When the Oak Ridge Boys ventured into the mainstream country genre, they were well established as a gospel group with roots tracing back to the 1940s. The most famous lineup of William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, and Richard Sterban had two albums that had hit singles on the country charts by 1979. With the debut at the Y’All Come Back Saloon, and ordering Room Service, the band announced that with their third record that The Oak Ridge Boys Have Arrived. Released on March 30, 1979, the group ‘s release spawned three hit singles, along with a concert favorite.
The opener, “Sail Away” is one of my favorites of the hits that the group has put out. Sometimes the artist’s hits become redundant and overplayed, but I never grow tired of this song. Duane Allen’s soft, soul voice gives heart to the wonderful lyrics. The guitar fills throughout the song compliments the softness of the song. Another favorite part of the song is how the drum fills kick in before the last verse as well, also bringing in the tambourine to the song, before kicking into a more mid tempo beat until fade out.
“There Must be Something About Me That She Loves” brings William Lee Golden to the lead mike on this straight country song. The band was still in their early stages of their country career , so keeping the traditional style of country music is relevant here by the early 1980s. Richard Sterban’s bass vocals comes to help out in the chorus, which adds a nice sound to the song. I did not have this release on record, only getting it a year or so ago when I discovered the CD at a used store, so this song is a pleasant surprise listen for me in 2019.
“Sometimes The Rain Won’t Let Me Sleep” lets Allen takes the lead again. I have always said that he is one of the most underrated vocalists in all music, especially on ballads. Allen brings passion to every word, which may only be rivaled with Barry Manilow in my opinion. A solid ballad, that could have been placed on the AC charts for the time. The early Oaks records (especially up until 1983) has great orchestration on the tracks, especially with the strings, which Kenny Rogers also brought to his records. This is a great song, under 4 minutes long. No fillers on this song, and has a great run time.
After the first three songs showing a softer side to the band, “I Gotta Get Over This” gets the record to a moving beat. Even though Allen is signing lead, Sterban again adds to the song. The drumming on the song by Kenneth Buttrey (as credited by my re-released CD where no major liner notes are featured) brings an added touch to the song. being a drummer, one can appreciated the playing on this song, where the added playing is not too much that distracts the song.
“My Radio Sure Sounds Good To Me” has a catchy intro vocally to the song. The song has the 1960s Doo Wop feel to the song, which is not surprising since Bonsall and Sterban had links to that era (Bonsall being from Philadelphia and Sterban sang with Elvis Presley). This song is just a great sing-a-long gem that dares the listener NOT to try and sing along (let me tell you, if you can listen to is without singing, you are a brave person and have unlimited willpower). This would be a great addition to their live shows.
Another reason for the pop feel is the song was written by Larry Graham of Grand Station. Even though the Larry Graham version is awesome, I have to say I jammed more to The Oak’s version, which is a testament to their talents. There are several covers that The Oaks have recorded throughout the years that have been better than the original (a song called “Elvira” comes to mind), and this is one of the them, taking nothing away from the originals.
Speaking of covers, the next song, “Dream On,” which was once recorded by The Righteous Brothers, was a country hit for the group, and just barely missed the Top 40 singles charts on Billboard AC charts. This song is probably the most famous Sterban sings lead on, and is still performed at their live shows today. I was first exposed to the song on the Greatest Hits record I got as a Christmas present, along with my first drum set from my parents, and seeing it performed on the group’s 1981 concert that aired on my local PBS station from Akron, Ohio. I remember even as a young child that the Oaks was one of the only singing groups ( I was not aware of The Statler Brothers at this age) that had a bass singer singing a lead part.
Another cover, written by Rodney Crowell, follows. “Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight” was another song I was first exposed to via the Greatest Hits record and the PBS special. It then came to my attention on the television show “The Dukes Of Hazzard,” which the band appeared on. I was a big fan of the show, so having one of my favorite bands on the show was a treat for me (also John Schneider’s debut record was a major part of my childhood) The song, for me, had to be retired for a few years, due to overplaying it, but I have grown to re love the song in the past few years, seeing it live at their shows.
“Every Now And Then” is a country ballad that , if there is a filler on the song, this would be it for me. Taking nothing away from Allen’s strong vocals, especially hitting the higher note at the end of the song, the lyrics for me don’t move me as some of the other Oaks classic ballads. The orchestration helps the song give its power, and with the short run time, the song does not distract from the overall flow of the album; the listener does not have to get up to skip the song, because it is still an overall enjoyable song, but compared to the others on the album, it falls a little. I’m sure if the group performed it live, I would not be bummed or disappointed, due to how strong the musicians and the group is live.
“Dig A Little Deeper In The Well” may be known by fans of the group by it’s humorous video that was released on CBS that has made its appearance on Youtube. The video shows that the group did not take themselves so seriously that they could not have fun at times. I remember a manager of mine, when I worked at a grocery store, always loved this song off the album, and would sometimes sing it while we worked. I was only exposed to it on the PBS special, until I finally got a hold of the CD. It’s a old fashioned gospel song that gets people to feel good while listening with positive lyrics.
The album ends with one of my favorite songs in the whole catalog of the group, in fact I was going nuts when the band actually played it at a show I attended where I made many not so many requests via Twitter. “Dancing The Night Away” is the song that got me to search out this album. The song has been recorded by acts like Leo Sayer , Tanya Tucker, and the Amazing Rhythm Aces. The song was mentioned many times in Joe Bonsall’s writings as a favorite of fans, and I fell in love with the song. Once again, this is an example of the Oaks having a better version than the other acts who recorded it. The song is a strong ender for the album, starting off with the piano intro, and then by the end of the song, the song kicks up to a nice climax. The album started with a song about sailing, and ends with a guy staring across the shore. The band’s energy when I saw them perform it live, was almost became a hard rock song (my review of the concert can be found in the archives). If you see videos of the band doing the song, you’ll see how great a front man Bonsall is, and how he works a crowd. The song has a different take of a man looking back on a relationship.
With the exception of one possible song, The Oak Ridge Boys’ third record was filled with songs that was pleasing to everyone; it had country, gospel, and ballads. The format is still there listening to the released decades later. The band’s Ron Chancey produced releases covered all types of musical formats, and a few years later, the band would break into the pop music world , adding another dimension to their product. Sometimes earlier work of acts may have lesser quality songs, but this is not the case of The Oaks. The group still keeps growing musically, along with staying true to their pasts. If you get the chance, seek out this record which help develop the band into the country megastars, and American treasures, that they have become forty years later.
The Oak Ridge Boys are: Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, Richard Sterban, and William Lee Golden.
For information on the group, visit: http://www.theoakridgeboys.com