By 1972 (the year I was born, by the way), the Goodmans were riding a huge wave of success and popularity created by the massive success of their previous 3 albums, “This Happy House”, “Good Times with the Happy Goodmans” and “Wanted Live”. With each successive record, the wave just got higher and higher, and in 1972 the Goodmans capped off their successful run by releasing another hugely popular album, “Leave Your Sorrows & Come Along with the Happy Goodmans”! This is their first studio album recorded at Goodman Sound Studios, and we have both Rusty and Marvin sharing producing duties. By this time, Rusty and Sam have laid their guitars down (thus giving them more freedom on stage) and the group is now sporting a full 6-piece band behind them…led by Eddie Crook at the piano, the band now consists of Larry Strzelecki on bass, Rick Goodman playing drums, Jack Smith on steel guitar, Jim “Duke” Dumas on electric guitar and Aaron Wilburn playing rhythm guitar (their picture is on the back of the album). All 6 band members played on this album along with veteran studio musicians Harold Bradley, Bob Moore, Jimmy Capps and Steve Chapman. Having the Goodmans’ musicians play on their records allowed them to maintain the sound created in the studio onto the stage, thereby what you heard on the record was what you heard on stage, and vice versa.
Building off the huge success of Ronny Hinson’s classic song, “The Lighthouse”, the record starts out with another Hinson classic, “He Pilots my Ship”. Just like its predecessor had done in 1972, “He Pilots my Ship” took home “Song of the Year” honors at the 1973 Singing News Fan Awards! Featuring an excellent performance by Rusty on the verses, the song would go on to compete for the #1 spot against “The Lighthouse” and would ultimately claim the coveted spot in April and September of 1973, and would remain in the Top 20 for over a year. I love how the song builds with intensity on the second verse and when Vestal steps up and belts out that last chorus…she owns it! The Goodmans’ version is my favorite rendition of this song. Also, if you notice on the coda, Rusty takes the melody on the last word…much like they did when they started staging “What Heaven Means to Me” a couple of years earlier.
Next, Vestal steps up to sing one of my personal favorites of hers, “I Will Trade the Old Cross for a Crown”, taken from page 247 in the Redback Hymnal. There is a video clip on You Tube of her singing this song on the Gospel Singing Jubilee that I love to watch. Just watching her involve herself in the song is a pure joy and she performs it impeccably on the show, as well as on this record. You’ll also notice on the clip how Vestal sticks her arm behind her back after the 1st run of the chorus after the second verse and it appears she is indicating to do the chorus again. I just love how they just go with how they feel on the song. Another thing I’ll point out while watching that Jubilee clip…on the chorus after the second verse, Sam and Rusty do call backs on the line, “shall swing open”, and I wish they had done that on the record. I really love the dynamic it added to the song. If you’ve never heard that version, check it out on You Tube. You’ll be glad you did! I did ask Eddie Crook about that bit of re-arranging, and he said basically the show gave them the freedom to try out new things and arrangements, so they changed it up just a bit; I thought it worked beautifully!
The tempo picks up slightly as Howard steps up to sing the time-honored favorite, “Won’t It Be Wonderful There”. Another great song from the Redback Hymnal, the song was a concert favorite for many years and is one of my favorite Howard features. The group brought this song back during the 90s and early 2000s, and they re-recorded it on their “Set Your Sails” recording in 2000.
Sam steps up next to deliver a very heartfelt recitation on, “Lead Me to the Altar”, written by Les Beasley of the Florida Boys, before the tempo gets kicked back up as Howard sings, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross”, which rounds out this side. The group brought this song back on their final “swan song” recording, “The Final Stand” in 2001.
The title song, “Leave Your Sorrows & Come Along”, kicks things off on side 2, and this was a big song for the group, charting as high as #5 on the Singing News chart in July and August of 1973, and spent about 13 months in the Top 20. It’s a wonderful convention song from the Redback Hymnal and it’s one that has continued to be sung today by various groups. Another interesting tidbit, when they started staging the song, they changed up the ending slightly, and went up for the big ending, contrary to what was captured on the record; and for the record, I really liked the big ending! Since this became their opening song in concert, I think the bigger ending worked better.
Howard then steps up and renders a solo performance on the upbeat, “Big Enough”. Written by Ray Lewis, Howard does a great job carrying this song by himself all the way through, before the tempo slows down to a bit, as Vestal sings the classic, “Far Above the Starry Sky”. This is another song that has continued to show up from time to time by different groups, and it was/is a great song.
Rusty returns to the spotlight as he sings the Aaron Wilburn penned, “Show Me the Way to Calvary”, the first of several songs penned by the late songwriter that the group would go on to record. The song, recorded as a solo performance, perfectly showcases Rusty’s unique ability to express pathos and tenderness, as he beautifully describes the crucifixion and applying the finished work of the cross to his own life.
The recording closes out with the up-tempo convention favorite from the Redback Hymnal, “Will You Meet Me Over Yonder”. Starting with Howard taking the lead and Vestal chiming in on the second verse, the song takes us out for a grand finish to another excellent album.
This album was a perfect representation of what the Goodmans sounded like in 1972. I alluded to this earlier, but with their 6-piece stage band performing on this album, they could easily match what was done in the studio, in their live performances. Since there is little, to no other musical embellishments outside of what the band could provide (ie-strings/orchestrations or fiddle, banjo, harmonica, etc.), when you bought this record at their concerts, it matched what you heard on stage.
If memory serves me right, I bought this album, along with their “Legendary” album, from a record dealer in Alabama or Georgia sometime while I was in high school in the late 80s. The first time I saw the cover of this album was in an old Word music catalog back in 1980, and based off the pictures, I thought it was a live album. Of course, I realized it wasn’t when I played the album, but I would love to know where these concert shots were taken. I think the front cover shots perfectly convey the message of the album’s title, beckoning to everyone who’ll listen to…“Leave Your Sorrows & Come Along with The Happy Goodmans!”
After 2 solid years of consistency and renewed success, change boarded the Nelons bus once again. Nonetheless, they came together to release this massive recording entitled, “We’ve Got to Praise Him”.