The Lady Of Lady's Reba Rambo; by Philip Mayabb
It is a joy to be back for the Vinyl Revival blog, I have truly missed writing these posts about the albums we feature on VR, but we have had very few new albums to feature over the last four months or so. Such is not the case this week, as we back to full strength, and I am ready to write again, so let's get to it.
This week's featured album is by an artist that needs no introduction to fans of Classic Contemporary Christian music...she's been a fixture since the early days, but the part some fans tend to forget is that she made her name in the world of Southern Gospel music first, singing with her dad and her award winning mother in a trio that bares their last name. Reba Rambo's introduction to professional music was in 1965, when she made an appearance on an album called
Those Singing Rambos – Reba Rambo Joins Her Famous Mom And Dad And Pat Jones, and while that is an unusually long title for an album, it was important because it began a historic chapter in Christian music. After the release of that album, Reba would replace Pat Jones as the soprano singer of The Singing Rambos, and they would write, record, and release some of the biggest songs in Southern Gospel music for many years to come. Reba's mother, award winning songwriter Dottie Rambo is fondly remembered as one of the greatest songwriters in the history of Christian music, and since The Rambos had no shortage of great songs to record, they became one of the hottest trios on the male quartet dominated singing circuit. Throughout the latter half of the 1960s, Reba Rambo began to make a name for herself as a dynamic female vocalist, simply by singing the songs that her mother had written for the family to sing, and she also began to build a reputation as being one of the finest young singers in gospel music.
However, in the early 70s, she added another notch in her belt, when she began writing songs of her own, some of which were recorded with her mother and father, and that was important, because by 1977, The Rambos had been through several years of no having as many hit songs as they had once enjoyed, and while they were still a popular concert draw, record sales had slowed considerably. A solo album for Reba was certainly not a new idea, she had already released four of them, all Southern Gospel in style, and one of them was her personal take on several of The Rambos hits, but since the release of her last solo album five years earlier, something had happened. There was a new style of music, called Contemporary Christian, and a particular group that Reba was familiar with, named The Imperials, were finding a good deal of success with the new genre. Now The Rambos were still recording for The Benson Company in Nashville, and they had started a new label, named Greentree Records, with a flair for the new style of CCM. After leaving the Imperials, Sherman Andrus and Terry Blackwood had formed an act called Andrus, Blackwood & Co., and they had been signed to the new label along with another exciting new group called Dallas Holm And Praise, and so Greentree decided to sign Reba for her fifth solo album.
She went into the studio with ace producer Phil Johnson, who was producing the majority of the label's acts, to record an album simply titled Lady, and while the fans of the Southern Gospel Rambos were probably appalled by what they heard, the growing number of contemporary Christian stations across America were delighted with the results, and suddenly, the soprano singer of a well known southern Gospel trio, became a favorite of CCM fans. She seemed to be in her element as a young artist, with the new pop music, as she demonstrated with the album's leadoff track, The Land Of Ooh's And Aah's / Somewhere Over The Rainbow. The song showed fans that the country gospel they had came to expect from Reba, was nowhere to be found on this new solo album, and Johnson's producing expertise came to the forefront throughout the recording. Light string arrangements would dominate the music, along with the Nashville pop sound that permeated the music of the Jesus Music era. The song titles were even contemporary...such as Sweet Jesus Peace, and Velvet Sunshine Morning, giving more credence to the notion that Reba was ready to give the new style of Christian music a whirl.
In listening to this classic LP, it becomes apparent that Reba Rambo had a voice that was tailor made for CCM, even though she had made her name in Southern Gospel. Her voice just seems to glide through the melodies of the songs on the album, nine of which she wrote by herself, one was co-written with keyboardist Dave Huntsinger, and the last (Just As I Am), she arranged. She even had some guest appearances by some friends on the album...you remember I mentioned The Imperials earlier, we as it turns out, both Armond Morales and Jim Murray helped provide background vocals on the album's final song, called Lift Him Up, along with the young keyboardist of The Downings, another Southern Gospel group who were shifting toward a more modern sound, and his name was Dony McGuire. As you know, Dony has been Reba's husband for many, many years now, and I believe this was probably the first time they worked together in the studio, but it led to a long and fruitful relationship.
This is a very good album...good enough that it beat out The Imperials Just Because for the Dove Award for Pop/Contemporary Album Of The Year at the 1977 award ceremony, which was just the second such award given. Lady has been recently released in digital format for the first time (WAY past due), and I would encourage each of you to pick it up, especially if you like the music from the latter part of the Jesus Music era. This is pure and simple Christian lyrics put to pop music, just the way CCM started out, and I can promise you that you will enjoy the music, the vocals, and the songs in digital, but if you have a hankering for the original, undoctored version of how this amazing record sounded, tune in to CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival this week, and let your ears and heart decide...see how great of a record this Lady turned out in 1977. You will have multiple chances to catch the album this week, and no matter when you listen, you will love what you hear!
Side 1 -
1. The Land Of Ooh's And Aah's / Somewhere Over The Rainbow
2. Ain't Givin' Up
3. Sweet Jesus Peace
4. Velvet Sunshine Morning
5. Just As I Am
Side 2 -
2. He Gives Me Joy
3. Shepherd's Song
5. Lift Him Up
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