It appears that with this latest…and last…album by the Goodmans, they returned to more of a Southern Gospel sound. Utilizing the same producer (Joe Huffman) as with “Goin’ Higher”, they were still blazing trails with this latest album, as the song selection, arrangements and overall quality of the recording was spot on. Many who may not have preferred the group’s sound from the Howard and Vestal era, claim “Chosen” as one of the greatest albums from the 80’s. While it may not be my absolute favorite album ever (it is my favorite album from this era of the group), I will agree that it should rank as one of the greatest from the 80’s, as “Chosen” contained some stellar songs, many of which are still being sung today.
Interestingly, conversing with different people over the years about this album, some were surprised at the cover picture…Rusty sporting the beard, the length of Michael English’s hair, the casualness of the cover shot, etc. And I concur it may have been a bit of a shock for die hard, old school individuals, but the 80’s ushered in a different mind-set both musically and socially, so the Goodmans were doing their part to keep up with the times, and staying relevant. Personally, I think it’s a cool casual shot of the group.
Circling back on the sound and style of this album, it’s more traditional than their “Goin’ Higher” album, but it’s leans more to the country-side of traditional, and I think that vocally and musically, that is where this aggregation of the group would have excelled at, had they continued on. With Johnny Cook’s exit from the group and integrating Michael English into the group’s sound, going down a more country route was a smart move. I would have loved to have heard a follow-up album to this. But much like their 1979 album, “Better Hurry Up”, it just wasn’t to be. This iteration of the group was on the verge of creating some real magic and really could have been a force to be reckoned with, much like what the Goodmans experienced in the early 70’s.
The album kicks off with the upbeat, country feel of, “The Cloud He’s Coming Back On”. The song was the first of 4 songs from this recording that charted for the Goodmans between 1983 and 1984. Written by James Payne, Tanya does a superb job on this energetic number before the tempo slows down as Michael English (then known as Mike English) gives his first of many recorded performances of his soon to be signature song, “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy”. It wouldn’t be for another couple of years before the song would take off for Michael (who scored a #1 hit with the song with the Singing Americans). Again, using a trick from the Goodman playbook, they slowed down the second verse giving Michael the ability to put his stamp on the song and making it his own. The song would go down as one of gospel music’s greatest songs and is forever identified with Michael English.
The tempo picks up a bit for the country flavor of “Home”. Written by father/daughter team Rusty and Tanya, along with Aaron Wilburn, the song was never a “hit” song, but it’s been a hugely popular tune that has been recorded numerous times over the years. It’s a perfect concert opener, which the Singing Americans proved on their 1984 “Live and Alive” album, which also included the powerhouse, “I Bowed on my Knees”.
The tempo picks up a bit for one of my favorite songs from this album, “The Message of His Coming”. Featuring Michael and Sam, as well as some call back lines from Tanya on the final choruses, it’s a highly enjoyable tune and a highlight of the album. Though it wasn’t a huge hit for the group, it did make a showing on the Top 40 chart and was the last song from this album to do so.
To round out side 1, the tempo slows down as Tanya delivers a striking performance on her self-penned song, “He Speaks to Me”. Filled with dobros, mandolins and fiddles, the song is country as fried cornbread, and it’s one of my all-time favorite Tanya performances. The song also proves that she definitely inherited the songwriting gene from her dad, as it’s a great and personally reflective song.
Side 2 starts with the Rusty Goodman penned classic, “Look For Me”. Featuring Michael and Tanya, the song is reminiscent of that old Goodman sound and is something I could hear the original 4 doing, had they stayed together. It’s one of my favorite Rusty Goodman tunes and it’s one of those songs that you continually see popping up on recordings or in concerts by various artists, which speaks to the power of the song. It was probably the most popular song from this album and had the strongest showing in the charts for the group, peaking in the Top 10.
“Sail on Over” picks up the tempo, as Sam delivers a solid performance on the song, before things slow back down for Rusty’s masterful delivery on his only feature on the album, “He Chose Me”. Written by Mosie Lister, who also wrote the liner notes for the album, he speaks of how when writing the musical/drama on the life of Peter called, “Man of Destiny”, Rusty’s voice was a natural choice to sing the song and portray the message in the song. It’s a powerful and emotional song, and Rusty delivers it flawlessly. The song has also been a popular song for church choirs, as I’ve heard numerous choirs sing this song over the years.
The tempo picks up once again for the hugely popular tune, “Somebody Prayed for Me”, which is reminiscent of that classic Goodman sound. Featuring Michael, this was a popular tune during the 80’s, and the Goodmans had a good run in the charts with it, as did the McKameys a couple of years later.
Tanya closes out the recording with a beautiful rendition of the Jimmie Davis classic, “Someone to Care”. I love the simplicity of this performance, and it’s one of my all-time favorite renditions of this classic tune.
Sadly, the group would retire by the end of 1983. Michael English would go on to sing with the Singing Americans, and eventually the Gaither Vocal Band. Sam would go on to preach and sing, and went on to record 2 solo albums, one for Canaan in 1984, and another one a couple of years later for Windchime Records, which was the record label responsible for bringing us such groups as the Paynes, HeavenBound and others during the 80’s. Rusty and Tanya would continue singing together, and they would rebrand as Rusty Goodman & The Family Band. Rusty recorded one album under that name in 1984, which was essentially a solo album, and was a phenomenal album too! Rusty would eventually be diagnosed with cancer in 1986, which caused him to basically cease from performing and recording on a consistent basis. He did record one more solo album, “To Be Honest with You”, which was released in 1987 on the Benson label. The album would later be re-released under the Homeland label in 1988, titled, “To the Homeland”, which included one extra song (the title song). Sadly, cancer would take Rusty from us, as he would pass away on November 11, 1990; but not before doing one last album with the family, which was released a couple months prior to his passing called, “The Reunion”.
Though the group ultimately came off the road in 1983, in October 1984, Howard, Sam, Rusty and Vestal would reunite on stage for the 1984 National Quartet Convention to honor Canaan Records’ 20th anniversary. That was an electrifying performance, as the magic was still there! They would come together one final time during a benefit concert for Rusty in September 1990, where they sang “I Believe He’s Coming Back”, and that performance was just as exciting as it was at their NQC performance 6 years earlier; but looking back with the knowledge of Rusty passing 2 months later, it was so very bitter sweet.
Next week, we’ll take a look at their final recording together, “The Reunion”, and how that one recording was a unique culmination of creativity that was over 25 years in the making.
By 1979, the Hemphills were really cookin’, and this latest album spurred their very first #1 song with “I’m in this Church”. Check it out!