Another 2 years would pass before the Rambos released a new album, which would be their last; and how appropriate that their final studio album would be a culmination of over 20 years of music, celebrating the countless songs they brought to the stage. Produced by Dony McGuire, this album would feature updated arrangements on a few of their most popular songs, as well as one massive “greatest hits” medley, encompassing 19 Rambo hits! Outside of the medley, the album is a bit more low key than their previous albums had been. The first side (with the exception of the last song) features basic music tracks with keyboards, bass, drums and guitars, with maybe a few other musical embellishments scattered here and there. Despite the paired down instrumentation, these are splendidly done arrangements and are flawlessly executed by Buck, Dottie and Reba.
The album starts out with an updated rendition of their classic tune, “I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before”. Dony’s fingerprints are all over this arrangement, and the first time I ever heard it, I was all over myself, as it’s a fantastic rendition. I absolutely love the ending where they keep repeating, “I’ve never been this homesick, kinda got a homesick feelin’…”. It’s a unique arrangement and one of my favorite renditions of this classic song.
Slowing the pace, the group renders a wonderful rendition of “Build my Mansion”. Outside of the live version from their 1971 live album, this is my favorite rendition of the song. I love how they attempted to mirror the live version which has Dottie singing the first verse and then Reba taking the second verse. It’s an excellent performance and is the perfect tribute to one of the most popular songs in the Rambos’ repertoire.
Buck steps up to take the lead on a revamped, more contemporary driven rendition of the classic, “The Holy Hills”. I have never been a fan of this particular version, as I feel this arrangement is a bit too far outside the box for the song (and for Buck); but the arrangement is pretty much on par with the overall musical feel of the album, so it fits!
The pace picks back up for a soulful rendition of the Jack Campbell classic, “What a Happy Day”. I love the syncopation in the song and overall feel of the song. The song is done half-time (very different from the original version from 13 years earlier) but picks up the pace for the last chorus. Reba is hitting some mighty high notes on the song too!
Rounding out this side, Dottie steps up to sing the only new song on the recording entitled, “I Will Lift You There”, which she co-wrote with Dony. This is a wonderful song of praise, I love the lyric…“to the highest place with shouts of perfect praise, I search for words to use to lift my voice to You, if there’s a song of joy that brings You pleasure Lord, then I would lift You there, with my song I’ll lift You there…and should there be a higher place unmentioned, I will lift You there.” This is the only song on this side featuring full orchestrations and background vocals, and it sounds like the song would have been right at home on Dottie’s 1981 solo album, “Makin’ My Own Place”. Also worth mentioning, Sandi Patti recorded an excellent rendition of the song on her 1982 album, “Lift Up the Lord”.
A wonderful medley (clocking in at over 21+ minutes) of Rambo favorites takes up the entire second side of the album. The Rambos did a fabulous job putting this medley together (which I am sure Dony McGuire did a lot of the grunt work putting it together and arranging it) and it encompasses 20+ years of music by the Rambos. Getting the medley off the ground, it begins with a brass infused upbeat “Overture”, which sounds like the theme song from some popular TV show in the late 70s/early 80s (ie-Love Boat) before the music slows down and backs off as they start with one of Dottie’s earliest songs, “Remind Me Dear Lord”. The song is the perfect lead off song, as it beautifully sets the stage for every song thereafter, reminding us where the Lord has brought them. For the remainder of the medley, the music flails up and down and the tempo rises and falls as they meander through each song in the medley…“Precious Jesus”, “I Call Him Lord”, “When I Lift Up my Head” (one of my favorite parts of the medley), “In the Valley He Restoreth My Soul”, “One More Valley”, “Tears Will Never Stain the Streets of that City”, “I Just Came to Talk with You Lord”, “Too Much to Gain to Lose”, “On the Sunny Banks”, “Come Spring”, “Mama Always Had a Song” (I absolutely love the uptown feel here…would have loved to have heard this arrangement for the whole song!), “Mama’s Teaching Angels How to Sing”, “Holy Spirit Thou Art Welcome”, “Sheltered in the Arms of God”, “New Shoes” (love the jazzed up arrangement), “If That Isn’t Love”, “He Looked Beyond My Fault” and finally as a proclamation that they’ve only just begun, the medley concludes with the Elmer Cole classic, “Ten Thousand Years”.
Of course, there are always songs I would have loved to have heard included on here either as part of the medley or as a whole song including “March Around the Throne One Time for Me”, “There’s Nothing My God Can’t Do”, “Until He Comes”, “The Unseen Hand”, “This is My Valley”, “One More River”, “Just When I Need Him” or “I Will Glory in the Cross”, but I digress. I think “We Shall Behold Him” was too soon to include, as it had only been 2 years since they had recorded that song.
