Reba Rambo
Entertainment One (original release date: 1980; digital release: May 1, 2020)

By Bob Marovich

Originally released forty years ago, Reba Rambo’s solo album Confessions is getting a redux courtesy of Entertainment One. It’s the latest Rambo album to be re-introduced since her 1977 disc, Lady, was digitally remastered last year.

Like Tramaine Hawkins and Andrae Crouch, Rambo wasn’t afraid to set Christian lyrics and sentiments to present-day pop sounds, even though the “worldly” sound rocked some church folk at the time. Even Confessions’ sexy and stylish album cover telegraphed that this wasn’t business as usual.

The album, produced by Dony McGuire, certainly lives up to its title. Most, though not all, of the songs have a confessional quality, as if voiced from the confines of a prayer room. The songs that do, such as the passionately-sung ballads “I Won’t Last a Day” and “I Cry Out to You,” are testimonies to the primacy of the Lord in Rambo’s life. Her voice, at once vulnerable and hopeful, is ideal for the intensely personal messages she delivers.

But not all songs are introspective. The richly-orchestrated “Don’t Give Up” is a power ballad about keeping the faith. It could easily have crossed over onto the pop chart. “Because of Whose I Am,” with its razor-sharp message and heartrending melody, could have crossed over, also. “At Last I Found Love” (said love object being Jesus) bounces along on a disco beat with a nice sax break at the bridge and sassy background vocalists (including Sandra Crouch and the Waters Family). “With a Friend Like You” picks up where “At Last I Found Love” leaves off, including the disco vibe, BGVs, and cheery lyrics about a close relationship with the Lord. The breezy “I’ve Got It All” puts these ingredients to lyrics that reflect the same spiritual love letter sentiments.

The poignant “A Perfect Heart,” from its southern gospel piano to the sweet harmonies at the end, is the most traditional song on the album and the one that sounds most like a Dottie Rambo composition (it’s not; it was written by Reba and Dony McGuire). It went on to be a hit for the Bill Gaither Trio and entered the repertories of professional and amateur Christian artists alike.

Viewed from today’s perspective, it’s hard to understand the church’s hullabaloo over Reba Rambo’s music ministry. Nevertheless, she was busy breaking boundaries and, in the process, opening the door for progressive Christian artists from Amy Grant and Nichole Nordeman to today’s superstar Lauren Daigle.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “Don’t Give Up,” “A Perfect Heart”

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.