell and Steve Brown. Back row: Joel Wright, Dave Taylor, Neal Wright and Paul Wright.

The music is largely the same. While the group wrote most of the songs on its “Healing” CD, released in 2012, the latest project, “Message of Love” from 2017, is heavy on traditional gospel favorites. Given the influences on The Infinite Realm’s music, it’s not surprising that longtime Oak Ridge Boys’ pianist Ron Fairchild produced both albums.

In concert, The Infinite Realm has begun bringing back other classics like Andrae Crouch’s “Through It All” and Dallas Holm’s “Rise Again” and “Jesus Got a Hold of My Life.”

The group stays as busy as it wants, playing at churches in north central Kentucky and southern Indiana. It’s also popular at community events and has been asked to sing the National Anthem at Trimble County High School basketball games and a football scrimmage at South Oldham High School in Crestwood, Ky.

Being able to sing at school events led to a funny moment at a Trimble basketball game. Taylor, a retired newspaper editor, had taken his place under one basket to take pictures. “During a timeout,” he says, “one of the referees came over to me and said, ‘You have been together since the 70s? Do you do anything by The Doors?'”

Taylor breaks into a huge laugh.

The group plays as much as it can and a highlight of the schedule is being able to present the gospel at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex near LaGrange, Ky.

The message has never changed.

“What we do is ministry,” says Taylor, who serves as the pastor of a small Baptist church. “We do have some entertainment value, but we try to leave the audience with the thought there is a better life for you.

“We know that in every audience there is someone hurting. It might be someone with a financial problem or sickness. It might be a relationship issue or divorce.

“We want them to know there is something better in Jesus.”

Infinite Realm to be at Graefenburg Christian Church

The Infinite Realm will be in concert on March 24 at Graefenburg Christian Church, located at 5900 Louisville Road, Frankfort. Spokesman Dave Taylor says that while group has been in that area before, it has been a long time. “We have been all over, just not very often,” he laughs.

The concert begins at 6:30 p.m. and a love offering will be taken.

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The Infinite Realm pose for a photo in the studio while recording their latest album, “Message of Love,” at Ron Fairchild Music in 2017. In front are, from left, Rick Mahoney and Ron Fairchild, pianist for The Oak Ridge Boys. Back row: Paul Wright, Neal Wright, Tony Gossom, Greg Jennings of Restless Heart, Dave Taylor and Steve Brown.

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