Album ReviewsSTREET GOSPEL
Street Gospel is an important Oak Ridge Boys album on several levels. For one thing, it’s the first appearance of Richard Sterban’s velvet smooth bass voice on an Oaks record. As Richard tells us in his autobiography, From Elvis To Elvira, Noel Fox had already recorded the bass parts and Richard just re-cut his leads. Who could have known that just 8 years later, 5 nonsensical syllables, oom-poppa-mau-mau, would change Richard’s life?
Although he would contribute some harmonies to the next album, Willie Wynn effectively ended a 15-year run as The Oaks’ tenor with this album, the longest tenure for an Oak Ridge Boy at the time. Street Gospel was also named Album of the Year in the 1973 Dove Awards, giving The Oaks a 2-year winning streak in that category. Perhaps most significant is the fact that, with the exception of a couple of compilations and a budget album, Street Gospel marks the end of a long and successful relationship between The Oak Ridge Boys and Heart Warming Records. But what a way to go – this album is the destination on the contemporary music road The Oaks had been traveling for the last few years.
This is a collection of songs about real life and real relationships with God, conveyed in a solid country-pop style with really nothing musically that smacks of southern gospel. From the first fiddle lick, you know that the lead off song, “King Jesus”, is going to be one hallelujah hoedown. Duane Allen once again showcases his virtuosity, singing “Who Is It Building That Boat” with an easy Don Williams country lope, then going pop on “I Believe In Jesus”, a gospel adaptation of the Mac Davis hit “I Believe In Music”. Richard carries the lead with warm sensitivity on Garland Craft’s great song, “He Never Said A Word”, a beautiful expression of God’s mercy, but the song absolutely ignites when Duane takes the lead on the last chorus. “Sanctified”, a gritty look at navigating the vicissitudes of life, is sung with the voice of experience by William Lee Golden. The song is in the same league as the deeply profound “Still Holding On”, which Golden would sing 10 years later on the Deliver album. Willie Wynn winds up his Oaks career with Sammy Hall’s haunting minor-key modern day psalm, “Yea, Though I Walk”. And a good 6 years prior to the history-making Full House Tour, which would unite Kenny Rogers and The Oak Ridge Boys in a series of sold-out concerts across the country, Mark Ellerbee rocks out on Kenny’ s “Take My Hand” to round out a great album.
The music and the message of Street Gospel are so relevant that it could have been recorded last week. This is The Oak Ridge Boys takin’ it to the streets – eternal gospel for everyday people.
Outstanding Cuts: King Jesus, I
Believe In Jesus, He Never Said A Word
Cut Outs: None