The Rex Nelon Singers – “Expressions of Love” (1980)

by | Aug 16, 2023 | LP Review, Reviews

By 1980, the Rex Nelon Singers were experiencing great success, and when “Expressions of Love” was released, they were enjoying their first #1 song with “Come Morning”. They were also experiencing some personal growth as well, as Kelly Nelon married Jerry Thompson and thus, the group itself experienced growth when he joined them as their tenor singer, making them a 5-member vocal group, which was something very unique for Southern Gospel Music at the time. Most groups had either 3 or 4 vocalists, so this unique move allowed the group to really expand their sound and their creativity! Jerry’s voice and delivery was a perfect fit for the group and their sound. Whereas most vocal changes tend to change a groups sound, Jerry only enhanced what the Rex Nelon Singers were doing. Also, within a few years, Jerry would begin writing songs and the group would go on to record many of his songs, with several of them finding a home in the charts!

This latest album was produced once again by Ken Harding and with string arrangements being handled this time by Kris Wilkinson. There are no other credits given on the album as far as musicians, etc., but the general sound and feel is kind of a mix between “Feelings” and “The Sun’s Coming Up”, with a strong lean towards a more traditional feel. Despite the illuminous cover shot (which I always thought was a cool shot), I find “Expressions of Love” to be a bit laid back overall. Worth mentioning too, is Rusty Goodman’s glowing liner notes as he praised the group on the level of their talent and the rich qualities found in each member of the group. It’s high praise from a fellow peer and a very nice read!

The album starts off with the warm glow of the Squire Parsons’ classic, “Sweet Beulah Land”. An introduction to newest member, Jerry Thompson, the song featured a simple arrangement with mostly piano and strings and was a beautiful opening number. The song was a big chart success, peaking at #6 in the Singing News chart in February 1981 (as an aside, Squire Parsons also charted the song around the same time, but his version peaked at #13). The song quickly became one of Southern Gospel’s classic tunes having literally been recorded by just about everyone in the industry at some point. The Rex Nelon Singers’ version is one of my personal favorite renditions of the song, and it was a perfect fit for Jerry, as he performed the song flawlessly. In fact, the song won Song of the Year honors at the 1981 Singing News Fan Awards. I always found it interesting that the Kingsmen (who did record the song as well) are credited with the Fan Award win for Song of the Year, though it was the Nelons and Squire Parsons who actually charted the song.

With its blaring harmonica intro, the tempo picks up for one of the group’s signature hits, “We Shall Wear a Robe and Crown”. Featuring Janet, the song is about as exciting as any song could ever be in a live setting, and the Nelons have brought the house down with this song for years! I remember watching them sing this song on the Gospel Singing Jubilee and it remains one of my all-time favorite songs…ever! Peaking at #2 in the Singing News chart, the song never quite made it to #1, as it was stalled by 2 other very popular songs…”He’s Still Workin’ on Me” by the Hemphills and “Excuses” by the Kingsmen, but it remained in the Top 5 for the entire year of 1981, and spent nearly 2 years in the Top 20. Additionally, the song was nominated for the Dove Award as one of the Top 10 songs by the Gospel Music Association for 1981. As much as I love this song, it’s a wonder it took me so many years to finally add “Expressions of Love” to my personal collection, as this was the last vinyl by the group that I obtained back in the early 2000’s. I did own the album released by the GMA that had “Robe & Crown” on it, so that is where I usually got my “Robe & Crown” fix when I needed it!

Slowing the tempo down and featuring nice harmonica and string accents, Janet is featured again on the contemporary, jazz infused, “I Wanna Go”, written by Nancy Harmon, before Rex steps up to sing the Rusty Goodman penned, “It’s Over Now”. This country flavored gem of a song about the prodigal son, remains one of my favorite Rex features and one of my favorite Rusty Goodman penned tunes that most people don’t remember! The first time I heard this song was on the radio back in the mid-80’s, and I fell in love with it. When I finally added this album to my collection, I couldn’t wait until this song came up. It’s a fantastic tune featuring the steel guitar and harmonica, and its unassuming feel is part of the overall charm of the song. Jimmy Swaggart also did a nice rendition of the song as well on his 1980 album, “Homeward Bound”, but for me, Rex’s rendition takes the prize.

