After an eventful and whirlwind first year under the Benson umbrella, things seemed to have settled down by 1966, when the Rambos recorded their “Come Spring” album. This was the first album by the group that featured strings. By this point, Dottie had released 2 solo albums (“Sunshine, Shine On” and “The Good Ole Days”) which featured a higher production value than the Rambos albums had, so it was good to hear the overall production values catch up with one another, and the record company investing more into the Rambos, as a group. Immediately after this album was released, Dottie released her 3rd solo album, which was a wonderful album entitled, “Dottie Rambo and the Imperials”, which featured her with Jake Hess & The Imperials providing background vocals.
Ironically, as we are currently anxiously anticipating the coming spring, we come to this beautiful album, “Come Spring”, which features a nice “springy” picture of the group on the cover. Albums during the 60s rarely listed production credits, and while no producer is listed, based off the liner notes my assumption is that Bob Benson produced the album. In the liner notes, Jim Hall is listed as the arranger for the album (he is also listed on several of the Rambo’s early orchestrated albums) and such musicians as Harold Bradley, Marvin Hughes, Wayne Moss and Roy Huskey played on the album. I feel that this album really seemed to capture the essence of the Rambos at the time, and it’s truly a simple, but yet extraordinary piece of work.
Garnered from the success of the original version recorded on their second Warner Brothers album, Heartwarming decided to recut “Come Spring” and title the album after the song. Originally inspired by her Grandmother Luttrell, Dottie actually wrote this song in the 50’s and the group had been performing the song since then. This updated version features a nice run by the string section at the beginning of the song before the organ kicks in, and the basic arrangement of the song is the same as the original. The song enjoyed a bit of a revival during the early 2000’s, as soloist, Jessica King, did a phenomenal rendition of the song, and even enjoyed some nice chart action with her version as well. The song even landed Jessica a performance on one of the Gaither Homecoming videos during that time.
I absolutely adore the Rambos’ arrangement of the hymn, “There is Power in the Blood”. The arrangement they used sounds like something the Sons of Song (a popular group during the late 50s and early 60s who were known for unique arrangements) would have come up with. This lively rendition is a highlight of the recording, as is Dottie’s haunting tune, “Is That the Lights of Home I See”, which has Buck taking the lead. The Speers and Inspirations also recorded beautiful renditions of this great song around the same time.
Buck and Dottie share lead duties, while Reba brings it home at the end on the song “Each Step You Take”, which is one of three songs on this album not written or co-written by Dottie, before Buck is featured on the beautiful “Constantly Aware of His Love”, which has him and Reba switching off with the melody on the chorus. The song has the feel of an old western cowboy tune and has the accordion featured prominently throughout the song. It was written by Dottie along with Elmo Mercer, and the group does a marvelous job on the song. Interestingly, since I didn’t have this album in my collection until sometime in the late 90’s, I actually grew up listening to the Inspirations version of the song from their 1969 album, “The Night Before Easter”, and I fell in love with the song then. Funny thing though, when I was able to obtain this album and heard the Rambos rendition, I actually like their version better than I did the Inspirations version.
The dreamy feel of the medium tempo, “I’ll Sleep Beside You Someday” closes out the first side. Like many of Dottie’s early songs, it’s a sentimental story song that features Buck, and it features some nice accents from the string section.
The medium tempo, “Thank You for the Valley” gets side 2 underway, and lyrically, it was indicative of the typical Dottie Rambo song; filled with genuine emotion, it was highly relatable to the listener. She tended to write “valley” songs and it was these types of songs that people tended to gravitate to, and it’s one of my favorites from this album, as is the spiritual feel of “I’ve Learned to Lean on the Lord”, which features Dottie’s soulful delivery at the beginning, before the tempo picks up as Reba takes the lead for the remainder of the song.
Keeping the tempo upbeat, the whimsical feel of “I Have Hope”, featuring Buck is next, before the pace slows down for the Joe Hatfield masterpiece, “Mercy”, which is truly a wonderful song depicting the great mercy of God. This is my all-time favorite Hatfield penned tune, and I am always delighted when I see it pop up on someone’s recording. In fact, the Cathedrals did a wonderful job on this song on their 1980 album, “Better than Ever”, which is where I first heard the song, several years ago.
Written by Dottie along with Jimmie Davis, “What Can I Offer” is a song the group originally recorded a few years prior, on their very first album, “Draw Me Near”. Featuring Buck, it has an interesting musical concept where the verse has a completely different meter than the chorus, but the group does a good job resurrecting this song with a bit of a slower tempo than the original (and a smoother transition from the verse to the chorus), before the album closes out with a touching recollection from their ASO tour with the recitation, “Could That Be a Gospel Song”. Using “The Old Rugged Cross” as a backdrop, Buck shares a poignant story of when the Rambos sang for the Armed Forces and were traveling through Greenland. I remember the very first time I heard this recitation; it was on the radio back in the late 80s and I remember being struck by the story that unfolded in this piece. It would still be several years before I would get me a copy of this album, but this was one of the songs I couldn’t wait to listen to when I did finally get my hands on it.
With the addition of a string section on several songs, this was the best sounding album the group had released up to this point, and it featured some really great songs written, or co-written, by Dottie (9 songs total). The group’s sound was really gelling at this point and Reba (though still quite young) was coming into her own as a vocalist as well. In fact, in just a couple of years, Reba would release her first solo album and she would also embark on her own songwriting journey.
When I added this album to my personal collection several years ago, I didn’t spend the time needed to sit and listen to it like I normally would have. It wasn’t until probably the last 4 or 5 years that I took the time to really drink in all this album had to offer, and it’s truly a fantastic piece of work. “Come Spring” was a great follow-up to “Those Singing Rambos”, which was released the year prior. It also was a great lead-in for their next album, “Gospel Ballads”, which ranks as one of my all-time favorite albums by the Rambos.
By this time, things were starting to ramp up for the group, as more and more people were catching on to what they were doing. The group was making appearances on the Gospel Singing Jubilee television show and were becoming more and more popular on the concert circuit as well. Also, more of Dottie’s songs were being picked up and recorded by numerous established top groups at the time, such as the Oak Ridge Boys, Speers, Prophets and Florida Boys. Those groups had discovered the real gems Dottie’s songs were and those songs were being sung to thousands of people in concerts across the country by these groups, as well as the Rambos. Though not a household name yet, that road was well on its way to being paved and the future for the Rambos was as bright as the spring sun!
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