As mentioned in my last article, things were really moving for the group between 1983 and 1985. “In One Accord” was their first full album of new songs in 2 years (their 1984 album, “The Best and a Whole Lot More” was basically a “Greatest Hits” compilation and only featured 3 new songs), and this latest album ushered in a new era for the group. With Rodney Swain’s departure and the group going back to only 4 vocalists, the decision was made to shorten their name from the “Rex Nelon Singers” to just “The Nelons”, a seamless move that seemed to work out really well. While “We Shall Behold the King” was a more traditional offering, by contrast, “In One Accord” was one of their most contemporary recordings. While there were some very traditional songs on this album, the overall feel of it was very progressive and contemporary. The cover art and cover photo exuded a modern feel, and also the name change to “The Nelons” projected a more progressive stance as well.
Once again produced by Ken Harding and Bergen White providing string arrangements, Lari Goss is back assisting with vocal arrangements, but that appears to be the extent of Lari’s involvement on this recording. While “We Shall Behold the King” featured 23+ musicians, “In One Accord” scales things back slightly, featuring only 16 musicians (not including string players) and included some names that have been mentioned in past album reviews, such as Gary Prim, David Huntsinger, Terry McMillan, Sonny Garrish and others. It’s interesting seeing the number of musicians on these old albums…3 guitar players, 4 piano/keyboard players, 2 bassists, and 4 drummers…the recording process has come a long way since the good ol’ days, but we’ll go into that a bit more in my next article. I do want to point out one thing I noticed with this album…it seems the record company began a push to include more tunes from their massive catalog tied with Word Music than what had been done in the past. Historically, aside from a handful of tunes, it appears that Rex had tended to pull from his own publishing companies as well as from companies and writers he had previous dealings with. I think that with this latest album, which included a diverse pool of writers and publishers, using these new writers also helped lend this album to a more progressive style as well.
With its pulsating electric guitar intro, the contemporary sounding “God’s Way Up” immediately lets you know this is going to be a very different album than any of their previous recordings. Written by Jim Weber and Niles Borop (a fantastic writer with Word Music whose songs span multiple genres), the song reminds us that “God’s way up, is down on our knees” and it was very different for the Nelons. I will admit, when I first heard the album as a 13-year-old kid who was a Southern Gospel fanatic, I was not impressed! I loved the music they were doing prior to this album, but this song went too far for my taste at the time. As I grew older, I have come to appreciate the song a bit more! I do love the guitar fade out at the end of the song though…very cool!
Slowing the pace down, Jerry does a phenomenal job on the David and Lisa Binion penned, “Alleluia to the Lamb”, which is one of the most powerful worship songs I’ve ever heard. I fell in love with this song the very first time I heard it as a 13-year-old kid and remember almost becoming completely enraptured by the song. I must confess, it’s my absolute favorite worship song in the entire Nelon repertoire, and my favorite song from this album. The song was the third single release from this recording, spending a few months in the Top 20 in late 1986/early 1987. Also worth mentioning, John Starnes also had a very emotion laden version of the song during his time with Jimmy Swaggart that floored me the first time I ever heard it on the Jimmy Swaggart telecast back in the 80’s.
Karen picks the pace back up with the triumphant anthem, “We Shall Overcome”, which was a big song for the group, spending about 8 months in the Singing News chart, peaking at #2 in July 1986. While it’s not one of the more remembered songs by the group, I always loved this tune and its expectant vibe. The Triumphant Quartet did a great job covering this song on their 2010 recording, “Love Came Calling”.
Next, we come to a song that has been a concert favorite for the group for many years, “Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down)”. While the song was never a chart song, it was a staple in their concerts for years and never ceased to bring a crowd to their feet. Starting off slow and with a bit of a soulful feel, by the chorus, the tempo picks up and the song becomes an exciting crowd pleaser. This was a sugar stick for the Singing Cookes, but the Nelons made the song their own as they always seemed to have fun with this Claude Ely classic. The Nelons version is my personal favorite rendition of the song and it’s one of my favorites from this album.
