Building on their immense success, the Rambos recorded their third and final album for 1971 entitled, “Rambo Reflections”. Produced by Bob MacKenzie, it’s a slightly scaled back studio album with less emphasis on strings and brass than their previous studio album, “Soul Classics”. For the last 7 studio album, Jim Hall had been responsible for all the orchestral arrangements. There has been some discussion amongst some of my fellow historians regarding whether or not this gentleman was actually Jimi Hall, who played piano and sang for the Homeland Harmony Quartet and the Harmoneers back in the 50s and early 60s. If anyone can confirm this, I’d love to know for sure! But for this album, the incomparable Rick Powell was brought in to handle the orchestrations. This album had a bit more of a country flavor than some of their previous albums had, and orchestrations weren’t as much of a focal point for this album either.
The cover shot shows the Rambos in a more contemplative pose, mirroring the album’s title, “Rambo Reflections”. Some of the songs, 6 of which were penned by Dottie, were more reflective in nature and were a reflection of what was in their heart and soul at that time. The overall tempo of the album was pretty mellow, with a few groovy bites here and there. With the busy year they had, they took the time to be a bit more laid back, and they still created a great record!
With a solemn opening featuring a track of lone strings, the recording starts out slow with the classic tune, “The Unseen Hand”. As the tempo slows down even further for the second verse, Reba takes her time as she moves through the verse, and the music builds with intensity as it reaches the chorus and its proclamation of faith, “I’m trusting to the unseen hand!” Written by Albert J. Sims and published through the Rambos publishing company, it was an immensely popular tune recorded by numerous artists through the years including the LeFevres, Greenes, Downings, LordSong, Statesmen, Marty Stuart and the Sego Brothers & Naomi. The first recorded version I am aware of was by the Inspirations, 2 years before “Rambo Reflections” was released, on their 1969 album, “The Night Before Easter”; that is the version I grew up hearing as a kid and where I first fell in love with the song. A local group here in my area (the Whites) did a phenomenal version of the song back in the early 90s, and their version is my personal favorite rendition of the song.
The tempo picks up for the reflective country feel of, “Just For a Day”, which features Dottie. While not a “hit” song for the group, it’s been recorded a few times through the years by the Ruppes, Spencers, John Stalls Family and Singing Cookes. The song recalls the sound and feel of the early Rambos and leads perfectly into another reflective tune, “God’s World”. With its dreamy melody, the song features Buck with some standout lines by both Dottie and Reba, who also provide some really nice harmony behind Buck as well. This was not a song from Dottie’s pen, but it was written by Sharon Haygood and published through the Rambos publishing company.
Featuring some nice string accents and steel guitar embellishments, Reba does a superb job on the beautiful prayer in song, “Don’t Let Me Walk Too Far From Calvary”, which is one of my favorite songs from this album. Connie Smith did an outstanding job on the song when she recorded it on her 1971 gospel album, “Come Along and Walk with Me”. Connie also recorded Dottie’s “Too Much to Gain to Lose” and “In the Valley He Restoreth My Soul” on that album as well.
Accented by strings, dobro and harmonica, the tempo picks up for “When is He Coming Again”, which rounds out this side. If you recall, they originally recorded the song on their live album released earlier in the year, where they gave a rousing performance. Here, with more instrumentation, the song takes on a new life, and as they get down to that last chorus with its ¾ time, they are really in the groove and it’s one of my favorites from this recording. I can’t decide which version I like more…the live cut or the studio version presented here; both are exciting to listen to.
With a musical intro sounding almost like a lullaby, group pianist, Kenny Parker penned the beautiful prayer in song, “Lead My Steps By the River”. With that unmistakable Rambo sound, the song features Dottie on the first verse and Buck on the second, before the tempo picks up for “The Grass is Greener on the Other Side”. This is another song they originally recorded on their live album from earlier in the year. Dottie originally sang the verses on that live version, but on this album, the song gets an overhaul as Buck takes the first verse and part of the second verse with Reba ramping things up on the latter half of the second verse. The song has a totally different feel than from the live album, and I think I prefer this version over the live cut. I love how they end the song with Dottie, Reba, and Buck each taking a different line and repeating it over and over…almost like in a round. Also, I love the aggressive energy and the driving arrangement is fantastic…it is definitely rockin’ that groovy 70s vibe!
Dottie always wrote heartfelt “mama songs”, and Buck steps up to sing Dottie’s latest offering, “Mama’s Treasures”, before the tempo is kicked into high gear for “I’m Gonna Make it”, which is my favorite song from this album. I love the excitement and energy that was captured in the studio, especially when the song is done and Dottie chimes in “yeah, sing a little bit more…” and the band kicks back in and they encore the last tag line of the chorus. Great stuff! I don’t know if this was a planned turn around or not, but it turned out great and I would have loved to hear them do this song in concert back in the day! Funny story about this song…JD Sumner wrote it, but didn’t think it was a good song, so he told everyone his bus driver Glen Tadlock wrote it. The song caught on, so JD put Glen’s name on the song…and the rest is history!
The recording closes out with “The Good Lord Walks With Me”, which starts out acapella and soon a guitar is added and then before the verse is done, the rest of the band kicks in. Featuring Buck and Reba, the song is a perfect proclamation to close out the recording. Two things worth noting, Jimmie Davis is credited as co-writer, along with Dottie, and I love how they incorporated one of my favorite Dottie Rambo tunes, “As Long as You Walk With Me” into the tag of the song…”walk with me, talk with me, be every breath I breathe…the good Lord walks with me”.
This album was the culmination of a very busy year for the Rambos. Just prior to this album coming out, Dottie released her “Heartprints” solo album (which featured the #1 song, “Tiny”) and Reba released her third solo album, “Songs my Mama Taught me, Sung the Way I Feel Them”. When I first acquired this album back in the mid-90s, I didn’t automatically gravitate to it. It did grow on me over time, and I did come to love it. It’s a great album and as I stated earlier, is scaled back a bit from their previous studio albums and we hear the Rambos with a slightly rustic feel, but those inimitable harmonies were still there, and the Rambo style shines brightly in each song. It’s a great album overall and was reflective as to who they were and where they were at the time.
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