Provident Label Group / Sony Music
(re-release date: December 13, 2019)
By Bob Marovich
Provident Label Group / Sony Music has just made a beloved recording by Christian singer Reba Rambo available once again, digitally remastered.
By 1977, when she released her fifth solo recording, Lady, on Greentree Records, Reba Rambo, the daughter of gospel singers Buck and Dottie Rambo and a member of the Singing Rambos, had been in and out of recording studios for the better part of a decade. Despite initial hesitancy by Reba’s record company to put her solo album out, Lady earned a Dove Award and a Grammy nod. It established the twenty-something Reba as one of CCM’s most prominent female singer-songwriters.
One can see why. On the opener, “The Land of Oohs and Ahs,” Reba cleverly employs metaphors from The Wizard of Oz to reflect on God’s gifts and the ultimate gift of Heaven; appropriately, she breaks into “Over the Rainbow” by the end. It became a radio hit.
Also lyrically creative, the title track is a portrait of Mary as she reflects on the birth and development of her son Jesus, then watches him die on the cross and rise on the third day. Its intimate language, Reba’s almost-whispered vocalizing, and an arrangement suitable for the Broadway stage, draws the listener in, as if privy to a secret.
Given the time in which it was created, much of the album is evocative of Jesus Movement folk-rock. In particular, “Sweet Jesus Peace” and “Velvet Sunshine Mornin’” are effusive ballads of wide-eyed happiness with solid soft-rock backing. The soulful “Ain’t Givin’ Up” sounds influenced by Andrae Crouch, with whom Reba toured for a spell in the early 1970s.
Still, many songs have aged extremely well. They include the marvelous “Just as I Am,” which demonstrates Reba’s vocal versatility more than any other song on the album. Minimal accompaniment led by Bill Pursell’s prominent acoustic piano enables her to weave a vocal tapestry like a seasoned jazz songstress. “Shepherd’s Song” is a whispery empty-stage ballad that could be performed today using the exact same arrangement. “He Gives Me Joy” features vocal and keyboard motives drawn from Baroque music.
“Lift Him Up” is like unto a hymn, featuring Dave Huntsinger’s muscular piano work and southern quartet harmonies from a team of male background vocalists. It is the perfect conclusion to the album, which offers a new generation of gospel music enthusiasts a chance to hear what all the rumble was about more than forty years ago.
Five of Five Stars
Picks: “The Land of Oohs and Ahs,” “Just As I Am,” “Shepherd’s Song”