Make this the second near-perfect release in a row for the Oak Ridge Boys. While overall, I do not think this album is quite as good as 'Have Arrived', I do not wish to take ANYTHING away from this album. This is another collection of 10 great songs, with none of them deserving to be skipped over. This album yielded three more smash hits for the Boys, but all ten songs are an absolute joy to listen to. All four members are featured, once again, with lead vocal duties. The harmonies are full and wonderful. And the production is great once again (except for the horrible over use of reverb throughout).
If the country music fans of
the day thought The Oak Ridge Boys couldn't get any better, they were about to
be blown away! The Oaks were about to take the country by storm and become
a household name. Great albums like this one, are what most artists dream
of having just one of. But The Oak Ridge Boys were about to kick it up a
notch....a notch that I doubt they even expected. Fasten your seatbelts,
Outstanding Cuts: ALL
Cut Outs: none
The Oaks had huge success with their first three country albums, with the last two albums having a huge 70s country-pop crossover sound of the time, and spawning eight top ten hits, with several crossing over to the pop and AC charts. As 1980, and the Urban Cowboy era started, the Oaks were ready to release their next album, with even bigger arrangements, which they called “Together”.
The first song is what I call an “anti-drinking” song called “Whiskey Lady”, which is one of those redemptive songs the Oaks liked to use, with gritty terms and a positive message. It is a song I wouldn’t give four stars to, but one I would give very close to it, as I really liked it. Next is “Ready to Take My Chances”, a song I would call a little better than average. Helen Cornelius, who had some country hits in the 70s, wrote this song. On this song, as the song fades out at the end, the Oaks say they sing “ready to take Ron Chancey”, though I’VE never been able to make that lyric out.
Next is the album’s first single, the country hit “Trying to Love Two Women”. It is rare for the Oaks to sing a song about “cheating”, but it was a good follow-up to “Leaving Louisiana”, had major hit potential, and after Richard’s success with “Dream On”, it gave someone other than Duane the lead on a single. The song made it to #1 on both Billboard and Cashbox’s Country Charts, staying in the Billboard Country Top Ten for six weeks. This song was one of the Oaks’ biggest hits prior to “Elvira” one year later.
The fourth song was the second single, the crossover hit “Heart of Mine”. The writing on this song was excellent. It's a beautifully orchestrated arrangement, and ought to have been, if anything, an even bigger AC record than it was. It may be Duane's finest performance; in fact, I think it is, followed closely by “Cryin' Again”. This song was also nominated for a Grammy. “Heart of Mine” reached #3 on the Billboard Country Charts, staying in the top ten of those charts for five weeks, and reached #4 on the Cashbox Country Charts. Also, “Heart of Mine” crossed over, reaching #49 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts, and it reached #105 on the Billboard Pop Charts. So this song was a huge success. Foster wrote “Heart of Mine” before signing with the Oaks’ Publishing Companies, Silverline and Goldline, at which he became one of their most frequent songwriters, with all of his output coming between 1980 and 1986, when the companies were sold.
The fifth song on “Together” was the third single, “Beautiful You”, which has all harmony singing throughout. The song runs over four minutes, which is longer than most country songs of the period, and was not edited for single release, like “Elvira” was a few months later. The Oaks sing against the instrumentation rather than with it, and the long guitar finish at the end was and is unusual on country radio. Some jocks faded the record out after the singing stopped and talked over the finish, primarily for length, but also because the arrangement is geared to a crossover audience, as the Oaks were beginning to attract at that time, and would increase exponentially just a few months later with Elvira. It reached #1 on the Cashbox Country Charts, and reached #3 on the Billboard Country Charts, staying in the top ten for five weeks. This was a song I liked, and it is also my mother’s favorite Oaks song.
Next we have the Robin Batteau-written song “Take This Heart”, which was a hit for Batteau, when he was singing in Batteau & Buskin. Duane does a great job on “Take This Heart”, and Chancey's production is excellent. There is also great wordplay in the writing of this song. This was a song I liked a little better than average. The next song on the album is “Love Takes Two”, which is also full of excellent wordplay, and was a song I liked.
Next is the top-of-the-fence song, which passes for gospel on this album, A Little More Like Me (The Crucifixion)”, which is about a bystander in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, told in the song from his point of view. Many have said that of all the Sonny Throckmorton songs the Oaks have recorded, this is the best-written, as well as being one of Duane's best performances. This is a very cool song from a cool album. I would not have singled it ahead of the three “Together” songs that were chosen, but it would have been interesting to see how it would have done. I thought this song was about average, though.
Next was a song that many critics thought was the low point of the album, “I Can’t Imagine Laying Down (With Anyone But You)”, which features the bass voice of Richard Sterban. I didn’t like this song either. The album closes with a rock song (though it has banjos in it) that features Joe Bonsall’s grittier side, “Holdin’ on to You”. Joe has a grittier performance in this song than he has in most songs, and the later choruses really show the Oaks in a rock mode, making the song a good sequel to “Dancing the Night Away” from the previous album. The song has bit more rock than “Dancing the Night Away”, and perhaps a bit less epic, but still, a very strong sequel. I liked this song.
