The Rambos – “Soul in the Family” (1972)

by James Hales | January 18, 2023 11:21 AM

With 1971 behind them (that was a long, busy year for the group), the Rambos marched into 1972 like the trailblazers that they were. Things slowed down a bit though, as far releasing new albums, and they only released 1 new record this year as a group. Just before this album came out, Reba released her 4th solo album, “Resurrection”. Neither Dottie nor Reba would release anymore solo albums for the next few years, as they seemed to focus their energies more on the group and what the group was doing.

Produced by Bob MacKenzie, and with Rick Powell providing orchestrations once again, “Soul in the Family” was another laid-back album, but with a little bit more color than “Rambo Reflections”, as strings and brass were used a little more here on this album. The overall tempo of the album was very relaxed, and most songs were slow to medium tempo, with a couple of upbeat songs thrown in. Dottie only contributed 5 songs for this album, and all but one song came from their publishing company. I loved the cover shot and its vintage feel, and when you flip the cover over, you have an excellent color shot of the Rambos and all smiles! “Soul in the Family” ranks as one of my all-time favorite Rambo albums and it’s one that I love to just sit and listen to and drink in all the musicality that this album has to offer.

The recording starts off with the easy country feel of “No One Else Can Lead Me Home”. With beautiful string accents and steel guitar embellishments, I love how they use the classic hymn “Lead Me Home Gently, Father” as a musical backdrop for the song. Written by pianist, Kenny Parker, and featuring some beautiful harmony as only the Rambos can do, it’s easily one of my favorite songs from the album.

Featuring the steel guitar and harmonica, Buck and Reba sing the contemplative, “If Heaven’s a Dream (Let Me Dream On)”. I always loved the lyric of this song, “if Heaven’s a dream, don’t wake me, let me go on longing for a glimpse of my home, I find consolation in believing there’s a land without sorrow, if Heaven’s a dream friend, let me dream on”. Since the first time I heard the song, it’s been one of my favorite Dottie Rambo tunes.

Next is the Elmer Cole masterpiece, “Ten Thousand Years”. With its beautiful steel guitar intro, while the song wasn’t a huge chart hit for the Rambos, it was a concert favorite and is remembered as one of their best-known songs (that Dottie didn’t write). The song peaked at #11 in December 1972 and February 1973 in the Singing News chart. I remember the first time I heard the song was on one of those “Campmeetin’ Time” variety recordings Heartwarming put out in the early 80s. I was obsessed with this song as a kid, and it is one of my all-time favorite songs. I wore that tape out, as I would listen to this song, being enraptured by Dottie’s emotional delivery and rewind the tape just to listen to the ending over and over again. I know…I’m weird! Also of note, this was one of those classic tunes that literally everybody was singing…the Downings, JD Sumner & the Stamps, Kingsmen, Statesmen, Blackwood Brothers, Speers (my favorite version after the Rambos), Prophets, Dixie Echoes…you name it…they were all singing this song back in the day. Master songwriter, Phil Cross recorded an excellent rendition of the song with his group Poet Voices on their 1996 recording, “Love’s Sweet Story”, and the Hoppers also did a terrific job on their 2008 live recording, “North America Live!”. It’s one of those classic tunes that continues to come back every few years. In fact, I think the Collingsworth Family would be an excellent group to bring the song back today!

The tempo finally picks up for country tinged, “I’m Gonna Wake Up in Glory”. Written by Jack Campbell, some of the Rambos best tunes came from his pen, and this song is country gospel at its finest with its thumping bass as well as its harmonica, electric and steel guitar features. The song is right up Dottie’s alley, as she does a great job enthusiastically delivering the lead vocals on the song, before the tempo slows down for “One Step at a Time”, which rounds out this side. With Buck taking the lead, this is one of those songs where the verse and chorus have a different meter and feel, though it’s not quite as dramatic as one of Dottie’s earlier songs, “What Can I Offer”.

With the feel of a Mexican Mariachi Band, “Things Are Gonna Be Better Afterwhile” starts things off for the flipside. This is a happy and delightful song and one of my personal favorites from this recording. Kirk Talley did a really great job with his version of the song on his 1999 “Tomorrow” recording. Reba and the group Rambo-McGuire (sort of a Rambo revival type of group featuring Reba, husband Dony and daughter Destiny) recorded a very somber acapella rendition of the song on their “Grassroots Rambo” recording, which was released in 2011.

When I first heard this album back in the late 80s, I thought “I Gave Him Nothing, ‘Til I Gave Him All” was one of the most beautiful songs I’d ever heard. The lush orchestrations, dreamy arrangement and the harmonies are absolutely perfect…the simple lyric says it all, “I gave Him my hands, feeble and weak, the thoughts that I think, the words that I speak, I gave Him my life, wandering and lost…I gave Him my voice and each melody, I sing of His praise with each breath that I breathe, but all was in vain, ‘til I gave him my heart…I gave Him nothing, ‘til I gave Him all”. I don’t generally like faded endings, but it works perfectly with this song, especially as they each, individually, sing “I gave Him all” over and over like in a round. It’s a mesmerizing song and one of my favorites from this recording.

Featuring Buck, the medium tempo, “I Have a Longing” is another wonderful Jack Campbell tune and one I heard years before I got my hands on this album. A local family group, the Morton Family, used to sing this song and I loved it every time I heard them sing it. Imagine my surprise when I found it on this album! I love the country feel of the song and it’s another one of my favorite songs from this album. Are we seeing a trend here?

Next, Dottie and Reba render an outstanding performance on the JD Sumner classic, “I Can Feel the Touch of His Hand”, before Dottie closes out the recording as she tackles the soulful, “It Will Pass”, complete with brass and strings. I always loved Dottie’s performance on this tune and would give anything to see or hear a live performance of this song from back in the day. It’s a passionate song filled with great faith and heartfelt emotion, and it’s one of my favorite performances by Dottie, and it is the perfect finale for a great recording!

Much like some of their albums in the late 60’s, I find this to be a very warm and comforting album to listen to. There are only 2 upbeat songs, but there is enough variation in the slower songs that it doesn’t cause the album to drag. This is the perfect straight-ahead Southern Gospel album by a mixed group for this era, and it’s one of my all-time favorite records.

Also worth mentioning, sometime in late 1971/early 1972 Kenny Parker left the Rambos to start his own group, the Kenny Parker Trio with his wife Peggy and singer/songwriter, Elmer Cole (songwriter of the song “Ten Thousand Years”). It was around this time the group began building their band, which they firmly had in place by the time they recorded their live album in 1974. Kenny was crucial to the Rambos’ sound during the late 60’s and early 70’s, so this also marked a shift in their overall sound on stage. As the Rambos started dabbling more and more with various sounds and styles for the remainder of the 70’s, the larger road band allowed them to project some of those contemporary sounds in their concerts. As we move along through the remainder of the 70’s, we’ll hear how their sound continued to progress as they incorporated those unique styles within each record, until it reached a crescendo by 1979, when they “crossed over” and recorded a full-on contemporary album, at least by Southern Gospel standards. The Rambos continued to successfully push the envelope, along with some of their other peers of like mind at the time such as the Downings and the Speers, led by their wonderful producer, Bob MacKenzie.

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