1968 was an interesting time. We were engaged in conflict in Vietnam, civil unrest was wreaking havoc across the nation, the Beatles iconic “White Album” was released and the Rambos came out with one of their biggest selling albums, “The Soul Singing Rambos”. It was a banner year for the group, and they were becoming a force within the industry at this point. With this latest album, Dottie wrote, and the group recorded the biggest song of their career, which propelled the Rambos to stardom. I grew up being intrigued by liner notes on the back of album covers, and I think the liner notes on the back of this album perfectly sums up this recording…
“Soul seems to be an “in” word right now – country singers are using it – folk singers are using it – jazz players are using it – so in a sense you might accuse us of stealing it – but I contend the word really belongs to people like the Rambos. As one of those select groups that record nearly all their own material, they start with songs from Dottie’s soul. With rare insight, she writes about us all – and the common bonds of humanity – whether we are religious or not – our hopes – our faith – our roots – our needs – and she does it with such a simple down-to-earth style, that one is surprised to see how easily and beautifully she has expressed our own deep thoughts and questions. When these songs are sung with the feeling and the harmony this dad, mom and daughter have, it begins to become evident what the phrase “soul” really means. Add outstanding musical backgrounds to each song – some richly orchestrated – some against a background of five guitars, and I think you will agree, soul is the word for the Rambos’ newest album.”
Produced by Bob Benson, and orchestral arrangements provided by Jim Hall, it’s a wonderful collection of songs (all but 2 songs were written by Dottie) and the Rambos are on top of their game here. With the cover shot of the Rambos sporting guitars and dressed in semi-casual attire, it gives off a folk ambiance, and the album pretty much sticks to that style. By this point, Pat Jones had left the group and Darius Spurgeon has come aboard as the group’s pianist; albeit for a brief time, but long enough for a cover shot and a song!
With its beautiful opening of sweeping strings, the recording starts off with what is Dottie’s best known and most recorded song, “He Looked Beyond my Fault and Saw My Need”. Featuring their iconic sound with Buck singing the verse, Dottie taking the lead on the chorus and Reba jumping on lead halfway through, the Rambos version of the song peaked in the Singing News Top 20 at #6 in September and October 1970 (which was 2 years after this album was released) and remained in the Top 20 through April 1971. The song was recorded by countless artists including Andrae Crouch, Hovie Lister & the Statesmen, JD Sumner & the Stamps, Perry Sisters, Cathedral Quartet, Couriers, James Blackwood, Heirloom, Collingsworth Family and many, many more. It’s one of those classic songs that never dies, and people are still singing and recording the song. Dottie wrote this song specifically for her brother, whom she deeply loved. He was living a life of alcohol and crime and was dying of cancer. The song pricked his heart, and he was able to come to a saving knowledge of Christ before he died just a few short weeks afterwards. Only eternity will tell the impact this one song has made for the Kingdom. The poignant lyric is set to the old tune, “Londonderry Air” (aka-“Danny Boy”), and the marriage of Dottie’s lyric to that particular tune was truly a match made in Heaven.
Featuring multiple guitars, the tempo picks up for the folk sounding, “Troubles Can Break You or Make You a Man”. Featuring some excellent guitar work, this is such a fun tune with a great message, and it’s always been one of my favorites from this album. In fact, Reba recorded this song on her first solo album, “The Folk Side of Gospel”, which was released a few months after this album came out.
The tempo slows down slightly for the song, “A Hymn from Way Back Home”. Featuring Buck, the song has a warm sentimental feel to it, as it recalls precious memories with mom and dad and the hymns many grew up hearing in church.
With its quirky electric guitar opening, the tempo picks up for the folk feel of “By and By the Night Will Vanish”, which features Dottie, and the tempo remains upbeat for the Darius Spurgeon penned, “I Have a Home”. Though the song features Dottie on the second verse, all three take their turns singing the melody during the song, a typical Rambo calling card.
Rounding out this side, the tempo slows down as Dottie steps up to sing the inspirational, “I Still Believe”. Featuring a nice musical score, it’s a slight musical departure for the Rambos, as the song sounds as if it came straight out of the musical “The Sound of Music”.
Side 2 starts with the beautifully orchestrated, “I Just Came to Talk With You Lord”, featuring both Buck and Dottie, and also features that inverted harmony they were known for. This became one of Dottie’s best-known songs, and it was inspired by the humble and genuine prayers Dottie heard her grandfather pray when she was a child. As she shared with me in an interview I did with her several years ago, at night she would lay at the foot of his bed while he prayed, and she became so enchanted with how humble and honest his prayers were. She rarely got to hear him finish his prayers as she usually fell asleep before he had finished. This is the same grandfather who inspired her to write, “My Heart Can See” on the group’s last album. The song has been recorded numerous times through the years by such groups as the Blue Ridge Quartet, Greater Vision, Thrasher Brothers and Whisnants, but one of my personal favorite covers is by the Dunaways from back in 2006, where Dottie joined them on the song.
With its wailing harmonica and dobro, you get a distinct country vibe as Buck sings the first verse of “I’ve Seen All of This World”, before the mood shifts to more of a blues feel as Dottie sings the second verse. When Reba steps up for the third verse, the song takes on a more modern, late 60s feel. It’s one of my favorites from the album and is a unique song that was very progressive for its time and is one of the first truly progressive tunes the Rambos tackled. This wouldn’t be the last time they dipped into the progressive pool, as over time, the Rambos infused many different styles and sounds into their music.
Buck takes the lead once again to sing another one of Dottie’s memorable tunes, “Don’t Take My Cross Away”, which is a beautiful prayer of consecration. Dottie originally recorded the song a couple years prior on her second solo album, “The Good Ole Days”, and it fits very nicely on this album.
Buck and Reba are featured on the sentimental Tom T. Hall penned tune, “A Picture of Your Mother”, before the recording closes out with another poetic prose, “God Has No Certain Dwelling Place”, which speaks on the omnipresence of God. Dottie and Reba swap on the melody throughout the song and it’s a beautiful, thought-provoking tune.
This is one of the albums I grew up listening to, so it’s firmly engrained in my mind and spirit. With “He Looked Beyond My Fault” and other highly popular songs on this album, it was one of their biggest selling albums and solidified their place in the Southern Gospel industry. As with all the Rambos albums, this album was a peek into Dottie’s soul at the time and we could see the things that were affecting her personally, and thus affected her writing…a dying and lost brother whom she loved…understanding how the troubles of this world will either break you or build you up and how those troubles should bring you closer to Jesus…recalling sweet memories of childhood and of a praying grandfather and singing the old songs with the people you love…walking through a season of pain and reaffirming her faith and consecration in God…realizing she had seen enough hurt and pain in this world and that soon the troubles of this life would one day be over. The Rambos effectively delivered those messages to the masses on this one, soulful album; it was indeed, the “Soul” Singing Rambos!
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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”.