Album ReviewsTHE BEST OF THE OAK RIDGE BOYS (COLUMBIA)
As in most cases, when an artist leaves a record label, soon to follow is a greatest hits package to 1) recount the best moments of that artists tenure, and 2) allow the record company to make a few more dollars on that artists even after they leave. That is exactly what we have here. If that sounds derogatory, this album is not without merit at all.
The Oak Ridge Boys recorded three albums for Columbia, plus some 7" singles that did not appear on LPs. This "best of" collection not only features the best songs on those three albums, we are treated to the a-side of two 7" singles that would otherwise be difficult to find. This is true of "Heaven Bound" and "Family Reunion". The other eight songs on this collection are readily available on the full albums.
This album would be the Oak Ridge Boys swan song, of sorts, regarding full-blown gospel music, as they were knee deep into mainstream country at this point. Columbia did manage to include songs here that were the very best of the albums the Oaks recorded with them. This is a very nice overview of those years.
Of Jesse Taylor", "He's Gonna Smile On Me", "Where The Soul Never Dies" and
"Heaven Bound" display the Oak Ridge Boys at the top of their gospel game.
For gospel music fans, you can't go wrong here. However, this album was
not accepted by the general public, despite the Oaks having hit country records
by this time.
Outstanding Cuts: they're all good here
Cut Outs: none
This is a compilation of the Oaks' "Columbia Days," just before they made the switch to mainstream country. It features two Grammy-award-winning songs ("The Baptism Of Jesse Taylor" and "Where The Soul Never Dies"), more southern-style with "Rhythm Guitar" and "Family Reunion," and a more contemporary sound with "There Must Be A Better Way" and "He's Gonna Smile On Me." Perhaps one of the finest cuts on here is the previously-unreleased "Heaven Bound," a rocking, uptempo tune. Unlike most of the Oaks' gospel music available today, this collection features the CURRENT group (Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban), and not the lineup from the late 50's/early 60's. All in all, it is a very good album!
The Oak Ridge Boys were hitting big on ABC Records in 1978, having Top 10 hit after Top 10 hit, and winning awards. Meanwhile, Columbia was looking to make a few bucks after the Oaks’ departure by making a compilation of their biggest moments with the label. Unfortunately, the Oaks didn’t have much success at Columbia, except a couple of songs that won Gospel Grammy's. So Columbia made a compilation featuring those two Grammy-award winning songs, plus a few songs that were released as singles.
However, the interesting thing about this compilation is that two of the singles that are on this compilation were not on any of the three Columbia albums. Those two songs, “Heaven Bound” and “Family Reunion”, both of which charted on major country charts, were only released on 45 singles. This compilation was the only Columbia Oak Ridge Boys album these two songs were released on, making this album worth purchasing.
To go into a review of every song on this album would be rather redundant, as these songs have already been gone over on my reviews on their respective album’s page. However, I will go into detail about “Heaven Bound” and “Family Reunion”, since they weren’t on any of the three Oaks original Columbia albums.
On the first side of the album, we are treated to “The Baptism of Jesse Taylor”, “Loves Me Like a Rock”, and “Why Me” from the Oaks’ self-titled first Columbia album, “Rhythm Guitar” from “Sky High”, and then “Freedom for the Stallion” from the former self-titled album.
Then, on the second side, we start with “Heaven Bound”. This song was released as a 45 single in 1975, and is an EXCELLENT high-energy gospel song with a rock and roll feel. It reached number 91 on the Cashbox Country charts that year, not able to go any higher since it was just too gospel. Also, it didn’t help that Columbia looked at the Oaks as a group without a real direction, and didn’t seem to want to promote them too much. However, “Heaven Bound” became the closing song at the Oaks’ live shows, and still closes the show on occasion to this day.
On the second side, we get “He’s Gonna Smile on Me” from the Oaks’ 1974 self-titled debut Columbia album, “There Must Be a Better Way” from “Sky High”, and “Where the Soul Never Dies” from “Old Fashioned...Gospel Quartet Music”. The album closes with “Family Reunion”, which was a country song. The Oaks were just beginning to break into country in 1976 under Jim Halsey’s leadership when this single came out, and Columbia had promised to get the Oaks a hit on Columbia or release them from the label. The song made it to #83 Billboard Country, #53 Cashbox Country, and since it wasn’t a hit, Columbia followed through with their promise and released the Oaks. Though this song wasn’t a hit, it is a GREAT song...not a song I would call excellent, but it is very close to it, and probably would have been a Top 10 hit if the Oaks were at ABC.
I should add that Ed is incorrect on his Album Info page when he says that this compilation did not chart. This album was a #22 hit on the Billboard Country Album Charts, and a #23 hit on the Cashbox Country Album Charts, and was the highest charting of the Columbia albums. This compilation came at a time when the Oaks were beginning to hit big on the charts at ABC-Dot, and people were beginning to really buy the Oaks’ albums. Columbia also released “Rhythm Guitar” from this album as a single, but it only reached #94 on the Billboard Country Singles Charts, since it was just too gospel to get much airplay on country stations.
The Oaks would begin to make it so big at ABC, which would become MCA, that Columbia would also release another compilation in 1982 of the Oaks’ Columbia material after “Elvira” became a crossover smash, which featured several unreleased songs, and was titled “All Our Favorite Songs”.
I would like to close by mentioning that “The Best of the Oak Ridge Boys” is the only original Oak Ridge Boys Columbia album that was ever released on CD, though there are also some compilations made by third-party companies that exist of some of the Columbia songs, that are titled “Sailing Toward Home” and “Favorite Songs”. “The Best of the Oak Ridge Boys” can still be found on eBay or Amazon for cheap. It is definitely worth purchasing!
---John Vairin (firstname.lastname@example.org)