In the past, MusicScribe authors have debated whether an album is a “Must Buy.” Now, we take it a step further – is an album worthy of purchase, better left to streaming, or should it be passed altogether?
The Oak Ridge Boys pay homage to the 1950’s rock’n’roll music that was inspired by rural gospel singing. Kyle Boreing and David Bruce Murray have listened carefully and considered the highest and lowest aspects of this release.
Read on to see if Kyle and David enjoy this recording so much they’d BUY a physical copy; if they like it only enough to STREAM it, or if they don’t care for it and would take a PASS on this recording.
Label: Lightning Rod Records/Thirty Tigers
Producer: Dave Cobb
Song Titles: Brand New Star (Aaron Raitiere & Mando Saenz) – There Will Be Light (Jamey Johnson/Larry Shell/Buddy Cannon) – God’s Got It (Charlie Jackson) – I’d Rather Have Jesus (Rhea Miller/George Beverly Shea) – Walk In Jerusalem (Traditional) – Where He Leads Me I Will Follow (Ernest W. Blandy/Public Domain) – Pray To Jesus (Brandy Clark/Shane McAnally) – If I Die (Ashley Monroe/Vince Gill) – Let It Shine On Me (Huddie Ledbetter)
Rating: 3.75 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)
Release Date: March 16, 2018
Product Version Reviewed: Digital (iTunes) / Stream (Spotify)
- It’s apparent that ’50’s rock was the feel they were going for. The arrangements are sparse and what little vocal effects are present are reverb and echo effects. The most blatant are “God’s Got It” and “Pray To Jesus”
- In an era where every single note is digitally tuned, lined, and perfected, the Oaks abandon perfection in favor of raw live performances. There are imperfections throughout the album, but it lends itself to the feel they are going for. Maybe some prominent SG groups will try this approach, flaws and all.
- William Lee Golden gives some of his best vocal performances on this album with “If I Die” and “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”
- “Let It Shine On Me” starts as a soulful slow-burn, and builds to an energetic tent revival for an encore. Whether intentional or not, the arrangement sounds like the current vocalists hopped in a time machine and recorded it with the 1973 Oaks Band (Mark Ellerbee, Don Breland, John Rich, and Tony Brown).
David Bruce Murray:
- “Brand New Star” is a great new song simple enough that anyone could sing it in just about any style. The Oaks version is very good, and I’m hoping to hear a few more artists do it in different styles in years to come.
- In recent years, I’ve been drawn more to the Oak Ridge Boys selections that feature William Lee Golden. Kyle has already mentioned “If I Die” and “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” Those are highlights for me as well. Golden’s unique tone surrounded by harmony is what makes the Oaks’ sound unmistakable even when they’re singing a song you’ve never heard them sing before.
- “There Will Be Light” is a classic 1950s piano-driven arrangement in 12/8 meter. Like “Brand New Star,” the range and rhythms are singable, and Duane Allen’s delivery is perfect for this sort of song.
- Although it’s marketed as a gospel album, there are a couple songs on there that may rub traditional fans the wrong way. To be fair, that’s nothing new with the Oaks.
- At 9 songs (and many of them less than 3 minutes), this is the shortest full-length album the ORB have released to date.
David Bruce Murray:
- “Let It Shine On Me” condenses the almost 7-minute arrangement recorded by Rose Stone & The Venice Four down to just over four minutes, but this Oaks version fails to match that earlier recording in intensity. Find a copy of the soundtrack from the Coen Brother’s movie The Ladykillers to hear this song in all of it’s glory.
- Where “Brand New Star” and “There Will Be Light” stand out for their simplicity, the lyrics for “God’s Got It” and “Walk In Jerusalem” are overly so. Joe Bonsall brings a wheelbarrow load of energy on “God’s Got It,” but it’s not enough to overcome a particularly weak lyric. Richard Sterban takes an opposite approach on “Walk in Jerusalem,” and the result is the same. Both are tracks I’d skip.
Buy, Stream, or Pass?
Kyle Boreing: Buy – The Oaks have absolutely nothing left to prove, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. 17th Avenue Revival is such a unique recording that it’s worth a listen just on the concept alone. Add the fact that it’s available in CD, vinyl, cassette, and (in extremely limited quanities) Edison cylinder (seriously!) in addition to digital, it’s definitely worth a purchase in one of those formats.
David Bruce Murray: Stream – I like the concept, but 17th Avenue Revival just doesn’t offer enough to justify a purchase for me. I can listen to the best songs on a streaming service and skip the rest.