For the first time since the early 60’s, the Rambos went 2 years without releasing a new album. Despite that hiatus from recording, Buck, Dottie and Patti were still busy touring off and on and performing on various Christian television outlets, mostly on TBN and PTL. In some instances, it was Buck and Dottie performing as a duet and at times it was just Dottie. Reba was busy with her solo work, and right around the same time as “Crossin’ Over” came out, Reba released “The Prodigal According to Reba”, which was her 7th solo album. Subsequently, she released 2 more solo albums in 1980, “Dreamin’” and “Confessions”. Along with her husband, Dony McGuire, they released the Grammy award winning album, “The Lord’s Prayer” in 1980. This was a massive choral project which was a collaborative effort between Reba and Dony, along with other popular artists at the time including Andrae Crouch, Cynthia Clawson, Walter Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins and BJ Thomas. The two would go on to release a couple more similarly themed albums, “Messiah, Bright Morning Star” in 1982 and “The Bride” in 1984. Around the same time “Rambo Reunion” came out, Dottie released her 7th solo album, “Makin’ My Own Place”, and despite it being highly contemporary, it’s one of my favorite solo albums by Dottie. So, as you can tell, they were all keeping themselves quite busy!
For this latest album, everyone (Buck, Dottie, Reba, Dony and Patti) came together for a “reunion” album of sorts, aptly titled, “Rambo Reunion”, which is the first Rambo album produced by Reba’s husband, Dony McGuire. From what I understand, there was even a special tour planned, but I don’t think it ever completely came to fruition. There are a couple of clips on You Tube of them performing at one event, but I don’t think they ever hit the road with a full-fledged tour.
“Rambo Reunion” was a very contemporary sounding album and bore the trademark sound and feel that is distinctively Dony McGuire; fully orchestrated, big, lavish arrangements and an array of background vocals on just about every song. The album is a very sophisticated sounding album, completely devoid of that classic Rambo sound. But despite that, it really was an outstanding album and ranks as one of my all-time favorite Rambo recordings. I love the vintage cover shot, as well as the very colorful and playful back cover shot, as both pictures just oozed with sophistication and class.
The recording starts off with the feel-good anthem, “The Whole World is Singing”. The only song featuring Patti (she did a marvelous job on the song), it features a children’s choir and it’s the perfect opening song that makes you feel good all over and want to sing along, “Alleluia, sing it again, Alleluia once more and then, singing Alleluia, Hosanna on high, the whole world is singin’, so I’ll sing along”. I remember as a kid just listening to this song over and over again, just taken in by the whole musicality of the song; it still gives me the warm fuzzies every time I hear it.
As the tempo slows down a bit, Dottie sings the haunting melody, “You Will Have to Live the Song”. One of my all-time favorite songs that she wrote, it’s a beautiful song featuring the gorgeous strains of the steel guitar that perfectly highlights the lyric…”so you’d like to write a song about a heartache, but how can you describe until you know, the feeling of the emptiness and hurt inside, a broken heart that’s weeping all alone…to better write the song and paint the picture, you must see the pieces scattered to and fro, then watch the Master gently place the pieces back together…you will have to live the song before you know.” Only Dottie could write such a personal lyric like that, and I have longed for someone to grab this song and do something with it, but as far as I know, no one else has ever recorded it. The Booth Brothers or the Gaither Vocal Band could really spruce this song up again and really make it shine! Someone like Reba McEntire could really own this song and sell it!
The black gospel feel of the upbeat, “Keeper of the Well” is easily one of the best songs on this album. It’s been recorded by several people over the years including Sandi Patti, Cathedrals, Hayes Family, Mercy’s Well and others, but no one has been able to interpret this song better than Dottie did on this version. She had the soul and charisma to carry this song to perfection and delivered an absolutely flawless performance.
Dony McGuire steps up to sing he and Reba’s beautifully written masterpiece, “A Perfect Heart” (the only song Dottie did not write for this album). Also known as “Bless the Lord Who Reigns in Beauty”, the Bill Gaither Trio also did a phenomenal rendition of the song as well. I was smitten with this song the very first time I heard it. It’s a simple, yet majestic song of praise and a true highlight of the album.
