The Happy Goodman Family – The Legendary Goodmans (1973)

The Happy Goodman Family – The Legendary Goodmans (1973)

After 4 very exciting albums in a row, the Goodmans decided that maybe it was time to pull on the reins and slow things down just a bit (whether intentional or not), as this latest album was a very laid-back and relaxed recording. Marvin Norcross is at the helm as sole producer for this one, and with a mix of Goodman musicians and studio musicians, the recording was done at the Goodman’s own recording studio. By this time, the studio changed its name from Goodman Sound to Electric Arts, which I always thought was a cool name for a recording studio. Speaking of the Goodman’s studio, during the 70’s (especially during the early to mid-70’s), that studio was a happening place. Several well-known groups, as well as literally hundreds of local and regional artists recorded there. The Goodman’s band normally handled all the music and Rusty or Eddie usually handled the producing duties. They created a ton of great music there, and the studio kept them extremely busy there when they were not on the road.

By 1973, the group was still riding a massive wave of success, and along with the 6 Singing News Fan Awards the group acquired between 1970 and 1971, the group garnered 7 more awards between 1972 and 1973. Those awards included Favorite Group, Song of the Year (“The Lighthouse” and “He Pilots My Ship”), Female Singer (Vestal), Male Singer (Rusty), Baritone (Rusty) and Favorite Musician (Howard). The record company may have felt that the group had achieved “legendary” status by this point, and titled the album, “The Legendary Goodmans”. Featuring a classy full color portrait of the group on the cover (included with the vinyl record was a copy of the same portrait that you can frame yourself), the recording was a step forward, musically, for the group, and for the first time features the group with strings (though not a full orchestra) and background vocals on select songs. During 1972, the group was doing a special concert series with live strings, so I am sure that played a role in the decision to highlight the use of some strings on a few songs. The background vocals, though not credited on the album, were handled by the Sound 70 Singers, who were a Nashville based group of singers who did a lot of background vocal work during that time for various genres.

The album starts out with one of Rusty’s most poetic and thought-provoking songs, “How Much More”. Rusty, joined by strings and background vocalists instead of the family, delivers a passionate performance and this ranks as one of his finest ever. It’s obvious to me that Rusty was a deep thinker, and his songs convey those deep thoughts so very well. Through this masterpiece, Rusty reminds us that though He loves all His creation…the birds, trees, flowers, etc., He still loves us infinitely more. The song was a big chart song for the group during most of 1974 and into 1975, peaking at #3 in October 1974.

Vestal steps up next to sing the bouncy, “He’s Coming Again”. Written by Linda Stalls, this was a popular song for the group, and the song did achieve some chart action, though it never broke into the Top 10. The group eventually did a musical overhaul on the song for their late 70s TV show, “Down Home with the Happy Goodman Family”, where they sped up the tempo immensely and really jazzed it up with some brass accents. Howard and Vestal eventually recorded this updated arrangement of the song on their first duet album, “New Born Feeling”, which was released in 1981.

Sam steps up next to deliver a heartfelt performance on the classic hymn from the Redback Hymnal, “Stand By Me”. As one of the songs utilizing strings and background vocals, Sam renders one of his finest performances ever on this song, especially as they slow down the last verse, thus allowing Sam to take his time to thoughtfully deliver each line of the verse, a technique the group used a lot back in the 60s.

Penned by Aaron Wilburn, “Joy in the Morning” features an excellent performance by Vestal before Rusty steps up to sing the Leonard Adams classic, “I Saw the Man”. This has always been one of my favorite songs that Rusty sang, and this powerful message in song was a big hit for the group in 1974, peaking at #6 in August of that year. I had always thought that Johnny Cook (though not an official member of the group at this time), was singing on this song. The vocals are heavily stacked, and it really sounds like Johnny is in the mix to me. My understanding in talking with Eddie Crook, is that it was the Sound 70 Singers singing back-up on the song, and that Johnny Cook was not on this record.

