Coming off the immense success of “Thanks”, the Nelons’ follow-up album, “Get Ready”, had a very similar feel to it; almost like a “Thanks…Volume 2”! Featuring very similar elements found in the album “Thanks”, this latest album was also a very upbeat recording. In some ways, I felt that “Get Ready” was a bit more traditional than “Thanks”, and in some ways it was slightly edgier. Either way though, “Get Ready” ranks as one of my all-time favorite recordings by the group. Historically, many artists fail when they try to duplicate the success of an album like “Thanks” was for the Nelons, but I think the Nelons did a great job with this album and making this album stand on its own merit!
Produced and arranged by Lari Goss, with Otis Forrest assisting with horn arrangements, “Get Ready” was the Nelons at their finest. As this is the second album that Lari produced for the Nelons, it seems the group easily found their groove with Lari at the helm, and he seemed to take the group to a whole new level! The list of musicians is pretty much a carbon copy from their “Thanks” album, with the exception that 2 less musicians were used for “Get Ready”. Just like “Thanks”, this is a near perfect album and is truly the Nelons at their finest! Incidentally, as vinyl records were being phased out by the late 80’s, this would be last vinyl record the group would release, and future recordings were only available via cassette and CD. With this being the last vinyl release by the group, I do find the cover a bit lacking. I love the pictures, but I don’t think a lot of effort went into the cover work like their previous albums. The back cover is almost like a blank slate. I think the record company knew this would be the last vinyl release, so they didn’t allocate a lot of the recording budget for the cover. I’m not sure how many pressings there were of the vinyl, but finding a vinyl copy of this recording is a rare find, but I do see them pop up from time to time. I actually bought my copy of this record at a local Christian bookstore here in Durham when it came out in 1988 and despite the cover, I fell in love with the album from the very first song!
Daryl Williams wrote the lead off song, “In Jesus’ Name” and it’s probably my favorite song from this album. Only one song from this recording was sent to radio for airplay (and it wasn’t this song!), and I always thought this would have been a cool radio single. I love how it sets the tone for the recording with its cold intro by the group singing, “walkin’ on holy ground, makin’ a joyful sound…pullin’ strongholds down in Jesus’ name” with just the drums beating behind them. Featuring a nice brass track, it’s such a cool, edgy tune with a bit of Pentecostal flare, and Karen does a super job on the verses. Also, let me give a shout out to one of my favorite groups from eastern North Carolina, Double Portion, who recorded this tune several years ago and did a really unique arrangement of the song.
Easing the pace down a bit, Jerry sings the warm feel of, “I Can Almost Hear the Trumpet”. Written by Jerry, the song features some really nice harmony by the group and some really nice string, steel guitar and piano accents, before the tempo is kicked into high gear for the exciting, “Revival in the Land”, featuring Kelly. With its thumping bass track, along with harmonica and guitar accents, and with a choir joining them on the final choruses and bridge, this would have been a cool radio song for the group! Using “Gimme that old time religion” on the bridge was perfect and the song is one of my personal favorites from the recording. In fact, the Nelons brought this song back several years later on their 1995 “Hallelujah Live” recording.
Ruby Moody, who has penned a few other songs the group has previously recorded, wrote the upbeat, “Get Ready for the Rapture”, which features Rex. Featuring a bit of a rustic feel with the acoustic and electric guitar featured prominently throughout the song, it was Southern/Country Gospel to the core.
Lari Goss, along with Phil and Carolyn Cross penned the massive worshipful power ballad, “Medals, Crowns and Trophies”, which finishes out this side. Featuring one of my all-time favorite performances by Kelly, this is also one of my absolute favorite Nelon power ballads and is a musical masterpiece! I love the orchestrations and the dynamics of the song as it builds with great intensity, then backs off and then builds again to a grand finish. When they get to the bridge, “at His feet, I’ll lay them down, when I receive my robe and crown, so worthy is the Lamb, here’s my trophies, here’s my crown…”, the harmonies are simply flawless. The Southern Brothers, a popular group during the late 90’s and early 2000’s, did a good job with their cover of the song on their 1999 recording, “The Race”.
Kicking off the second side, Lari Goss penned the delightful tune, “A Wonderful Change”. The song was a popular concert favorite for the Nelons, which features an excellent performance by Rex on the verses, with Karen taking the lead on the chorus. With nice electric guitar features and harmonica embellishments (I must say that the cowbell takes the prize as my favorite instrument used on the song), the song was originally recorded by the Goss Brothers over 20 years prior and the Nelons did a fabulous job with their version of the song.
As the tempo slows down, Karen is featured on the unassuming, “Bring My Children Home”, which was a wonderful song written by Jerry. Beautifully accented by strings and featuring steel guitar, mandolin and “Floyd Cramer” style piano embellishments, this was one of the most Southern Gospel sounding songs the Nelons had released to radio in quite some time. As marvelous as this album was, filled with wonderful tunes that I felt were “radio worthy”, this was the only song released to radio as a single from this album (and was the perfect song for Karen to really sink her teeth into), and it did very well for the group, peaking at #3 in August and September of 1989.
The jazzy, upbeat tune, “I Just Keep Watching the Gates” is next. Written by and featuring Jerry, this is a fun song filled with nice horn accents, before Todd steps up the mic as he covers the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir tune, “Building”, which was written by their director, Carol Cymbala. With its thumping bass and strong beat, as the song continues building with intensity, the group is joined by a choir for the last chorus, and the Nelons do a great job with the song.
The album concludes with the Southern Gospel feel of “We’re Gonna Make It (Through the Power of God)”. Written by Jerry along with Niles Borop, this up-tempo song really moves along at a pretty fast clip, and has an exciting flare to it, making it one of my favorites from the album. I love the inclusion of the hymn, “There is Power in the Blood” as a bridge, and the song rounds out the album on an exciting note.
Just before “Get Ready” was released, Kelly came out with a new solo album entitled, “Called By Love”, which was decidedly more mainstream country sounding than her last solo effort from 3 years prior. Featuring such songs as the country tinged, “Heaven Knows” (which broke the Singing News Top 10), “Inside Information”, “Bought & Paid For” and “I Will Forever Praise Your Name” (which was a unique vocal collaboration with Debra Talley and former Nelons soprano, Janet Paschal), the album is probably my favorite solo recording by Kelly. Because of the overall feel of the album, there are several songs from “Called By Love” that I easily could hear on a Nelons recording. Incidentally, this would be Kelly’s last solo recording with Canaan/Word Records, as she would later sign with the Benson Company for her next solo recording, which came out in 1990.
In the fall of 1988, Kelly was once again crowed as Female Singer of the Year (her 4th time taking home the honor) and Karen took home the Favorite Soprano award once again in the Singing News Fan Awards, continuing their reign as the “sweethearts” of gospel music. Also, as I mentioned in my last article, their pianist, Jeff Stice won the Horizon Individual (aka-Newcomer of the Year) Award during the 1988 Singing News Fan Award as well. The Nelons were still easily the most popular mixed group on the road at the time and I firmly believe that “Thanks” and “Get Ready” were the pinnacle of their success.
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