May 18, 2012 14 Comments
Released in 1972 at the height of the Oak Ridge Boys’ popularity in Southern Gospel music, this is a live album made up mostly of songs from the International LP. Personnel on this album are Willie Wynn – Tenor, Duane Allen – Lead, William Lee Golden – Baritone, Noel Fox – Bass, Tommy Fairchild – Piano, Mark Ellerbee – Drums, Don Breland – Bass Guitar.
- Jesus Walked All The Way – This is a uptempo tune that really gets the concert started off right. There’s a nice trio with Allen, Golden, and Fox on the second verse before Wynn takes the lead on the chorus. Noel Fox really shines on his step out line in the chorus. A repeat of the chorus after a key change and tag end a short, but great track.
- The Coming Of The Lord – This is another great track. It’s a more midtempo cut that features Noel Fox on the first verse before Duane Allen takes the melody on the chorus. Fox had a terrific bass voice, with smoothness and range both. William Golden sings the second verse. There’s a key change that if my ears don’t deceive me goes up a whole step instead of the more typical half step and a repeat of the chorus leading to a tag. Paid In Full did a really nice cover of this song a few years back that was pretty true to the Oaks’ arrangement here.
- The Holy Hills Of Heaven Call Me – This one will likely make it into my “Definitives” series as Duane Allen and the rest of the quartet really shine on this Dottie Rambo classic. It’s always interesting to hear recordings of these classic songs from when they were new. It’s a tremendous performance, and I love the walking bass guitar line on the beginning of the second verse. Classic Oak Ridge Boys.
- He Did It All For Me – This may be my favorite ballad done by the Oak Ridge Boys. After group vocals on the first verse, the key modulates up, the tempo slows and Duane Allen proceeds to sing the absolute fire out of the second verse. The key changes again and Willie Wynn takes the melody leading into the chorus. Duane and Willie trade off the melody and build to a high power tag. After a testimony from Duane, they encore the song starting with the second verse. Wow. A true highlight of the album.
- Heaven – The second side of the LP starts off with this classic tune. I love the way Duane Allen introduces this song by saying “We might not do it too good, but we don’t know it too loud yet.” There is a scorching hot piano introduction from Tommy Fairchild that is one of my all time favorite intros. Allen takes the melody with the other 3 vocals arranged like a male trio behind Allen’s ad libbed lead vocal. Fairchild gets a chance to repeat his intro work as a break in the middle of the song. This song is the early 70s Oaks in their comfort zone, and this song packs quite a punch.
- You’ll Never Walk Alone – It’s amazing how long this song stayed a part of the Oaks’ repertoire, as this was the title cut to an early 60s Skylite album from the group. In fact, Willie Wynn is the only vocalist on this version who also recorded the previous version. Duane Allen again takes the lead and it’s a very nice performance of the inspirational classic.
- I Wish We’d All Been Ready – Larry Norman’s classic song that was one of the first hits in what would later become Contemporary Christian Music gets covered here by the Oaks. It’s a unique performance in that the Oaks’ drummer, Mark Ellerbee, lends his lead vocals to the song, with fairly sparse backing vocals from the rest of the quartet on the last chorus. Ellerbee’s vocal style lends itself very well to this song. It was obviously a hit with the audience.
- Jesus Is Coming Soon – In what will be another “Definitive” performance, Duane Allen launches straight into his solo second verse on what was a monster hit for the group around this time, and it’s obvious by the crowd’s reaction. There’s a different rhythm on this performance of the song, that I’ve never heard duplicated, but is absolutely the best instrumental arrangement I’ve ever heard of the song. Willie Wynn shatters glass on the ending of the song. It’s only about a minute of actual singing time, but wow, what a performance in a concentrated performance.
- I Know – Another current monster smash for the group at the time, the album closes out with one of the group’s best known songs. Duane Allen has a hard time getting the song started from the crowd response to the first line. The crowd goes wild for the song and again the group has to encore it. It’s a great way to end the concert.
Summary: While The Kingsmen are typically recognized as the kings (pun intended, of course) of the live album, when a list is made of the greatest Southern Gospel live albums of all time, this album deserves a spot in the top 10, if not the top 5. It’s an enthralling capture of one of the most popular groups in the history of the genre at the height of their popularity. The performances are all high energy, and the intensity is such that you don’t realize there are only 9 tracks on the album, or that “Jesus Is Coming Soon” is such an abbreviated version. The Oaks hook you in from the first few notes of “Jesus Walked All The Way”, and you don’t feel like you can hardly catch a breath until the final cutoff on the encore to “I Know.” One thing that I mentioned briefly in the comments on “Heaven” but that I wanted to be sure to highlight is Tommy Fairchild’s piano playing. He is an absolute wizard on the piano on this album, and displays just the right touch and the sense of when to “show out” with some nice piano licks and when to stay subdued and give the vocals the spotlight. This album would be SG Piano Accompaniment 101 Exhibit A. It really is a masterful job.
I looked long and hard for this album. Growing up listening to my dad’s LPs, he would always mention this “incredible live album from the Oak Ridge Boys called Performance” and said it had the best version of “Jesus Is Coming Soon” that he’d ever heard. He had a copy, but it had been lost or borrowed on a permanent basis long before I was old enough to listen to it. I was absolutely thrilled the day I finally located a copy as a college student, and I will never forget putting needle to vinyl for the first time after having heard so much about this LP growing up. All I can say is this: Dad was right.