A Sad Time As We say Goodbye To A True Legend ..One More Song For You by Philip Mayab
This will be one the easiest, but saddest blogs I will ever write. My all time favorite CCM astists, The Imperials issued an official statement this past weekend that after 54 years, the group would be retiring. Part of me was not surprised…a run of 54 years in any musical genre is almost unheard of, and few other artists in Christian music have came close to the record of longevity that the Imperials have. On top of that, founding bass singer Armond Morales is now 86 years old, and he has done this for a long, long time, and so if anyone has the right to retire from the music business, it’s Armond. Over the years, he has seen a number of men (and one lady) come through the personnel office of the Imperials, and has personally been involved in the careers of singers such as Terry Blackwood, Russ Taff, Sherman Andrus, David Will, Paul Smith, Jim Murray, Ron Hemby, David Robertson, and many others. Face it, Armond is a CCM legend, even if a number of people may not know him by name. In short, he has earned the moniker of an icon, and he’s earned it legitimately, so there are no qualms with the Imperials retiring.
Yet at the same time, there is a degree of sadness, because a Christian music institution is no more. There are no other four part male quartets to step up to the mic, and take the place of this storied group. It is a sad time for anybody who loves the music and ministry of the Imperials. To help us all deal with one of the biggest musical losses in recent memory, we will celebrate this iconic group with what I consider to be the greatest album in the history of Contemporary Christian music, the Imperials’ 1979 tour de force “One More Song For You”. You can agree or disagree with me, and we can have that discussion some other time, but in my humble opinion, no other LP in CCM history can stand up to this one. I base my opinion on one fact…at the time of its release, no other album by any Christian artist had ever achieved the sonic quality of One More Song For You. This album set the standard for CCM going forward into the decade of the 80s, when the genre would see its biggest growth, both in quality and commercial appeal. In 1979, the majority of the artists who would become the biggest ambassadors of CCM in the 80s and beyond were either not around yet, or their careers had not developed into the success they would later enjoy. Even though the genre had names that fans knew, such as Amy Grant, David Meece, BJ Thomas, and others, no one artist embodied the direction that the industry was going, until this album was released.
After Chris Christian had produced the group’s previous three albums, including the insanely popular “Heed The Call” the group went for a change in musical direction, hiring Michael Omartian to call the shots on One More Song. Morales and long time tenor Jim Murray knew Omartian…he had been a member of their touring band in the early 70s, and also penned one of the group’s most memorable, and probably controversial songs, named “Jesus Made Me Higher”. Since his departure from the Imperials, Omartian had developed a rather nice niche as an in demand session keyboardist on the L.A. studio scene, and was branching out into producing as well. As we all know, he produced another album in 1979, by a new artist named Christopher Cross that moved him onto the “A” list of west coast session producers, so the Imperials reconnected with him at just the right time. The combination once again turned out stellar results, not just with this album, but with 1980’s award winning “Priority” as well. Michael came in to the process 100% prepared, bringing several new songs that he had written with his wife Stormie, for the Imperials to record. The finished LP would feature nine songs, five of which were released as radio singles, with two of those being included in the GMA’s top ten songs of 1980…those were the title song, along with Russ and Tori Taff’s classic the “Eagle Song”, which actually won the Dove for song of the year.
It was almost impossible to turn on a Contemporary Christian radio station in early 1980, and not hear one of the singles from this album. I am hard pressed to even remember a CCM album at the time that had five singles on the radio, mostly because the industry was just starting to become more of a financial success. Labels and record companies were starting to think like their mainstream counterparts, in terms of hit singles, promotion and such things, and this album really pushed the industry to consider those things with other artists as well. DaySpring Records was so confident in the music on this record that they actually released both” Living Without Your Love” and “Eagle Song” as 45 RPM singles to mainstream radio, although “Living” was the only one of the two ever heard on a pop radio station. Both of these songs were among the five singles released to Christian radio as well, along with the album’s title song, the enormously popular “I’m Forgiven”, and the Murray led ballad “All My Life”, and all five of them of them were monster hits, making this one of the Imperials best-selling and most popular albums ever. It also helped make the group CCM’s number one artist at the time, and they began playing sellout concerts all over the world. The Imperials’ popularity had been building steadily over the years, and this album brought it all together. As an added bonus, Southern Gospel radio, who had also been warming up to the group over the previous few years, were featuring the title song on their airwaves as well, making the record successful on multiple radio formats, so One More Song For You became the group’s biggest success to date, much to the delight of the Imperials’ growing number of fans.
I don’t have to go through the individual tracks on this classic album, because any fan of classic CCM should know most, if not all of them. You will not find a weak or bad song anywhere on the record, it’s that simple…the writing, the production, the performances, both vocal and musical are top notch. The Imperials truly were at the top of their game on this album, and the finished product clearly reflects that. This album was so good that in 1996 – 17 years after its initial release, Word Records included 6 of its nine songs on the Imperials two disc “Legacy” CD, all five radio singles, and Denny Correll’s “Higher Power” were included in the collection, and no other album from the group’s Word catalog was that well represented. At the 1981 Dove Awards, One More Song For You won the award for Pop/Contemporary Album Of The Year, but amazingly it is the only album from the Russ Taff era that was not nominated for a Grammy award (hard to believe). That notwithstanding, this is (again, my opinion) the finest album from the group’s most popular lineup of all time, and it gets my personal vote as the best CCM album of all time. I have seen it listed as low as #59 on a list of the greatest CCM albums of the 70s*, I respectfully disagree. I have no problem with the artists who recorded the albums that this blog ranks above One More Song For You, but I reiterate that this album, at the time of its release could compete with anything being played on top 4o radio, from a quality standpoint, which up to that point had been sadly lacking with most CCM recordings. The bar was raised by the Imperials, and this album forced other artists to bring their A game, or risk becoming irrelevant. The entire Christian music industry benefitted from the quality and commercial success of this record, and I can’t think of very many other early CCM artists who can make that claim.
So you have my opinion, and you may or may not agree with me, and that’s fine. We all have our ideas about whose album is the best of all time, and I would love to hear some of yours. I do not rank this album at the top of my list because the artist just happens to be my favorite of all time, I rank it at the top because it has a quality aspect that to me cannot be matched by any other CCM LP of the 1970s. Don’t get me wrong, I love artists like LoveSong, David Meece, Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill and others from the era, but as a musician, I listen extremely close for the production quality, and this album set the standard that other artists HAD to match if they wanted to compete in the 80s. This album also played a major role in making the Imperials the institution they are today. I am saddened to know that the Imperials will cease to exist as a group, but the body of work that they have left the fans will ensure that they will continue to be one of the most memorable names in the history of CCM for many decades and generations to come, and this particular album will ALWAYS be one of the biggest reasons why I am proud to count myself as an Imperials fan. Thanks for the memories, the music, and the memories gentlemen…you have embodied what a classy and Godly Christian group should be, and the lives of many, many people (myself included) have been blessed and enriched by the ministry of the Imperials.
Side One -
- What I Can Do For You (Stormie & Michael Omartian)
- I’m Forgiven (Bruce Hibbard, Hadley Hockensmith, & Michael Omartian)
- All My Life (Stormie & Michael Omartian)
- Living Without Your Love (Tom Hemby)
- Eagle Song (Tori & Russ Taff)
Side Two –
- Closer Than Ever (Stormie & Michael Omartian)
- One More Song For You (Stormie & Michael Omartian)
- Higher Power (Denny Correll)
- More Like You (Stormie & Michael Omartian)
1979 DaySpring Records / Word, Inc.
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