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    The Oak Ridge Boys follow up their award-winning It’s Happening album by giving us Thanks.  This album kicks off, not with the usual hand-clapping foot-stomping opening number, but with The Oaks gathering around the piano to harmonize on the slow and stately "Joy Of Knowing Jesus."  The tempo picks up a little with Flatt and Scruggs’ "Reunion In Heaven," and by the third cut, "Love Thy Neighbor," the Boys are at full throttle. 

    William Lee Golden turns in a fine performance on the Dottie Rambo classic, "Sheltered In The Arms Of God."  I’ve always liked Golden’s singing.  He sings it straight from the heart without all the vocal histrionics so many young singers use today.  "I’m On The Right Road Now" sounds like a revival meeting broke out in a 1940s jazz club, with Duane Allen’s vocal of a personal testimony of faith laid on top of a stealthy bass guitar line.  "Just Like Jesus" is a Willie Wynn lead supported by some close harmony by The Boys.  "Jesus Is A Soul Man," featuring a soul-stirring black gospel choir, reaches out to the young generation.  It's the standout song on the album; kind of an appetizer for the more contemporary flavor The Oaks would serve up on later recordings.  "He Is Mine And I Am His" is just as much pure southern gospel as "Mama’s Hungry Eyes" is pure country.  That Merle Haggard song was one of the Oaks’ earliest excursions into secular music, although it would eventually take a true saloon song for country DJs to take them seriously.  William Lee’s mother, Ruth Golden, wrote "Don’t Scatter The Sheep," with a little help from the prophet Jeremiah (chapter 23).  The title track, "Thanks," is rendered with a sassy Motown vibe that would do Aretha Franklin proud.  The big finish is a scorching live performance of The Oaks’ signature gospel song, "Jesus Is Coming Soon."  Willie’s really got his Rosie Rozell on in the high note on that one. 

    The back cover photo shows The Boys looking like rock stars in stylish Apache ties while standing in front of scaffolding, perhaps symbolic of a great music career under construction.  Thanks, Boys, for another landmark gospel album.


Outstanding Cuts:  Jesus Is A Soul Man, I Am His And He Is Mine, Jesus Is Coming Soon
Cut Outs: None


                                                                                                                                                               -Rick Forshee