When I Sing For Him: The Complete Columbia Recordings & RCA Singles
Compilation Producer: Joe Marchese
Real Gone Music
Release Date: March 2, 2018
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
SONG TITLES: Disc One – The Baptism of Jesse Taylor / You Happened to Me / Why Me / Freedom for the Stallion / Loves Me Like a Rock / He’s Gonna Smile on Me / Put Your Arms Around Me, Blessed Jesus / He / What a Time We Will Have Over There / Give Me a Star / Rhythm Guitar / Sailing Toward Home / Nobody Special / We Gotta Love One Another / When I Sing for Him / Plant a Seed / There Must Be a Better Way / That’s Just Like Jesus / I Just Want to Help You to Be Free / Mighty Fine / Heaven Bound / Look Away Mama / Bringing It Back / Joy Comes in the Morning / Praise the Lord and Pass the Soup Disc Two – Lord I’ve Been Ready For Years / No Earthly Good / Jesus Knows Who I Am / The Same Old Fashioned Way / I’m Winging My Way Back Home / Where The Soul Never Dies / It’s Been Done / Doctor God / Jesus Was There / Last Train to Glory / Family Reunion / Don’t Be Late / All Our Favorite Songs / Whoever Finds This, I Love You / (You’re My) Soul and Inspiration / Lucky Moon / Walkin’ After Midnight / Change My Mind (Remixed Single Version) / Our Love Is Here to Stay / Baby on Board / When It Comes to You / Fall / Until You’re Back in My Arms Again / Go Tell It on the Mountain
It’s rare that we review a compilation on MusicScribe, especially one that consists of material from 40 years ago. That being said, both DBM and myself are huge Oak Ridge Boys fans, and this particular release (which I’ve referenced in the past) is one that I feel warrants a review. That, and I just want to, so there.
The Oaks’ have a large catalog of gospel music. A good portion of it (mainly the early 1960’s recording that pre-dates most of the current lineup) is readily available on any number of budget compilations. It seems like every few months, a new collection is released composed of songs from the group’s Skylite Records recordings up to 1966.
That’s why, when I saw this latest release, I was skeptical at first. Looking closer, however, it became apparent that this wasn’t just another budget release. It was being released by a company called Real Gone Music, a third-party label that specializes in leasing and remastering recordings. The title also intrigued me – “The COMPLETE Columbia Recordings and RCA Singles.” Columbia and RCA are both owned by Sony, so getting a hold of those for one collection would be a fairly simple task. Then, looking at the Real Gone Music website, the marketing indicated that the collection was being completely remastered – a first for the Columbia material, much of which had never been released beyond vinyl or cassette, (and at least one only available on a 45 RPM single).
Indeed, this album is anything but a budget release. The packaging includes rarely-seen photos of the group (both from the Columbia era and their RCA sessions), and the insert is a multi-page booklet that includes extensive liner notes detailing each song in the collection, and both the front and back covers of each Columbia LP. It’s very clear that Real Gone Music put a LOT of time and effort into this release.
All three of the Oaks’ Columbia LP’s are included in their entirety – 1974’s The Oak Ridge Boys, 1975’s Sky High, and 1976’s Old Fashioned, Down Home, Hand Clappin’ Foot Stompin’, Southern Style, Gospel Quartet Music, with the first two on disc one (tagged with some singles) and the third leading off disc two. As stated above, many of these songs have never seen a release on CD, and it’s nice to have them all together here for the first time.
Aside from the three LP’s included from Columbia, we also get every non-LP single released during their time at the label, including “Family Reunion” and “Heaven Bound,” and several rare B-sides such as “Don’t Be Late” and “Look Away Mama.” The latter two in particular are enough to make the collection worth a purchase, as they were previously only available as a 45 RPM (or, in the case of “Don’t Be Late,” on a European LP compilation).
The RCA singles (recorded during Steve Sanders’ tenure with the group) are a bit of an oddity in the collection, as they don’t really fit the time frame of the rest of the album, nor do they match stylistically; they’re firmly planted in early 90’s country music. While I wish Real Gone Music had separated the projects and released all of their RCA material as a separate collection, it’s still nice to have those singles (and B-sides) included in this release, especially their bouncy rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” another rare cut not included on any ORB album. My guess is that Sony probably only authorized the singles (the Oaks’ two RCA albums have been long out of print, including in digital/streaming format, which may be Sony/RCA’s decision). It would’ve made a little more sense to include some of the group’s Heartwarming Records selections (which Sony also owns), although it looks like the goal was to feature the the current lineup as much as possible. This clash in styles and eras is the only reason this collection doesn’t get a 5 out of 5 stars from me.
As for the music itself, this is the best these songs have ever sounded. As mentioned above, every song has been digitally remastered from the original studio tapes, and they are crystal clear. For the first time, many of these songs can be heard without the pops and cracks of vinyl or analog-to-digital distortion. Even the RCA cuts, which were recorded from 1990-1992, have been updated and sound great. Kudos to compilation remastering engineer, Vic Anesini. One can only hope that someone (Real Gone or a similar company) will do the same one day with their massive MCA catalog of country material.
The Oaks’ Columbia recordings are a unique time capsule for the group – they were trying their best to widen their audience without alienating their core gospel fan base. They won two Grammy awards for their work during this time period, and despite riding the musical fence, they turned out some long-time fan favorites. It’s also a glimpse of what was to come, as these were the first efforts by what would become arguably the most recognizable lineup of this group. Having the RCA cuts, though a bit out of place, is still a nice inclusion.
At 49 songs in total, this is a collection that most Oaks fans would be more than happy to have.