Also, “Trying to Love Two Women” had a B-Side, “Hold On Til’ Sunday, which was Michael Foster’s first Oaks track written for Silverline-Goldline. However, it is one of the worst-written Oaks tracks ever, and would have definitely weakened the entire album if it made it to “Together”.
This album was a huge success. “Together" went Gold, surpassing 500,000 copies, on October 10, 1980. On Cashbox’s Country Album Charts, “Together” made it to number five. On the Billboard Country Album Charts, “Together” peaked at number ten on May 17, and stayed there for two weeks. (It charted lower than other ABC/MCA albums, yet went Gold, due to the Urban Cowboy era.) The album was also a success o the Pop Album Charts, reaching #86 on Cashbox’s Pop Album Charts, and #154 on the Billboard Pop Album Charts.
The Oaks also hosted “The Midnight Special” during this album run, singing “Trying to Love Two Women” and “Beautiful You”, as well as “Leaving Louisiana” and “Dream On”. I have been looking for footage of this appearance EVERYWHERE, and I just cannot find it. If anyone out there can put this footage on a DVD and would like to make me a copy or trade for it, I cannot tell you how much I would appreciate it. If you have it, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Oaks also had one of their concerts, one from Green Bay, WI, broadcasted over the radio on the “Country Greats in Concert” radio show sometime that year. The three singles were performed, plus “Whiskey Lady”, and the concert closed with a rare, GREAT performance of “Heaven Bound”. The concert only ran a little over 30 minutes, as it is believed the Oaks were opening for someone at the time, possibly Kenny Rogers during the “Full House" Tour. You can find this concert on YouTube. You can also find a concert on YouTube from this album run from the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ where “Trying to Love Two Women” is performed, and the show ends with “Just a Little Talk with Jesus”, as many of the shows ended at the time. It isn’t as long as the Green Bay show, but the arrangements are great. This E. Rutherford show might have been taped for a concert radio show, but I have never heard of it airing.
While many really like this album, and this album has gotten many positive reviews, it was only about an average album for me, and one of my least favorite of the ABC-MCA era. While there were some songs I liked on this album, as there were songs I liked on all of the ABC-MCA albums, as a whole, this album wasn’t one of my favorite ABC-MCA ones, to my mind. However, judging from how the rest of the public viewed this album, I’m sure you would like it a lot more than I did, as this album got rave reviews. Many thought this album was a great follow-up to “Have Arrived”, and a very strong album. I urge you to give it a listen.
My Favorite Tracks:Whiskey Lady, Trying to Love Two Women, Heart of Mine, Beautiful You, Love Takes Two, Holdin’ on to You
---John Vairin (email@example.com)
The Oaks' first three country albums were planted firmly in
1970's country/pop sound, from song selection, arrangements, overall sound, and
production. 1980's "Together," however, was a step in a more modern direction in
terms of sound. The mixes were tighter, the arrangements were bigger, and
everything was given a bit more reverb overall, giving it a lush quality absent
on previous albums.
This album included three more country hits (and the group's first Adult Contemporary crossover hit with "Heart of Mine"), but the album cuts are just as strong as the radio songs. In fact, I'd venture to say that the majority of songs on this album could've been released as singles and seen success.
Some of my favorite Oaks songs can be found on this album. "Whiskey Lady" is a cautionary tale that could be released today with little modification and sound right at home on country radio. "Love Takes Two" is a fun little exercise in word play, and "Holdin' On To You," while musically simple, shows off that classic Joe Bonsall energy.
Following the precedent set by "Dream On," Richard gets another ballad on this album, taking him into his upper register with "I Can't Imagine Laying Down (With Anyone But You)" (which is also the only time that the traditional four-part harmony is skipped). Going forward, he would get at least one ballad on each Chancey-produced album. Duane also continues to get moving ballads with "Ready To Take My Chances" and "Take This Heart" (a personal favorite of mine).
Golden's lone lead on the album is the Sonny Throckmorton song, "Tryin' To Love Two Women," which fans still recognize to this day (and remains a staple on classic country radio stations), while "Beautiful You" is unique in that it features all four vocals throughout the song, with only a few step out lines for Duane.
The stand-out track, however, is a Kenny Rogers cover, "A Little More Like Me (The Crucifixion)," a unique take on the death of Christ as seen from the viewpoint of a casual observer. While it may not have made it as a gospel hit, it definitely showed that despite "going country," they were still a gospel quartet at heart. This would also become more evident in the coming albums....
If I had to pick my top five favorite Oaks albums in terms of strength, quality, production, and longevity, "Together" would be among them.