Childhood Classic CD Reviews: 1994 Covers Different Eras on Two Albums

Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com

 

Four Chords and Several Years Ago was released May 10, 1994 by Elektra Records.

It amazes me to this day why Huey Lewis and The News do not get more respect in the music world. First of all, between 1982-1994, the band charted fifteen singles on the Top 40 charts in the U.S., along with several others on the Adult Contemporary Charts (AC Charts). They seem never to be considered to get into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame , where many acts that had little to no influence on music are put in immediately (another topic for another time is the Hall of Fame). Even the most causal fans can name at several of their hits, either from the Back to The Future soundtrack to songs that have been covered by acts like Garth Brooks. They were one of the top bands in the 1980s, next to Chicago and Hall and Oates, when it came to radio airplay. I was a drummer in local Youngstown, Ohio area bands, and although my favorite bands are The Beach Boys and Kiss, I always would’ve loved to had a band patterned like Huey Lewis and The News.

The band did not only write great pop hits, but they also experimented with soul, blues, and funk at times on their albums. In 1994, the band decided to visit the early rock and soul sound that created the groundwork of Rock and Roll with their album Four Chords and Several Years Ago, where three singles came off of the album , all hitting the AC charts, and getting plenty of airplay on stations.

Releasing an album of all covers was nothing new, but this release not only gave listeners another great album from the band, but also a history in rock music. Songs like “Shake Rattle and Roll,” a Big Joe Turner song before Bill Haley and The Comets made it there own (which many historians view as one of the earliest rock and roll songs), to the more original version of “(She’s) Some Kind Of Wonderful” (which some causal fans may not know wasn’t firstly done by Grand Funk Railroad), walk the listener through great songs where segregation may have been on the streets but not in the recording studio.

I remember loving the PBS special of the band’s concert promoting the album, with guests Sam Cooke and Lloy Price, shot mainly in black and white. I worn out a few copies of the VHS release as well.

Some of my favorites on this release is the remake of Price’s “Stagger Lee” (which I like this version better than the original, with its more powerful sound to it), “You Left The Water Running,” the Clifford Curry hit “She Shot A Hole In My Soul,” and “Searching For My Love,” a hit from Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces. Another gem on the CD is Ernie K Doe ‘s “Mother In Law,” featuring Dr. John with a nice piano groove to it. Most of the songs stay true to the originals, but since production values were slim back in those early days, Huey and The News give it more power to the songs with the horns and backing vocals. Although a few misses are on the CD in my opinion, like “Good Morning Little School Girl,” Your Cash Ain’t Nothing But Cash,” and ” Surely I Love You,” with 17 tracks on here, there is a few songs that wear on me because many songs (although most of the songs have a short run time, it’s still 17 songs). Even though I personally may not like the songs, every track is filled with great musicianship and Lewis’ soulful voice fits wonderfully on every track.

The singles “(She’s) Some Kind Of Wonderful,” “Little Bitty Pretty One,” and “But It’s Alright” (The J.J. Jackson song, not the Curtis Mayfield song that the band also had a minor hit with) all gave the album a little push -“But It’s Alright” and “..Wonderful” both had airplay on my Youngstown, Ohio local stations, but the overall album did not chart as well, reaching only #55 in the U.S., but did well in Japan. Was it because most listeners did not care about early rock music? I don’t know, but I think 25 years later, the CD is still a fun listen. Since I grew up listening to these early rock songs, and having one of my favorite bands record these songs, was double excitement for me. If you want a good fun album , this is one that needs to be re-listened to.

 

Track Listing: 1. Shake, Rattle and Roll 2. Blue Monday 3. Searching For My Love 4.(She’s) Some Kind Of Wonderful 5. But It’s Alright 6. If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody 7. Mother In Law 8. Little Bitty Pretty One 9. Good Morning Little School Girl 10. Stagger Lee 11. She Shot A Hole In My Soul 12. Surely I Love You 13. You Left The Water Running 14. Your Cash Ain’t Nothing But Trash 15. Function At The Junction 16. Better To Have And Not Need 17. Going Down Slow

 

Singing with the Big Bands was released October 11 , 1994 by Arista records. It reached Gold status, and hit #59 on the U.S. Albums chart

 

Another unique cover album from 1994 was Barry Manilow’s Singing With The Big Bands, a salute to popular music before rock and roll came along. Manilow, like Huey Lewis and The News, mixed many genres into his music, but where rock and blues was Lewis’ influence, Manilow mixed jazz, orchestration , and big bands into his music; one of his first hits, “Could It Be Magic,” was based on a Chopin song. Singing With The Big Bands was not just a collection of the classic hits from the 1930s and 1940s, but Manilow got the actual orchestras to perform on the album, such as The Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington Orchestras, along with Les Brown and His Band Of Renown.