The tempo picks back up for the Southern Gospel feel of “I’ve Been Redeemed”, which rounds out the first side. Written by Larry Stallings and featuring lots of guitars, harmonica, and old timey piano accents, the song is a group effort with no features. I love the feel of the song and it’s one of my favorites from the album. The Kingsmen also recorded the song on their “Ring the Bells of Freedom” album that was released the same year as “Expressions of Love”.

Kelly kicks off side 2 with the contemporary feel of, “He is Love”, a song written by Jill Coble, along with the same couple who penned “More Than Conquerors”, Janny and Bill Grine, before the tempo picks back up for the happy, Southern Gospel feel of “It’ll Be Alright With Me”, which features some nice step-out lines by Rex. The song was already a popular tune that had previously been recorded by the Inspirations, as well as the Singing Cookes, and I really enjoy the Rex Nelon Singers’ version of the song, and it’s one I remember them singing from time to time on the Gospel Singing Jubilee.

Slowing the pace back down, Janet sings the tender, “I’m the One”, which, in my opinion, is one of her finest vocal performances. Written by Wayne Gentry and published through Rex Nelon Music, this is one of my favorites from this album, and Janet included this song on her 2008 “Treasures” recording, and she did a great job reviving it.

With the feel of a lullaby, Kelly steps back up to sing “I’ve Never Been Disappointed in Him”, which was written by Bill Henry (the same writer for “Holy is Thy Name”) and published by Rex, before the tempo picks back up as Jerry and Kelly are both featured on another Nancy Harmon penned tune, “Over the Hill”, which is one of my personal favorites from the album. With some step-out lines by Rodney and Rex, the song has that old LeFevres feel to it and is one I easily hear the LeFevres doing back in the day.

Slowing things back down, the album finishes off with a slight country feel as Rodney sings, “The Son Will Still Be Shining”. Much like bookends, the album ends like it began, with a song written by Squire Parsons.

While the album saw 2 huge hit songs and there are several songs I thoroughly enjoy from this album, it’s probably one of my least favorite recordings by the group. Some of that may be attributed to the fact that it’s the last album of theirs that I added to my collection, and I’ve simply not lived with the album long enough. It’s never been one I readily pull out to listen to like some of the others, but it’s not a bad album at all. As for the cover, I have always thought it had a very cool and imaginative cover and it was one that readily stood out from all the others.

It was a busy and exciting time for the group, as they were enjoying immense success from their previous albums, and it appeared this latest release would continue that success. Kelly won Female Singer of Year in the 1980 Singing News Fan Awards and Rex took home Favorite Bass as well. Sometime after the release of this album, the group released two independent recordings, “Sing the Gospel” and “One More Song”. The first one featured several popular songs of the day including “He’s Coming Soon”, “Standing on the Solid Rock”, “Leaving on my Mind”, “Going Up Yonder” and “One Day at a Time” and also included the Dee Gaskin penned, “They’re Getting Ready in Glory (To Crown Him King)”, which is a gem of a song. “One More Song” was a wonderful collection of some newer tunes as well as several revived LeFevre favorites from the 70’s including “Don’t Be Left Behind”, “Till He Comes”, “Victory Shall Be Mine”, “Everything Looks Brighter”, “When I Cross to the Other Side of Jordan” and “Take Me to Jesus”.

The group was riding a great wave of success and were enjoying the delicious fruit of that milestone decision that Rex made just 3 years prior when they became the Rex Nelon Singers. They were enjoying lots of chart success, winning awards, enjoying television coverage, and singing on some of the biggest concert stages across the nation and had many of their peers and thousands of fans cheering them on. Much like the cover of this album, the future of the group was looking bright and fabulous! Which leaves me asking myself the question…”Where are my sunglasses?”

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.

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James Hales

James Hales

James is a lifelong fan of Southern Gospel Music. Being exposed to the music through his dad's record collection as a 7 or 8 year old boy in the late 70's, James grew to love the music of the Happy Goodmans, Kingsmen, Inspirations, Rambos, Florida Boys and others. James has been a staff writer for Absolutely Gospel since 2000 writing music reviews and various articles, and he has contributed to Musicscribe and SGHistory.com for several years as well. James also writes for his own music page on Facebook as well, via James' Music Page (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063484056683).

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