Dave Cobb, the in-demand producer of the moment, produced the Oak Ridge Boys’ 17th Avenue Revival.
He didn’t, however, attempt to transform this famed country quartet into some sort of hip legacy act.
Instead, he let this group – which was originally known as The Oak Ridge Quartet southern gospel
foursome – record a relatively straightforward gospel album.
17th Avenue Revival must be described as ‘a relatively straightforward gospel album’ because – although it sounds
traditional – some of its songwriting contributors can’t honestly be considered southern gospel writers.
For example, Brand Clark helped pen “Pray to Jesus.” This is a song exploring many lifestyle hypocrisies
found within southern life. Good folks may go to church on Sunday, its lyric tells us, but – even though
they’ve placed their faith in Jesus – they buy (hopefully) lucky lotto tickets on the way home whenever
the payoff gets especially high. They also get divorced and remarried because they don’t like to sleep
alone. As Kris Kristofferson once sang, these people are walking contradictions.
Charlie Jackson’s “God’s Got It” is a rollicking rave-up, where as “I’d Rather Have Jesus” is sung like an
end-of- service altar call. “Let It Shine on Me” even builds up to a black church revival meeting groove.
With only nine songs, Oak Ridge Boys still cover a lot of ground.
Listening to Oak Ridge Boys’ 17th Avenue Revival is a little like capturing the act in its natural habitat. It’s
the sound of a veteran group playing to its strengths and loving every minute of it.