As we round out the first side, we come to a song featuring a lively brass section, as the tempo picks up for the driving and energetic, “Resurrection Day”. The Rambos delivered the goods with this song, and I’ve always thought it was a cool Easter themed tune, plus the musical break before that last chorus is just epic! The Lesters toned it down just a bit and did a really good job on their version of the song about 9 years later, on their “Hold on Tight” recording.
The laid-back feel of, “He Just Takes Me” completely changes the mood from the first side. Featuring Buck, the song naturally takes on a warm, country feel. The song charted briefly in late 1981/early 1982, stalling out at #12 in February 1982. It’s one of my favorites from the album and would be a great song for someone to bring back today.
With a beautiful musical opening featuring the string section, “Touch Through Me” is another masterpiece from Dottie’s pen. I love the lyric of this powerful song of consecration, “my hands will be Your hands, reaching out to others, my lips will not be slothful, Lord to speak, I will be that Good Samaritan to someone else in need, I will be Your house to dwell in…touch through me!” Jimmy Swaggart did a wonderful rendition of the song on his “Sweet Anointing” album (one of my personal favorite Swaggart albums).
The driving, pulsating beat of “I’m Not a Mountain” is a highly invigorating, brass infused number that has the feel of a rock anthem from back in the day. Featuring Buck on the first verse, Reba on the second verse and Dottie on the third verse, the song is a reminder that we can’t make it on our own and our strength and help comes from the Lord…”I’m not a mountain, I’m not an island, I can’t make it by myself that’s plain to see, I met the Mountain, the Rock of the Ages, everyday He’s lending wisdom and teaching me”. It’s a great song and one of my favorites from this album.
Reba delivers a diva-worthy performance on “I Gave it All Away”. Reba performs the song as a solo, and perfectly delivers Dottie’s wonderful, prayerful lyric, “You gave me a special song, I thought You wrote for me alone, but when I read the words You gave, I found they were to give away, unless I sing my sound again, then every precious word will end, so take my song and empty me, I need a brand new symphony, a song is not a song…until you give it all away”. In this piece, Dottie reminds us that the gifts come from above and are meant for us to give away to bless others and bring praise back to Him.
Closing out the recording is the climactic masterpiece, “We Shall Behold Him”, which feature the Rambos backed by the Bobby Jones Singers. Featuring a strong black gospel feel, it’s my absolute favorite rendition of this song. Inspired during a vision Dottie saw while her and Patti were driving on the way to a tent revival where the Rambos were the musical guests, Dottie wrote the song during the 7 mile drive to where the revival meeting was being held. Of course, Sandi Patti recorded her own rendition of the song, where it became a huge hit and was voted Song of the Year at the 1982 Dove Awards. Dottie was also named Songwriter of the Year that year as well. The song became an instant classic and Sandi Patti’s signature song. The Nelons did a terrific job reviving the song just a few years ago and David Phelps also did a superb job on the song on his “Freedom” recording, released in 2015. Probably my favorite version, after the Rambos’, is the Ruppes performance from their 1997, “Seasons” recording, where they segued into the chorus of another classic, “I Bowed on my Knees and Cried Holy”. It’s rapturous!
This was such a splendid album with a very classy contemporary sound and sophisticated feel; well above par for the average Southern Gospel album or even a lot of the CCM albums released at the time. The album had a very bright and happy feel to it and offered a lot of different textures, styles and tempos. I would even say it was more diverse than their “Crossin’ Over” album.
If I remember correctly, I got this album within a year or so after I got “Crossin’ Over” (maybe around 1982 or so) and the “Crossin’ Over” album was starting to grow on me at that point, so this pill was a little easier for me to swallow. This would be the last studio album for the group containing all new songs, as eventually they would go their separate ways for the remainder of the 80s. Buck and Dottie made their way to California and worked a lot with Paul and Jan Crouch and the TBN network, as did Reba and Dony, but they still maintained their own separate ministry. Patti continued singing with the Rambos for a short while, but eventually would leave to pursue other interests and Buck and Dottie would continue to perform mostly as a duet. Buck, Dottie and Reba would come back together in a couple of years for one last recording, which would basically be a capstone album, highlighting the rich musical legacy of the Rambos.
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