Manilow adds two original songs to the beginning and end of the album, first starting with the title track, a song where Manilow states he would’ve loved to time travel back and sing these songs with the bands if he could when it was fashionable to do so. Many critics of Manilow have stated that Manilow was dull and never in fashion with the times, but to me, that’s what made him as great as he was. Even his pop hits from the 1970s had a different style to them (as mentioned earlier, mixing more classical and big band/jazz mix to them). The ending song, “Where Does The Time Go,” written by Manilow and Bruce Sussman, talks about how fast time flies by. This song is relevant in 1994 (and today), and not just during a big band era.

Classic songs like “Sentimental Journey,” “And The Angels Sing,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” are sung perfectly for Manilow’s signature voice. Rosemary Clooney guest stars on “Green Eyes” with the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra, and Debra Byrd helps out with “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree.” What’s a big band record without “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” or “I Can’t Get Started” or “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You?” Younger music fans who want to hear some romantic lyrics need to check out these songs, because lyrically they are better than anything that is released today.

The album sold well, reaching Gold Status (his last album to do so was four years earlier) and was produced by the legendary Phil Ramone. The success of this album made Manilow decide to start a series of cover albums. The following albums after this were Summer of ’76 (a cover of 1970s hits that is far better than The Greatest Songs of the Seventies he released years later), followed by a Frank Sinatra themed album. Some songs of the big band era have been brought back into the public’s attention thanks to the great Michael Bublé Manilow’s release here is a history lesson of a bygone time. Even though I was not originally a fan of this type of music in high school (I was a drummer and got kicked out of band for not being able to read music, so orchestras were not my thing), I always liked this album, and Manilow’s work. Manilow was one of the first people to kick off the American Songbook craze (which Rod Stewart and others have recorded) long before it was fashionable.

If you are a fan of Bublé, or just want soothing romantic songs, this is one album you must have in your collection.

 

 

Track Listing: 1. Singing With The Big Bands 2. Sentimental Journey 3. And The Angels Sing 4. Green Eyes (with Rosemary Clooney) 5. I Should Care 6. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore 7. I Can’t Get Started 8. Chattanooga Choo Choo 9. Moonlight Serenade 10. On The Sunny Side Of The Street 11. All Or Nothing At All 12. I’ll Never Smile Again 13. I’m Getting Sentimental Over You 14. Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (with Debra Byrd) 15. (I’lll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time 16. Where Does The Time Go?

Classic CD Review: Oaks Give Audiences Their Voices 20 Years Ago.

Voices was released July 27, 1999 by Platinum Entertainment/ Intersound Records and produced by Ron Chancey.

Even though the Oak Ridge Boys were one of my favorite musical acts as a kid (I got my first drum set one Christmas, along with the Oaks’ Greatest Hits record around 1980) , I never got to see the band live until 1999; I didn’t attend my first concert until 1991 (which was Sammy Hagar’s Van Halen). The group sang many times, at nearby Ponderosa Park in Salem, Ohio, which was not far from where I live in Columbiana. Those that have read Joe Bonsall’s On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys book (a review can be found here in the archives), he mentions several times the defunct venue. At one time, there was an attempt to restart the outdoor park, which I even bought tickets to see the Oaks, but the managers closed up before there were any major concerts held.

On September 1, 1999, I finally got the chance to see the Oaks live at the Canfield Fair, in nearby Canfield, Ohio, where they were promoting their new release Voices, which was released that June. Even though I am not a fan of the layout of concerts at the fair and it’s policies (you have to pay a $10 price at the entrance on top of your ticket price to the show, and you sit in bleacher seats which are so far removed from the track stage, it was similar to my early concert days of sitting in the lawn areas at pavilions where the acts looked like ants from the far distance), I remember being in awe of how great the group sounded vocally, and what a show they put on. I have seen a two other shows at the fair (Alabama, and Journey with Peter Frampton), and I will say that The Oaks’ were still the best concert I attended there.

The Voices release, which was the only record the band recorded with Platinum Entertainment did not do much on the charts at the time it was put out, but after 20 years gone by, I figured to visit the recording in celebration of it’s anniversary.

