From the Heart
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
The Oak Ridge Boys probably will be forever associated with their late 1970s hit "Elvira." But most people seem to have forgotten the quartet's roots as a Southern Gospel group. This is perhaps understandable considering they haven't recorded a Gospel album in 25 years (though they were inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame last year). It's rather amazing how good these four sound after all these years—they've been recording since the '60s. Nevertheless, bass vocalist Richard Sterban reportedly sings his lowest note ever here—on the song "Workin' On a Building"—and the other three blend seamlessly as they trade lead vocal duties. From the Heart is a well-balanced blend of country, pop, and Southern Gospel.
I would describe their music as somewhat old-fashioned in that this album isn't as likely to attract a younger demographic (except those raised on Southern Gospel) as it is people who remember The Oak Ridge Boys from the height of their popularity in the 1970s. I personally found the CD to be nostalgic and charming, often beautiful, and usually sappy. Lyrically and musically, there's not a lot else I can say. If you like Southern Gospel, you're basically looking for good performances that clearly express the Christian faith.
The Oak Ridge Boys deliver this on all counts via an impeccably produced album. You might say they're the Glad of Southern Gospel, since their vocal blend is so perfect. The songs vary enough to keep my attention, ranging from the country rock of "There's a Mansion" and the modern Southern Gospel shuffle of "Workin' On a Building" to the pop ballad "Show Me the Way to Go" and the classic Gospel sound of "First Step to Heaven." From the Heart crosses a lot of musical boundaries, all within the genre of country and Southern Gospel, but it's broad enough in musical styles to keep it interesting.
This group was forged from Southern Gospel, and to Southern Gospel they have returned. And because the album is so well performed and produced, the only real reason you'll like or dislike it is a matter of taste. If you're a fan of country-flavored Southern Gospel acts such as The Martins and Gaither Vocal Band, you'll like what the Oak Ridge Boys have to offer with From the Heart.