As I mentioned at the beginning, this would be the final studio album the Rambos recorded, but they all kept busy throughout the remainder of the 80s, 90s and 2000s. Reba and Dony continued their ministry and recorded several albums together. Buck and Dottie also continued as a duet and recorded some really great albums throughout the 80s as well. Dottie continued writing and some of best-known songs during this time include “When His Kingdom Comes”, “Oh Blessed Hope”, “The Artist”, “Unmerited Favor of God”, “For What Earthly Reason”, “The Perfect Rose”, “We’ve Weathered Storms Before”, “He Sees Me Through the Blood”, “The Oil and the Wine”, “He Never Sends Me Where He’s Never Been Before” and many others.
Dottie suffered from back problems and by the late 80s, they had become so unbearable that her and Buck had to stop traveling. Dottie endured numerous back surgeries and was mostly bed-ridden for most of the 90’s. She made rare TV appearances from time to time (as her health permitted), but for about 10 years from about 1989 through 1999, Dottie’s voice and pen was mostly silent. She started making more appearances in the late 90s and even made appearances on some of the Gaither Homecoming videos. By 2003, Dottie released her first solo recording in many years called, “Stand By the River”, and was enjoying a resurgence of popularity as an artist. She would continue recording and would do some limited touring under the careful watch of her manager, Larry Ferguson. Sadly though, on May 11, 2008, Dottie was tragically killed in a bus accident in Missouri.
Buck also continued singing, recording a couple of solo albums, and with a brush in hand, began life as an artist and created beautiful paintings. After Dottie’s death, Reba and Dony created a Rambo “revival” of sorts, with their children Destiny and Israel called Rambo McGuire and released a couple of recordings reviving some of the Rambos’ best-known songs and included Buck on some of the songs. Ultimately, Buck would pass away February 21, 2016. Reba is still very active and continues to write and produce music, having songs recorded by the Freemans, Karen Peck & New River and others.
The Rambos’ music was timeless and many of those classic Rambo tunes are still being sung today. Their legacy continues to live on as their music is consistently recorded by today’s popular artists such as Greater Vision, Isaacs, Collingsworth Family, Sisters, Gordon Mote, David Phelps and many, many others. Their music and singing has been a big influence on so many artists and groups such as the Isaacs, Greenes, Crabb Family, Dunaways, etc. When you listen to the Isaacs and Dunaways, you can hear the influence of the Rambos in their songs and their arrangements; so much so, that at times they sound almost exactly like the Rambos. The early Greenes were heavily influenced by the Rambos, and their voices reflected that as Tim Greene had some of Dottie’s tones, Tony had Buck down pat and Kim could sound like Reba at times, and you’d almost swear it was the Rambos singing on certain songs.
As an aside, as I was doing these weekly articles, one of the things I picked up on that I never really realized, was how many songs they recorded that Dottie did NOT write. They really worked with a lot of young and unknown writers and published a lot of their songs through their publishing company. During the late 60s and through the mid-70s, Dottie wrote about 4 to 6 songs per album (on average), and the rest of the album was filled with songs Reba wrote, or were songs published through their publishing company and written by such young writers as Walt Mills, Gene Reasoner, Margaret Mabry, Albert Sims, Elmer Cole, Sharon Haygood and others. They also used a lot of songs by more established writers such as Elmer Mercer, Bud Chambers, and especially Jack Campbell, during that time as well.
This wonderful walk down memory lane has taken us through 27 records and over 300 songs! The Rambos are one of the few groups from the past that have just about all their music released on CD, and you can also hear most of them via You Tube as well. While many of their fans are still enjoying their music today, their music is also being discovered and enjoyed by countless new people all around the world today via those platforms. The Rambos’ legacy truly lives on!
As I close out this series with the Rambos, I have quite a few people I need to thank…SGHistory.com, has been essential for chart stats, historical info and a few album scans. Also, a special thanks goes to www.Dottierambofanclub.org, who was also a big help with historical info and stats as well! Thanks also to www.dottierambo.net for lots of help with lyrics, as I used quite a few of them in my reviews. Thank you to my good friend Larry Ferguson for always being willing to share his insight on all things Rambo! And lastly, a special thank you to those who shared their Rambo stories and information with me including Reba Rambo, Gene Reasoner and Dann Childers. All these people and sites mentioned above helped keep me honest in sharing the wonderful music of the Rambos!
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