If I had to nail down which album by the Rambos is my absolute favorite, it would be a tie between “Gospel Ballads” and this album. Though they are very different albums, and they are from very different eras (they were 10 years apart!), they both showcase the Rambos at their zenith! When they recorded “Gospel Ballads”, they were young singers, very new to the gospel trail, and Dottie was still a relatively young songwriter. They were finding their place and making a name for themselves and created a near perfect album for its time. By the time “Naturally” came along, 10 years had passed (and 16 albums between them) and they had lived a lot of life and been through many mountains, valleys and rough roads. “Naturally” features 9 grand songs written by Dottie (which includes one co-write) as well as 2 excellent songs that were written by Reba, and they display the miles they’ve traveled and highlight the places they’ve been.
The album was produced by Phil Johnson, with string, brass and woodwind arrangements by Buddy Skipper along with Joe Huffman. There are 16 musicians (along with those in the orchestra) credited on this album (including David Huntsinger on piano and Wendell Jimerson on bass, and also providing some vocal support). This album was obviously a large undertaking, and the end result was the creation of one of the greatest albums they ever made, and one of gospel music’s most iconic albums ever. This album was an impeccable blend of traditional Rambos (country, down home) and progressive Rambos (contemporary, sophisticated). It was the perfect album and a true classic!
Also worth mentioning is the cover shot, which was shot at Buck and Dottie’s farm just north of Nashville. In fact, Dottie would return to this very spot for the cover shots for her 1981 solo album, “Makin’ My Own Place”. The cover shot and cover artwork for this album exudes a certain elegance, but yet has a familiar, homey feel. It’s the Rambos…”Naturally” and it’s one of my favorite pictures of the group.
Twin fiddles kick off the country flavor of “I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before”, and the album is off and running. This highly contagious song became one of the Rambos greatest hits, grabbing the #1 spot for November 1977, and remained in the top 5 for almost a year. Featuring that unique Rambo sound with the melody switching between Buck, Dottie and Reba on the chorus, the song became a bonified classic that has been recorded down through the years by countless people including the Crabb Family, Kingsmen, Cathedrals, Rex Nelon Singers, Jason Crabb, Singing Cookes, Wendy Bagwell & the Sunliters, Kingdom Heirs, and many others. Jimmy Swaggart enjoyed a good run in the charts with his version of the song in the early 80’s, which featured him and John Starnes performing the song as a duet. The song has become one of Southern Gospel’s most iconic songs and one of Dottie’s most revered tunes.
I love the sound of the steel guitar on the dreamy, “Any Moment (We Could Sail Away)”. One of my all-time favorite songs written by Reba, and featuring her along with Buck and Dottie, it’s a highlight of the album and features some beautiful falsetto singing and stunning harmonies by the group. There are not many groups who could pull off a song like this, and the Rambos pulled it off flawlessly. The only group I could see pull off this song as flawlessly as the Rambos did would be the Isaacs. Now THAT would be something I’d love to hear!
A blaring harmonica follows a slow, acapella intro by the Rambos for the upbeat, “Follow the Leader”. With the lead switching back and forth between Dottie and Reba, it’s such a fun song and one of my favorites from this album. I also really like the xylophone on the song; you don’t hear a lot of those on Southern Gospel recordings! One of my favorite groups, the Ruppes, did an excellent rendition of this song on their 1995 breakout recording, “Through the Fire”.
Dottie delivers a powerful performance on the first verse while Reba brings it home on the second verse of the beautiful, “Bring All Your Needs to the Altar”. Gorgeously orchestrated and sung, this stunning song is such a wonderful reminder from 2 Peter 5:7, to cast all our cares on Him. Jimmy Swaggart recorded a very nicely done performance of the song on his 1986 album, “It’s Beginning to Rain”.
