After 3 consecutive years of releasing multiple albums within a year, the Rambos only released 1 new group album in 1976. This latest album features 8 songs written by Dottie and 1 song that was written by Reba. Produced once again by Phil Johnson, for this album, orchestral arrangements were split between Jack Williams, Lari Goss and Joe Huffman. Also, vocal arrangements were handled by David Huntsinger (who was the Rambos pianist at this point) and Wendell Jimerson (the Rambos bass player). There are 12 musicians credited (including Huntsinger and Jimerson) along with those who were playing strings and horns. Stylistically, the album isn’t quite as quirky and diverse as their last album was, but it’s still on the progressive side, and was a very enjoyable album overall.
When you pick up this album, one of the most striking things that hits you is the cover shot. I do realize the 70s had some unique fashions, but the attire they are wearing on the cover shot is rather zany and quite colorful. You can tell the sky behind them was added in, but it’s a nice cover shot and fits in well with the title of the album.
The album kicks off with the bouncy novelty tune, “I Wonder if the Angels Could Use Another Singer”. I love the guitar work at the beginning of the song and it’s one of my favorite tunes from this album. It’s a cleverly written tune featuring guitar, steel guitar and mandolin and is the perfect lead off song for the album. Other artists enjoyed singing this song as well over the years including Walt Mills, Willie Wynn & the Tennesseans and the Greenes.
Slowing down the tempo, Reba is featured next on her own song, “Would You Tell Me His Name Again”. With its warm, groovy contemporary feel, it sounds like something the Downings would have recorded around the same time. It’s a great song and Reba does a super job on it (I also hear Wendell’s vocals in the mix as well), before Dottie steps up next to deliver a passionate performance on the dramatic, “Red Scarlet Cross”. With simple instrumentation with mostly acoustic and steel guitar with nice strings accents, it’s one of the most astonishing accounts of the crucifixion. Dottie painted such a sad and striking picture with her lyric, you can see easily see the picture she paints with her words…”the red scarlet cross stands in the distance, the emblem of suffering and strife, made by the hands of the man He created, a gift of death for the giver of life.” The Sego Brothers & Naomi as well as the Ruppes (my personal favorite version) both did outstanding renditions of this moving song.
Margaret Mabry (writer of “Golden Street Parade”) penned the up-tempo, “This Ship is Going Home”, which features both Reba and Buck and a few step out lines by Dottie. Featuring that old Rambo country sound, it’s an exciting inclusion for this album and one of my favorite songs here. The first time I heard the song was on the Greenes 1985 album, “Evergreene”, and I loved the song then and when I added this album to my collection in the early/mid 90’s, I fell in love with the Rambos original version as well.
With 1976 being the bicentennial year for the United States of America, many groups were recording patriotic type tunes during this time and with “That’s the Way it Was”, Dottie penned her own unique perspective tying both our country’s 200-year celebration, with the first coming of Christ 2000 years prior. It’s a thought-provoking song and one of the more unique tunes from this album.
Side 2 starts with the cheery, contemporary sounding title song, “The Son is Shining”. This fanciful tune spent a few months in the charts, peaking at #12 in April 1977. Featuring woodwinds and a calypso beat, Dottie’s lyric offers hope in those dark, troublesome times in our lives…“see His light dispel the darkness, watch the shadows all surrender, if you look you’ll see the rose blooming in the midnight, even when the clouds have formed the image of a sad, dark world about us, what does it matter…the Son is shining”.
The tempo slows way down for the prayerful, “We Are Like Children”, which features Dottie. With the feel of a lullaby, the song is a prayer of total consecration, “while we are yielded completely to Thee, mold us, make us what You’d have us to be, as we lift up our hands, would You reach down Your arms, we are like children, Lord teach us”.
Buck and Reba sing the medium tempo, “Just in Time”, which is one of my personal favorites from this album. The Kingsmen did an outstanding rendition of this song and enjoyed some chart success with their version in 1977. Teddy Huffam & the Gems also did a dynamic rendition on their 1977 live album, “Souled Out”.
Featuring piano and organ, “Don’t Lift the Anchor” is a groovy black gospel sounding tune and it’s a highlight of the album and Dottie sings the fire out of this song. I have a distinct memory with this song…we had the Comptons (a popular group from West Virginia) at my church in March 2000, and they sang this song and set that church ablaze. I don’t know if the Rambos ever staged this song, but I would love to hear a live recording of Dottie singing this song from this era, as it’s one Dottie could really sink her teeth into!
The album ends similarly in the way their last few studio albums had, with an inspirational song of praise, on the tender sounding and worshipful, “Jesus, Thou Art Fairer to Me”. The song has a bit of a choral feel to it, which really seemed to set it apart from the rest of the album.
“The Son is Shining” didn’t yield a lot of chart success for the Rambos, but it was a great album with some truly memorable songs, showcasing some nice creative energy. The overall feel is kind of laid back, compared to their last album. Also, there are only 2 up-tempo songs and those are on the first side, but side 2 has a few medium tempo tunes that balance things out a bit.
Not long after this album was released, Reba released her first solo album in 5 years called, “Lady”. That album would be a defining album for her. Featuring mostly songs written or co-written by Reba, the album has been heralded by many as her greatest body of work. Her solo career would soon take off and she would eventually leave the Rambos in pursuit of that success, but not before tackling one more momentous album with her mom and dad before her exit! We’ll discuss that very album next week!
Please check out my music page on Facebook for more content related to Southern Gospel Music including more discography reviews on other groups, we well as other thoughts and discussions related to Southern Gospel Music. Please like and follow my page at https://www.facebook.com/James-Music-Page-102612571620560.