The Happy Goodman Family – Goodman Greats (1982)

The Happy Goodman Family – Goodman Greats (1982)

This early 1982 release was an interesting recording in that it featured the current vocal line-up with the original music tracks of these classic Goodman tunes from the 1970’s. Featuring songs that were originally recorded between 1973 and 1978, it’s a unique collection of hits and concert favorites. Due to the nature of this recording, my review is somewhat shorter than the others, since all these songs have been discussed already in previous reviews. I will, of course, hone-in on some of the unique aspects of certain songs, as there are some neat gems embedded in this recording.

In addition to Johnny, Tanya, Sam and Rusty, the nation is introduced to a new face, Michael English (then known as Mike English). While he doesn’t have any features on the album, he is pictured on the cover. I’m not sure when in the process of recording this album he came to the group, so the album may have already been completed by the time he joined, which would explain why he doesn’t have any features. Also, this could have been a transitional period as Johnny was leaving and Michael was coming on board at the same time the album was slated to come out.

The record starts out with their biggest hit, “What a Beautiful Day”. Whereas, Howard sang the lead on the original cut, here Rusty takes the lead and I really like Rusty’s interpretation of the verse and Johnny sounds awesome as ever on the chorus.

The tempo then slows down as Rusty turns in another masterful performance on his own song, “Don’t Let Me See”. As I alluded to a few weeks ago, this song is such a masterpiece, and it really gave us an honest glimpse into Rusty’s heart and soul.

Picking up the tempo and the vocals not straying too far from the original version, the group sings another classic Goodman penned tune, “John the Revelator”, before Tanya chimes in with an updated vocal performance on “A Love of my Own”. At this point, Tanya was about 6 years older than when she originally recorded it in 1976, and by this point, she had developed her own distinct vocal style and her voice had matured tremendously. To me, it’s really cool contrasting the two versions from 1976 and 1982, and hearing how she had grown as a singer.

Side 1 closes out with the classic, “Wait’ll You See my Brand New Home”. Originally recorded with Vestal taking the lead, here Johnny renders his own interpretation of the song. He does a great job with it, but I still prefer Vestal’s rendition of the song.

Johnny kicks off side 2 with “The Lord’s Prayer” before turning in his own rendition of another Vestal classic, “What a Lovely Name”. Again, Johnny does a fantastic job with it, but being the Vestal fan that I am, my vote goes to Vestal again.

Sam steps up next to deliver the poignant recitation, “The Pledge of Allegiance”, before Johnny comes back to sing the song forever identified with him, “Looking for a City”. He doesn’t stray much at all from his original performance and shows he still has it, 8 years after originally recording it in 1974.

The album closes out with one of my favorites from this record, “That Sounds Like Home to Me”, which features Johnny and Tanya as a duet. Originally, Johnny and Vestal recorded the song together, and on this updated version, Johnny and Tanya don’t follow the exact duet arrangement as the original, and I like what they did here, as it makes for a very unique and memorable performance.

Personally, I would have traded out a couple of songs to include something like “Hallelujah, I’m Going Home”, “I Saw the Man”, “Meet Me Over on the Other Side”, “Over the Next Hill”, “I Believe He’s Coming Back” or “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing for my Journey Now”. As always, these types of “Best of” recordings are always subjective, but it would have been cool to hear updated vocals on those songs, and maybe try to work in a feature by Michael English.

This album was never one I listened to a lot of over the years. It’s not a bad record at all, it just doesn’t offer me enough to bring me back to listen to it again and again. It’s a nice addition to my collection and it does offer some unique performances on a few songs; but since it is on You Tube, I can just pull them up there if I want to listen to those particular songs without pulling out the whole album. Also, during this time, I was still reeling from Howard and Vestal not being in the group any longer…so there’s that! Nonetheless, it’s a fine offering featuring the current group on these iconic Goodman greats!


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Category LP Review, Reviews

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