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    The Boys Are Back is a very interesting and different release for the Oak Ridge Boys.  First, this CD was a looooong time coming.  It was three long years since the last studio CD from the Boys.  In this reviewer's humble opinion, that is just entirely too long to wait for new music from this legendary, iconic and phenomenal quartet.  This album is not a pure country album.  It really isn't a gospel album.  Nor is it a pop or rock album.  That's what makes this such a different release! It's hard to categorize, as the music styles run the gamut here.

    This CD starts off with the subterranean bellows of bass singer extraordinaire, Richard Sterban.  He sings the opening lines of the title track.  Then, each member follows with their own verse, before all four kick in together on the chorus.  This scenario worked out very well live as this song was the opener, and each member walked out on stage as their part came up.  It was a real crowd pleaser, and gave the fans a chance to cheer for each member individually.  The only draw back to this song is that the chorus line "The boys are back" is repeated incessantly, almost as if this is an old vinyl record that is skipping.

    The Oak Ridge Boys really pushed the boundaries with "Seven Nation Army".  This is an alternative/grunge rock song originally done by The White Stripes.  Seems to be an unlikely fit for the Oaks, right?  Some might agree. However, despite the Boys incorporating their signature four-part harmony into a song that was never designed to exhibit such a sound, it works with haunting delight. 

    The jewel of this collection is "Mama's Table".  This is a beautiful song that mostly features Duane Allen singing about yesteryear when families would actually eat meals together, play games, or just sit and talk at the table.....a tribute to the lost art of family time, if you will. 

    After "Mama's Table" we are treated to a very different song from Richard Sterban.  His extremely low voice is usually utilized in ballads and love songs.  This song is the opposite of that.  This 60's blues rocker has been covered by numerous groups, but to hear Richard sing this is not only a real treat, but he does incredible justice to original composer/singer John Lee Hooker.  Richard finds himself adlibbing a bit during the chorus here, and possibly out of his comfort zone, but he has lots of fun with it and handles it very well.  This song goes over great live and is a real crowd pleaser.

      The oddest thing about this album is that the piano used throughout these songs is slightly out of tune.  We can only assume that this is intentional for some reason. But it does add a strange dynamic to this CD.  From the haunting sounds of "Seven Nation Army" to the minor-keyed "God's Gonna Ease My Troublin' Mind", this album has a "darker" feel to it at times that I've never heard on an Oak Ridge Boys album before.  Perhaps, producer David Cobb was trying to make the all American, wholesome Oak Ridge Boys a bit edgier in the 21st century, attempting to appeal to the younger generation.  I don't believe that experiment worked, and that new sound was not a big hit with long time fans.  So while this album has it's high points, as a whole it's kinda lost in limbo in the Oaks catalog. 


Outstanding Cuts: The Boys Are Back, Mama's Table, Boom Boom
Cut Outs: You Ain't Gonna Blow My House Down, God's Gonna Ease My Troublin' Mind

                                                                                                                                                  ---Edward Wille