The liner notes states that the goal of the album was to mix musicians from Muscle Shoals and combine their talents with the Nashville songwriters. The album is dedicated to all of the songwriters, and the group salutes their successes to the great songs and songwriters that helped them along the way. The group also used producer Ron Chancey, who was in control of many of the group’s top albums in the 1970s and 1980s.

The album’s first single, “Baby When Your Heart Breaks Down,” a song written by Kix Brooks (of Brooks and Dunn fame) leads off the album with a catchy and wordy chorus, which made me wonder how the Oaks could sing the song while trying to get their breath when they performed it live at the fair show. It surprised me that this song did not break into the country charts (Brooks even used it as his first single in 1983 to no major fanfare). Although many country fans in 1999 were listening to the acts that had a more pop feel, this song should’ve done moderately well- the band made the media rounds on TNN and other spots promoting the song. This is the song that brings back memories of the release.

The CD is filled with several good songs that are just plain fun to listen to, including “Deep In Louisiana,” and “What’ll I Do,” both challenges the listener NOT to hit the repeat button on the player and listen many times. “What’ll I Do” was co-written by Skip Ewing, who was known for his work with Bryan White’s debut album among others, which also adds a gospel flavor to the song to blues groove.

Speaking of grooves, ” The Perfect Love” , sung by Joe Bonsall, combines the rhythm of an reggae/island mix, where the listener can find similarities to Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.” This is one of the songs that drummer Roger Hawkins shines on (along with “Ain’t No Short Way Home”). Hawkins has played on many legendary songs in music history. Combining the great harmonies of the Oaks along with these icons in music, spotlights on this track.

William Lee Golden , who is a very underrated singer and has gained my respect on his abilities rediscovering the groups rarer tracks on albums, sings two songs on Voices; “Old Hearts” and ” Lady My Love,” both are ballads. The lyrics on “Old Hearts” seem to run together, along with breaking the traditional rhyming in song lyrics. “Lady My Love” has a more blues/southern gospel style to it, which is perfect for Golden’s voice. “Lady My Love” is the better of the two songs for my tastes, which salutes the love of a complexities of a woman with many roles.

Richard Sterban takes the lead vocals on the ballad “If All I Had Left, ” a song that has a more adult contemporary feel to it, with blue guitar fills throughout the song. Very few acts can end an album on a ballad and make it work, and the Oaks are one of the acts that can do it. The song placement works here. It’s a short run time on the song, so the song doesn’t have any fillers on it, which gives it more appeal.

When re-visiting albums for reviews (I have written many retro reviews for the hard rock site Sleazeroxx, and on this page, titled “Childhood Classics”) , I like to try and find a hidden gem that I may not have listened to when normally playing the CD, or if I haven’t listened to the CD for some time. On here, the gem is “Ain’t No Short Way Home.” The guitar work leads off the song with a chugging groove sung by Duane Allen, with the rest of the band chiming in with their powerful harmonies. Even though this song hit the country charts at #71, this song would be a great addition to the band’s current live sets. The Oaks have a awesome band live that can bring power and intensity when needed , and this song would be one that would rock out. The guitar solo, along with the drumming, carries the song, along with Sterban’s bass vocals helping bring the song to another level. Although all of the Oaks have their signature style of vocals, I challenge anyone to name a singer with a smoother voice than Allen; he’s up there with Barry Manilow, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Bublè in my picks of great vocalists.

For an album released 20 years ago, Voices still holds up well, without sounding dated with the times. The release has a mix of everything: blues, gospel, and country, along with wonderful musicians and the staple harmonies that the group are known for. Although a few of the songs are weak, seven out of the eleven songs works for me. Although Bonsall is only on one track on this release, which is a downer for me (I’d rather hear another one from him instead of “New Orleans” ) , the CD is a surprise of how good it is considering the lack of response it got. The goal of the album was achieved for the most part, and let’s be honest, it’s hard for a group to have an album with every song a smash (although The Oaks achieved that with 1981’s Fancy Free in my opinion). Voices is one that needs to be re-discovered if fans missed out on it, because it has some solid performances on here.

 

Song listings:

  1. Baby When Your Heart Breaks Down 2. Where The Sun Always Shines 3.Deep in Louisiana   4. Lady My Love 5. What’ll I Do 6. New Orleans 7, Perfect Love
  2. I’d Still Be Waiting 9. Old Hearts 10. Ain’t No Short Way Home 11. If All I Had Left

Classic CD Review: The Arrival Of American Icons

  The Oak Ridge Boys Have Arrived was released March 30, 1979 by MCA Records, and was produced by Ron Chancey.

