From Superstardom in Mainstream to A Major Force In Christian Music; Guess Who? By Philip Mayaab
We have featured the Boone sisters on Vinyl Revival before, but as we all know, the member of the group that is the most familiar would have to be Debby. For many years, during the 1950s and early 60s, father Pat Boone was one of the earliest superstars of the rock and roll era. Then it was Debby in 1976 that put the second generation of Boones on the charts with one of the biggest (and now, named as one of the most annoying) pop hits of all time, called You Light Up My Life. The song spent 10 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart, and is ranked as one of the top 20 pop singles of all time by Billboard. In 1977, Debby joined up with her sisters Cherry, Lindy, and Laurie to start singing a new style of music, known as contemporary Christian, and the rest is history. The Boones released a total of four albums, all produced by Chris Christian, and made their permanent spot in CCM.
After the four sisters disbanded as a group in 1981, Debby and Laury would be the only two to continue in the music business, Laurie with her husband Harry Browning, and Debby as a solo artist. In 1981, Debby released her first all Christian recording, titled With My Song, and the album made up of mostly praise and worship type songs was a big hit with the fans. Her second solo LP, called Surrender, was released in 1983, followed by 'Choose Life in 1985. Her fourth Christian solo album is the featured LP on Vinyl Revival this week, and it is called Friends For Life, and this is one LP that I had all but forgotten, until I started looking through my albums recently. When I came across the album, I remembered that there was a track on the album called Make Me Ready that I used to listen to a lot, and so I decided to get the album out, and take a listen to it. It did not take long for me to remember just how good this album was (and still is, for that matter), and so I decided to play it on Vinyl Revival as soon as I could.
This album was produced by both Michael Omartian, who was a producing legend by this point in time, and a young producer named Dan Posthuma, who was on his way to becoming one as well. The two men did a fantastic job, and the finished product is proof of that fact. The list of studio personnel they assembled for this recording is loaded with some of the finest talent in the LA studio scene in the late 80s, names like Dann Huff, Lee Sklar, Bill Champlin (Chicago), Randy Goodrum, John Keane, and Neil Stubenhaus. It also includes some pretty impressive Christian artists in the credits, such as Billy Crockett, Lisa Whelchel, Debbie McNeil, and Chuck Girard, and there's even an appearance from jazz legend Brenda Russell (Piano In The Dark), so for those who don't geek out over album credits, what all this means is that a lot of money was spent to make this record, and Debby and her producers did not let that large sum go to waste. The end result proves that good studio personnel can make a huge difference, and I believe it can also push the artist to take their own performance to another level, because in the case of this album, Debby turned it up a notch or two also, as you will hear as you listen this week.
Friends For Life would eventually chart four hit singles, one of which is the opening track, called Be Ye Glad. A number 11 hit, this song is right in Debby's vocal wheelhouse, and she turns in a terrific performance, it's no wonder that this song was a big hit. The other three hits from the album were A Little Broken Bread (number 7), Masihlanganeni (Let Us Stand Together) (number 22), and Chuck Girard's classic The Name Above All Names, which was actually the album's first single, and landed at number 6 , so you can see that this album performed well on the radio and the charts. Another song that could have been a big hit is the album's second track, written by Michael and Stormie Omartian, called Make Me Ready, which is actually my personal favorite song on the entire album. With a sweet, bouncy feel, and featuring some outstanding guitar work from Dann Huff, Ready is one of those songs that tend to get stuck in your head, and I think you'll enjoy it too. Side one's third track, Unconditional Love is the type of song that is missing in today's Christian music industry, written for those who need to know that there is someone who knows and loves them, and knows what they're feeling. Listening to this song makes me miss those songs that speak to those in need. To Every Generation is up next, and speaks of the sovereignty of our Heavenly Father, keeping watch over His children through the ages. A well written number, this song is the perfect Debby Boone solo song, and I think you'll agree as you listen to it this week. Closing out side one is the aforementioned The Name Above All Names, which was written by former LoveSong keyboardist Chuck Girard. This is one of several classic CCM songs which could conceivably by performed in churches all over the country during their worship services today, and Debby's performance of it is stellar, in fact it almost seems as if this song was written specifically for her to sing, but that is my opinion...you can be the judge this week.
Side two opens with another song that has already been mentioned, the hit single A Little Broken Bread, which is a tailor made adult contemporary song, fitting perfectly not only on the charts, but on this album as well. The music track for this song was made to played on the radio, and the arrangement on the track is fantastic...of course it doesn't hurt that Debby's vocal just seems to sit front and center, if you remember hearing it on the radio over 30 years ago, you'll enjoy hearing it again, and if you've never heard it before, you'll really like it. Above All Else follows on side two, and is another ballad, which is something that Debby Boone does well. This is one of those songs that showcases just how precise of a vocalist she is, it really shows her skill well. The hit with the strange name Masihlanganeni is right in the middle of side two, and with its playful, Caribbean arrangement, it's a fun little number that you will enjoy, and might want to sing along with (provided of course, that you can pronounce the word). It just kind of bounces along for just a little more than five fun filled minutes, and I promise you will enjoy hearing it. Moving on to the album's title track, we find a classical type arrangement on this Omartian penned song, that shows that Debby Boone is capable of singing just about any type or style of song. Her voice shines through the musical track, which almost sounds like it could've been written during the era of Beethoven or Bach. Finally, a cover of Gary Chapman's Sincerely Yours closes Friends For Life, and with it comes a very tenderly performed vocal, backed by only a piano. If you heard Gary's own recording of it just a few weeks ago when we featured his album of the same title, you know that Sincerely Yours is a song that must be sang from the heart if it is to be effective, and Debby's recording of it is just as heartfelt as you can get. It really was a fitting ending to what is a very good album.
Friends For Life was the fourth in a string of sensational solo projects for Debby Boone, a couple of which won Dove awards for her. Sadly, she has not recorded another album of all original Christian songs since this album. She released a magnificent hymns album in 1989, and followed that up with her Christmas project, but has not done any new original Christian music since. These days, she is still performing, although not a lot, and she is currently promoting an album of swing music, which if you haven't heard it, I can tell you it is really good, but what else would you expect from a singer who has a permanent place in pop and Christian music history. A lot of folks actually forget how good that all four of Pat and Shirley Boone's daughters were when it came to singing. They say the apple never falls far from the tree, and in the case of the Boone family, that statement could not be more true. So we hope you will set some time aside this week to join us as we play and enjoy Debby Boone's 1987 classic LP Friends For Life on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival, and rediscover how good of a singer she really is...she definitely proved it on this album!
Side 1 -
1. Be Ye Glad
2. Make Me Ready
3. Unconditional Love
4. To Every Generation
5. The Name Above All Names
Side 2 -
1. A Little Broken Bread
2. Above all Else
3. Masihlanganeni (Let Us Stand Together)
4. Friends For Life
5. Sincerely Yours
1987 Lamb & Lion Records
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