One of my all-time favorite performances by Dottie is found on the striking, “Midnight in the Middle of the Day”. I’ve never heard the story of the death, burial and resurrection put into a song quite like this one. When Dottie gets to the mighty proclamation, “but on the holy hills the angels raised the crimson flag of triumph, shouting death, death, death, good Lord…don’t you know that death is swallowed up in victory”, you can’t help but rejoice! In my opinion, it’s one of Dottie’s most moving lyric she has ever penned. I remember when I first heard this song, I couldn’t listen to this song enough…just powerful!
With its calypso beat and Mexican feel, “He Was the Talk of the Town” gets the second half of the album rolling. Written by Dottie, the song made a brief appearance in the Singing News chart, and it’s my least favorite song on the recording. It’s an enjoyable novelty-type tune that I’m sure was fun for the group to sing in concert.
With the feel of a classic hymn, “Stand Still and See His Glory”, featuring a stellar performance by Reba, is filled with lots of brass and brandishing a majestic choral feel. The song sounds like something you’d hear in a large church (a friend of mine would call it “high church”). The song became a popular song in church choral presentations and musicals, and this regal sounding number is one of my favorites from this recording. It was something totally different for the Rambos and somehow it feels right at home on this album. I remember when I first heard this album back in the late 80’s, thinking this was such a cool and a very different type of song from anything the Rambos had done up until this point. It’s such a stunning and worshipful song and definitely a highlight of the album.
The tempo picks back up for another one of my favorites, “He’s Already on His Way”, which features Dottie. I used to play this song a lot on the radio when I was a DJ back in the late 80s, because I used to have a listener who would want to hear it almost every time I worked. Of course, I was always happy to oblige, as it’s an enjoyable song with a nice groove to it and was very radio friendly.
The tempo slows back down a bit, as Buck steps up to sing the challenging lyric of, “The Harvest”. The song is a wonderful call to the church to go out and reach the lost for Christ…”Master, You have placed me in the vineyard, You’ve trusted me to tend the golden grain, I pray that You’ll be pleased with me, when I lay my harvest at Your feet, for I will never pass this way again”. Dottie brought the song back (with a bit more of an upbeat progressive arrangement) on her 2003 solo recording, “Stand By the River”.
When I first heard, “What You Say is What You Get”, back as a teenager, I wasn’t a big fan of the song. Written and sung by Reba (Wendell Jimerson and Judy Gossett are credited with singing on this song as well), it’s a song that took a few years to grow on me, but I eventually came around and it’s become one of my favorites from the recording. There is a fantastic live performance of the song by Reba with the Christ Tabernacle Choir on You Tube, and I credit this particular performance of the song that really turned me around and made me love this song.
The recording closes out with the worshipful, “Holy Spirit, Thou Art Welcome”, which Dottie co-wrote with David Huntsinger, who was the Rambo’s pianist at the time. Inspired during a visit to East Germany, which at the time was still under Soviet control, the song went on to be recorded by such groups as the Speers, Sisters, Blackwood Brothers, Florida Boys, Mylon Hayes Family and others, and also became a worship classic in churches across the country, and it still utilized today in many churches.
Around the same time this album came out, Dottie released her 6th solo album, “Love Letters”. An album that was borne out of some of the deepest and darkest trials Dottie ever faced, it’s my personal favorite solo album of hers. The album contained her hit song, “I Go to the Rock”, which was later recorded by Whitney Houston for the movie, “The Preacher’s Wife”. Whitney’s version won a Dove Award for Traditional Gospel Recorded Song of the Year in 1998!
As I think through my final thoughts on this album, I am reminded that rarely does a group record an album as perfect as this one. Each vocal, each lyric, each arrangement and each music track showcased the Rambos perfectly and about as “Naturally” as any album they’d ever recorded. As I mentioned at the beginning, I am torn between “Gospel Ballads” and “Naturally” as my favorite Rambo album. They were recorded at different places in their lives, but the songs for this album were, in many ways, deeper. They sang with the same passion as 10 years earlier, but there was a deeper sense of who they were on this album. As the title suggests, this is a very authentic and genuine work of art…a masterpiece that showcases the Rambos as only they could be…”Naturally”.
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