 

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

Music Review: The Oaks Takes Listeners on a New Revival

Art Direction, Photograph and Design: Brandon Wood

 

A few definitions for the word revival on Dictionary.com are: 1. Restoration of life 2. A new production of an old play, and 3. An awakening. All of these word fit the latest release by the legendary Oak Ridge Boys, entitled “17th Avenue Revival” (Lightning Rod Records).

Coming off of their 2016 “Celebrate Christmas” CD (which a review can be found here in the archives), and their first Live CD in 2014 (“Boys Night Out”), the band here records a raw, non produced effort that is underrated with today’s music releases, which has massive overdubs and effects on the instruments and vocals. This recording, according to the press interviews some of the band members have put out in promoting this project, has a live feel to it, where the members just stand around the same microphone and sing just like they were in a church setting, not in separate rooms using different microphones.

The CD is produced by Dave Cobb, who worked with the group on 2009’s “The Boys Are Back.” Cobb takes a different approach on the normal Gospel feel to what the band is normally used to putting out in the genre, using songwriters such as Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, and the duo of Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark, who worked with the great Kacey Musgraves.

The opening song, the first single, called “Brand New Star,” has an R&B feel to the song, not a straight up Gospel tone, with William Lee Golden on the main vocals. The song then runs into a slow ballad with the soulful Duane Allen singing “There Will Be Light,” which is reminiscent of Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight” in its mood and structure.

The Oaks each take turns sharing the lead vocals on the songs , with Richard Sterban singing “Walk in Jerusalem,” and Joe Bonsall singing lead on the songs “God’s Got It” and “Pray to Jesus.” The group shows their vocal harmonies on the choruses on most of the songs that show that the band still has the range that they have been known for.

The song “Pray to Jesus” has a humorous tone, as Bonsall sings the main vocals, which talks about how the character in the song use to complain about how their parents would talk about life and politics and now the narrator does the same at his older age. The narrator says how he goes to church and then heads off to the local mini mart to play the Powerball lottery. The song has a rockabilly rhythm to it, and with the humorous lyrics, makes it a unique choice to put on a Gospel CD, but it is one of the highlights of the collection. This song shows how the group’s willingness to stretch outside of the normal Gospel comfort zone from their past recordings.

The song “If I Die” (co-written by Vince Gill), is a slow ballad with Golden singing again, but the drums make this song, even though it is softly heard in the background. Maybe being a former drummer, this reviewer can recognize this, but Chris Powell’s playing on this song is different from the standard beat of gospel songs, using the normal beat with some soft fills in between to make the song quite full in the background for the ballad.

Just like the “Celebrate Christmas” CD, the group leaves one of the best songs for the very end. This time it is the song “Let It Shine On Me,” which has Allen starting off the song slow with just him and a Wurlitzer (played by Mike Webb), and then builds. Allen has proven in his last several CDs, along with singing live (the same goes with all the members), that he still can hit the notes at his age, where most artists half his age have lost their sound either live or on recordings (in the Country genre maybe Dwight Yoakam is the only other artist that can still hit their notes over the age of 50, and on the Rock side, Sammy Hagar, Barry Manilow, Huey Lewis, and Alice Cooper. Not a bad group to be in for the Oaks). Once this song kicks in, the electric guitar playing by Dave Cobb has a Reggae feel starting off and then, like a train starting to slowly build momentum, changes to a full out Southern Gospel feel. When hearing this song, the scene in the movie “The Blues Brothers” comes to mind, when they are in the church by James Brown- the song kicks into that kind of full on Gospel church party.

Overall the length of the songs, are short, with the longest song just over 4 minutes, and the shortest is around 2 minutes. The overall run time of the CD is 28 minutes. This is refreshingly short for a CD, and there is no unneeded fillings (song- wise or solo-wise) on here. One of the great things about this recording is that once the listener is getting the feel of the music, it’s already starting back to Track 1. The Oaks leave the listener wanting more with its short length, which is always a good thing in their case.

The title 17th Avenue Revival refers to the studio where the group recorded the release, which has a strong history of musicians. However, looking at the definitions of revival again, it’s clear that the Oaks show a new life in these Gospel songs that proves a new production of the something old, and definitively brings an awakening and respect for the musicianship, artistic approach, and just plain old listening fun to a CD that should not be mislabeled as just another Gospel Record.