Flipping the record over to side 2, we come to our first real up-tempo song, “I’ll Soon Be Gone”. Written by Joel Hemphill, Howard does a flawless job singing this happy song filled with fiddles and guitars. It’s my personal favorite version of this oft recorded tune, which incidentally, was a big hit for the Downings in 1973.

Rusty slows the tempo back down as he sings the Colbert Croft classic, “I Believe He Died For Me”, before the tempo is kicked back up for yet another Joel Hemphill classic, “Ready to Leave”, which features Howard. The Goodmans saw some minor chart action with this song, but several other groups had a good run with this song during this same time period, including the Hemphills and the Kingsmen.

Charles Wycuff (who wrote “I’m Too Near Home”), penned the classic, “What a Lovely Name”, and it features an outstanding performance by Vestal. When Johnny Cook came with the group in 1974, he and Vestal both tackled this song in concert, much to the delight of their fans. Though it was a never a huge charting song for the Goodmans (it never broke the Top 10), it went over very well in concert and became one of Vestal’s signature songs. Rumor has it that later pressings of this album has Johnny Cook singing the song, but I have never heard that version and Eddie Crook confirms Johnny wasn’t on this record, so we’ll chalk it up to urban legendry.

The recording closes out with the nostalgic feel of the up-tempo, “Looks Like Everybody’s Going Home”. Written by Aaron Wilburn and featuring Sam, I have never really been able to get into this song, but it’s something a little different and Sam does a really good job on the song.

I bought this album while I was in high school in the late 80’s, and I will admit that it took some years for this album to grow on me. I don’t know if it was the laid-back feel of the album or what it was, but as I’ve gotten older, the songs have taken on a deeper meaning and I’ve come to really enjoy this album much more now than I did 30 years ago. Though I wouldn’t say it ranks as one of my top favorite Goodman albums, I’ve come to appreciate the lyrical and musical aspects of this album much more now, and I do listen to it quite often.

As I stated earlier, this album was definitely more laid-back than their previous records, but it was a very forward-thinking album in its musical creativity for the Goodmans, featuring strings and background vocals. The slight change in musical direction wasn’t utilized on all the songs on the album, only on a few select songs. I feel this was a foreshadowing of changes that were to come, stylistically, for the group over the ensuing years, especially during the late 70s, as they would eventually incorporate background vocals more and more, as well as feature fully orchestrated tracks and create bigger and more robust arrangements to some of their songs. But for the time being, this was a small step forward for the group, and was the perfect set-up for their next album!


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Category LP Review, Reviews

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7 Comments

  1. Reply April 06, 11:28 #1 NB'er

    The part about Johnny Cook singing on later pressings of this album on the song What a Lovely Name is not urban legend. The copy I have of this album has Johnny singing the solo high parts on the chorus. But I have listened to the version of the album on Apple. On there that song has a completely different mix with Vestal doing the solo high parts on the chorus.

    • Reply April 06, 11:58 James Hales

      I have never heard the version of the album with Johnny Cook on “What a Lovely Name”, but have heard about it from very reliable sources. In conversations with Rick Goodman and Eddie Crook, they both have said he was not on the album, so despite my personal belief he IS on “I Saw the Man” and later pressings singing “What a Lovely Name” (even though I have not personally heard it), I decided not to openly declare in my article that he was definitely on the album. I’d love to get my hands on a copy, but there is no way to tell without actually listening to the album and that particular song.

      • Reply April 06, 15:47 NB'er

        If you can get a copy of Goodman Greats from 1982 it is the same version as what was included on later pressings of Legendary. I am enjoying your reviews very much by the way.

        • Reply April 06, 18:02 James Hales Author

          Goodman Greats is slightly different in that Rusty takes the melody, whereas on Legendary, Howard takes the melody at the beginning of the song.

          • April 06, 20:54 NB'er

            I knew some of the songs on Goodman Greats were altered vocally. I had not picked up on that. I will take a listen soon and compare. You have a good ear.

  2. Reply April 11, 08:08 #2 NB'er

    Hey James: If you would like to hear that alt version of Lovely Name email me. The one I have is directly from my vinyl copy of Legendary. It is not from youtube or Apple or a comp album etc.


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