The Happy Goodman Family – Bigger ‘N Better (1967)

The Happy Goodman Family – Bigger ‘N Better (1967)

I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I have been enjoying writing them. I generally stay a few albums ahead in my writing as I read, re-read, edit and re-edit and I have enjoyed remembering all the things I love about the music of the Happy Goodman Family. Their music made a huge and lasting impression on me and I hate that I never got the chance to see them in person during their heyday. I did see them several times during the Homecoming concerts and did get to see Howard and Vestal during a revival back in the mid-80s, but I never did get to enjoy them during the 1960s and 1970s. Even though they are no longer with us, their music lives on through these records and this week we come to their second Canaan album, “Bigger ‘N’ Better”. As noted in the liner notes on the back of this album (remember liner notes?), the idea to record this album came on January 4th, just 3 months after the release of “What a Happy Time”! The group was enjoying tremendous success with the release of “What a Happy Time” and the need to record a new album was almost immediate; and it was to be bigger AND better than the last!

True to form, the group tears into “When it All Starts Happening” to start things off. This is another little gem from Little David Young, who also provides the tinkling piano intro on the song and in fact, he plays throughout the entire album. I believe David Young played on all their early Canaan recordings and he played a big part in their sound. The song is an intensely invigorating up-tempo number, and Sam shines on this song, and it’s one of my favorite features by him.

Vestal steps up to sing the thought provoking, “I’ll Regret”, which was penned by Bud Chambers, who provided the Goodmans with several great songs through the years. In an unusual move, Vestal delivers a striking recitation for the second verse of the song. She does this on one other song on this album, and it’s something she hadn’t done prior to, or after this record, but it allowed her to convey her feelings and emotions in a different way, and it seemed to add the appropriate dynamic for the song.

Joel Hemphill, nephew-by-marriage to the Goodman brothers, wrote the poignant, “Point of No Return”, which features Bobby. Joel (who would later form his own family group, the Hemphills, with his wife LaBreeska) was just starting out as a songwriter and this was one of two songs the family included on this album. The group would go on to record several other Hemphill tunes down through the years.

Howard sings, “Living By Faith”, and it’s one of my favorite Church of God hymns. This is the only song on this recording from the Red Back Hymnal and it’s one of my favorite Howard Goodman features. Vestal then steps back up to sing the classic, “I’m Building a Bridge” before Side 1 wraps up with the driving, “Jesus Said it, I Believe It”, which also features Vestal.

Side 2 starts out with the other Joel Hemphill tune, “Not in a Million Years”, and it features an enthusiastic performance as Rusty delivers the goods on this fast-paced number, before Vestal sings the emotionally tinged patriotic song, “Weapon of Prayer”. This is the other song that has Vestal doing the 2nd verse as a recitation and it too, is quite touching. The lingering organ and drum roll fading out at the end just adds to the emotional heaviness of the song and it’s quite moving.

Sam gets another feature here with the up-tempo, “Born Again”. The song features that exciting feel that is distinctively “Goodman”, before Howard steps up for another one of those songs where the verses are at a slower tempo than the chorus, “I Shall Feel at Home with Jesus”. Again, it’s a success as Howard is free to bring his own interpretation of the verses, before picking up the tempo as the group joins him on the chorus. This too, is another one of my favorite Howard Goodman features.

The recording closes out with another Bud Chambers song, “Poor, Rich Man”. Rusty does a great job doing the lead on this song and it’s an enthusiastic close to a great album. This was a popular tune from this album and was no doubt a concert favorite back in the day.

Like its predecessor, Bigger ‘N Better is a happy album and an enjoyable listen. You get a good dose of everyone here and it sounds like a true collaborative effort by the group. I love the cover shot. Just about every group during the 60s and 70s had at least one record with a shot of the group and their bus, and this is theirs. This record is probably one of their more obscure albums and this may be due to it being overshadowed by the highly successful, “What a Happy Time” album. There are some great songs here, but when you list out all the popular songs the Goodmans have recorded through the years, only one or two from this album gets mentioned. The most popular song from this record is probably “Poor Rich Man”, which the Goodmans re-recorded 10 years later, on their 1977 double live album recorded in Huntsville, Alabama.

Let me share a little back story on how I discovered this album. I “discovered” the Happy Goodmans back in the late 70s, when I was about 6 or 7 years old. In early Spring of 1980, I obtained a Word catalog of all the music that company distributed, and of course, it had all the Goodmans records listed, except for “Bigger ‘N’ Better”. This is another reason why I think “What a Happy Time” overshadowed this album, because they were still offering all their other releases, except for “Bigger ‘N’ Better”. I’m not sure when it was removed from the catalog prior to 1980. At that time, I thought that was all the records they had released and never knew about “Bigger ‘N’ Better” until years later. Fast forward about 10 years when a close friend gave me their “Happy Goodman Family Songbook” from the late 60s and they had all their records listed on the inside of the back cover, and lo and behold, there was “Bigger ‘N’ Better”! I was ecstatic about another record by them that I didn’t have, and I set out trying to find that record, and eventually found one about 2 or 3 years later. Mind you, this was long before the internet and I hadn’t met Harold Timmons or Harold Dickerson yet! (Some of you will know who those gentlemen are) But I digress…

One final comment…Sometime around the time of the release of this record (or shortly thereafter), guitarist Dwayne Friend joined the group, and it gave them the freedom to grow their sound on stage. Since there was a lot of guitar work on these early Canaan albums, they could now better replicate that on stage and give the audience a fuller sound, musically. This was an indicator of things to come, as within 4-5 years the group would boast a large 6-piece band on stage. More exciting things were to come for the group, as they would blaze new trails and set new standards in gospel music. As the title of this album suggests, things were indeed getting “Bigger AND Better”!!

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c10/h06/mnt/141983/domains/ on line 7
Category LP Review, Reviews

MusicScribe Comments

We love comments
No Comments Yet! You can be first to comment on this article!

Warning: Illegal string offset 'rules' in /nfs/c10/h06/mnt/141983/domains/ on line 200

Warning: Illegal string offset 'rules' in /nfs/c10/h06/mnt/141983/domains/ on line 207

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.