July 17, 2012 9 Comments
This is one of Dottie Rambo’s most popular songs, and it has been recorded countless times by numerous artists. When the song was current, there were several great versions, not the least of which was done by the Rambos themselves. The Downings also had a great cut of the song on This Is How It Is…Live. In later years the song has been recut by the Brian/Ivan/Mike era Gold City, and John Rulapaugh recorded a fantastic version with the Dove Brothers.
The definitive version of this song, however, comes from this classic 1970 live album by The Imperials. Jim Murray, Terry Blackwood, Roger Wiles, Armond Morales, and Joe Moscheo on piano created an arrangement of this song that has not been equaled. The song starts with a guitar dominated intro before the group enters on the first verse singing the first line or so in two part harmony. The group splits into full four part harmony on the phrase “lonely hill of Golgotha” and the cascading harmonies just sweep you away. The key changes and Jim Murray takes the second verse as a solo, with the quartet rejoining him on the last line of the verse.
The arrangement of the chorus is what really sets this version apart. The first line contains an echo of the first phrase, then the chord progression on the phrase “the ocean is dry” is unlike any version you’ve heard. Armond walks down the scale repeating that phrase. Then there is a thrilling cascade downward of harmonies on the word “sky” in the next line. The second half of the chorus repeats this pattern, before the group tags the song with some beautiful vocal work repeating the phrase “It had to be love” twice.
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Joe Moscheo Terry Blackwood was responsible for this arrangement, and it is the most exquisite, creative arrangement that I’ve heard from him. If you have this album, listen to this track again and try not to be wowed by it’s splendor. If you don’t have this album, find someone that does and have them play this song for you. It’s magnificent, gorgeous, shimmering, and any other term denoting beauty you’d like to use.