Another fun song is, “What in the World Are You Waiting For”, which features Jerry on the verses, but also features some nice step-out lines by Rex and Karen on the chorus. Written by Niles Borop and Dwight Liles, it’s an enjoyable little ditty and is a nice conclusion to the first side. I also think that this would be a neat song for someone to bring back today and record.
Once again, the Nelons pull from the country genre as Jerry does an outstanding job on the Lee Greenwood penned power ballad, “God Bless the USA”. Greenwood had already made the song a hit back in 1984, and the Nelons took the song to #12 in the Singing News chart for January and February of 1986. As awesome as Lee Greenwood’s version is, I prefer the Nelons rendition. Maybe it’s the harmonies…yes, it’s definitely those soaring harmonies that make it for me!
With its simple piano intro and children’s choir singing “Jesus Loves Me” as a backdrop, the Gordon Jensen penned, “The Sweetest Song” is next. Featuring a nice performance by Karen, this nostalgic song endeared itself into the hearts of so many people and became a favorite from the album, myself included. I’ve never been a fan of “cutesy” songs, but for some reason, the Nelons won me over with this one!
With Rex’s acquisition of the Stamps Quartet Music publishing company, he constantly kept those songs as part of the group’s concerts and recordings, and the Vep Ellis penned, “If Jesus is There” (which was published through that publishing company) fit the bill for this recording and remains one of my favorite Nelon tunes. The Dixie Echoes did a really great job on this song as well on their 2006 recording, “Sounds of Sunday”, as did the Taylors on their 2012 recording, “Almost Home”.
Slowing the pace back down, Kelly steps up to sing the Dee Gaskin penned, “I Love Him”. Published through Rex Nelon Music, this was Kelly’s main feature from this album and the song fits her like a glove with its warm feel and her sincere delivery. Back in the 80’s, I remember Paul Heil using this song on the Gospel Greats for a few years on his “Love” theme program every February.
In his first vocal endeavor with the group, Todd Nelon (who was the bass player at the time) closes out the recording with the progressive feel of “Don’t Give Up”, which was written by Danny Myrick and published through Rex Nelon Music. The song was very different for the group but was an excellent introduction to Todd as a singer and the song fits perfectly on this album.
Sometime after “In One Accord” was released, Kelly came out with her second solo album, “Praise Him Now” which was quite a bit more contemporary than her first album. This latest solo effort featured such great songs as “We Can’t Waste Any Time” as well as the title song, “Praise Him Now” and the timeless classic, “No More Night”, which Country Music star, Glen Campbell recorded the same year on his gospel album. Both singers enjoyed success with “No More Night”, so much so that Kelly and Glen performed the song together as a duet during the 17th Annual Dove Awards in 1986. Vocal phenomenon, David Phelps brought the song back to the forefront in 2001 when he recorded an impressive rendition on his self-titled solo recording.
Though one of the most popular groups at the time, the Nelons did not win any individual awards at the 1985 National Quartet Convention, but their band won “Band of the Year” at the Singing News Fan Awards that year. The Nelons always had a top-notch band and many wonderful musicians passed through their ranks over the years including such names as Rex Foster, Lamar Newton, Aubrey Stephens, Jeff Stice, Stan Whitmire, Dale Jones, Robbie Willis, Mark Fain, Scott Daugherty and of course, Todd Nelon and Jason Clark and many others. Those gentlemen were as much a part of the groups’ success as the singers themselves!
While “In One Accord” isn’t always one of the first albums that rolls off the tongue when naming their greatest recordings, it’s still a phenomenal album. Although I wasn’t into the more progressive songs (“Alleluia to the Lamb” is still my favorite cut though), I still enjoyed the album very much and I greatly appreciate the musicality of the album. The Nelons were trailblazers and were continuing to enjoy immense popularity as one of the top mixed groups, and “In One Accord” was a major benchmark for the group at that time.
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