 

17th Avenue Revival is available from Lightning Rod Records and is out now.

Track Listing: 1. Brand New Star 2. There Will Be Light 3. God’s Got It 4. I’d Rather Have Jesus 5. Walk In Jerusalem 6. Where He Leads Me I Will Follow 7. Pray To Jesus 8. If I Die 9. Let It Shine On Me

The Oak Ridge Boys are: Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban.

For information about the Oak Ridge Boys, go to : http://www.oakridgeboys.com

Music Review: The Oaks New CD Makes A Great Celebration

 

oaks-celebrate-christmas

There are usually two types of albums that I usually avoid, even if it by my favorite artists; Live albums and Christmas albums. Not that I am against these acts doing the genre, but very few acts can make these purchases worth the money. I own very few Christmas CDs (Barry Manilow, Richard Marx, Mariah Carey’s and Michael Buble’s are the only ones I have), not because I despise Christmas, but because the songs on the CDs are either ones you have heard many times over in the same traditional way, or just badly composed, almost like the company forced the artists to do them.  In the past few years The Oak Ridge Boys have changed my thinking with releasing great albums in both categories, especially with their newest holiday product Celebrate Christmas.

Much like their 2014 live album, Boys Night Out, this Christmas CD is an entertaining surprise. Celebrate Christmas is billed as a Gaither Gospel Series release and would been a pass for me if it wasn’t for the band performing two of the songs on their tour when I saw them in August (you can read the review in the “Archives” section), especially the song “Rest in You Tonight,” which does not sound like a typical Christmas song, but more of a Gospel ballad, which is not surprising because it was written by Bill Gaither and Gerald Crabb, focusing on a mother and young daughter having come across hard times and crying out to Jesus. This is a touching song that seems oddly put on a typical Christmas CD, however, that makes this CD even better because the Oaks are not sticking with a normal Christmas CD.

Oak-Ridge-Boys

A few other notable songs are “There’s Nothing Between Us (But Love Anymore)”, which features William Golden on lead vocals (which was the other song I saw them before live in concert) which could be played on an Adult Contemporary station,  “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” with Richard Sterban on lead vocals (with great piano playing by Gordon Mote complimenting Sterban on the song), and “That’s Christmas To Me” with Duane Allen and Joe Bonsall’s solid singing on the song.

The track “Santa Claus is Real” has a swing vibe to it and resonates to the listener that the band  had fun recording this song, because it has a up tempo fun Christmas feel to it, especially at the end when Sterban sings his Santa “Ho Ho Ho’s”, and Allen’s comments that Santa “sounds like Richard.” I wonder how much fun the guys had recording this one because the song makes you feel good from start to finish.

There are some traditional songs on the CD for those that like their songs unchanged, from the opening track “Joy To The World,” which sounds just like the band does live, to other standards like “Away in A Manger,” “Jingle Bells,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Come To The Manger.”  It would be a shame not to hear an Oaks Christmas CD without Richard Sterban doing “Blue Christmas,” which is on here as well, considering his past with singing for Elvis Presley, and proves how underrated his singing is.

Besides “Rest In You Tonight,” another gem on the CD is the last track, “The Hallelujah Chorus,” which has a pop feel to it, channeling the Oaks popularity in the early 1980s when they hit the Pop Charts. The vocal on this song is layered and proves that the guys still have the vocal abilities (and then some). Joe Bonsall shines on this one, along with the others, with Bonsall and Sterban being spotlighted at the beginning of the song, and Allen and Golden coming in towards the end to layer the song with vocal fireworks.

The production on this CD is wonderful- you can hear each member shine not only on the lead, but in the background with their rich harmonies, which is a credit to Allen and his co-producers. This is a great CD that needs to be added to your collection, especially if you like holiday music. The Oaks still have the great vocals and quality musicians on the recordings (along with a great live band if you get to see them live).  Celebrate Christmas is indeed a Christmas Present that you need to have.

Track Listings:

  1. Joy To The World 2.That’s Christmas To Me 3.I’ll Be Home For Christmas 4.Santa Claus Is Real 5. O Come, All Ye Faithful 6. Rest In You Tonight 7. Away In A Manger 8.There’s Nothing Between Us (But Love Anymore) 9. Jingle Bells 10. Blue Christmas 11.Come To The Manger 12. The Hallelujah Chorus

Celebrate Christmas is available from Spring House Productions by the Gaither Music Group, copyright 2016.

Part of “Rest In You Tonight” found on youtube.

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