Two years after the Rex Nelon Singers was launched, they released this career album. “Feelings” was a phenomenal record and really stretched the group creatively. Seems like 1979 was a pivotal year for several groups as the Happy Goodmans, Hinsons and Rambos all released groundbreaking albums that year. This latest album by the Rex Nelon Singers was truly a trailblazing album, and it ranks as one of my all-time favorite records by the group.
Produced by Ken Harding and string arrangements by Otis Forrest, the liner notes also names Mary Fielder as handling vocal arrangements for the album (while I am not familiar with her, I’ve seen her name on a few other albums from the late 70’s and early 80’s). The album lists 18 musicians as playing on this album, not including those playing strings. With 2 bass players, 2 drummers, 3 steel guitar players and 7 different guitar players, it’s obvious this album was recorded in multiple sessions over a series of weeks, maybe even months. The effort was worth it, as they released a phenomenal album that continues to stand the test of time!
The contemporary feel of the opening song, “More Than Conquerors” tells the listener, right off the bat, that this is going to be a very different album from their first studio album. Written by Janny and Bill Grine and featuring Kelly, the song was a huge hit for the group spending over a year in the charts, peaking at #3 in November 1979. I always loved the drums kicking in on the turn-around and I distinctly remember hearing the group sing this song on the Gospel Singing Jubilee numerous times and it is one of my all-time favorite Nelon songs.
Rex found gold in Nancy Harmon tunes early in the 70s, and “Yesterday, Today, Forever”, which was written by Nancy, was a great fit for Janet and it’s a highly enjoyable tune before Rex steps up to sing, “He’s My Best Friend”, which was a wonderful adaptation to Don Williams’ country hit, “You’re My Best Friend”. I love the acoustic feel as well as the harmonica and steel guitar accents on the song, and it’s always been one of my all-time favorite Rex features. The song fits him like a glove, and this isn’t the first time, nor would it be the last time the group would take songs from a different genre and make it their own, as the Nelons weren’t afraid to pull from CCM, Inspirational, Country, Black Gospel or anything else and make the song their own. This is what made them so unique and one of my favorite groups to listen to!
Dee Gaskin, who penned the group’s first big hit, “The Sun’s Coming Up”, followed up with another winner, “Come Morning”. Featuring Janet, the song became the group’s first #1 song, peaking 3 different times in June, August and October of 1980. Spending 2 years in the Top 20, the song became one of their signature hit songs and is one of Southern Gospel’s true classics, as the song was voted “Song of the Year” at the 1980 Singing News Fan Awards. In fact, the song was named “Song of the Decade” based off the airplay charts for Singing News Magazine for the decade of the 80’s. Janet turned in a magnificent performance of the song on her 2008 solo recording, “Treasure”, which was a recording highlighting some of her favorite and most memorable songs throughout her 30+ years of singing.
This side ends with the Jimmy Jones (a former member of the LeFevres) penned, “I Want to Be Like My Lord”, which features Rex. This song is Southern Gospel to the core and is one of my all-time favorite Nelon tunes. This was such a fun song to hear live and is one of the best songs with a bass feature. Several groups ran with this song including the Cathedrals, Florida Boys, Dixie Melody Boys, and more recently the Down East Boys and Inspirations. In fact, the Nelons recorded a live version of the song a couple years after this album came out on the Dixie Melody Boys’ live album, “The Dixie Melody Boys & Friends…Live!”, recorded in 1982. The Dixie Melody Boys sang the first half of the song, and the Rex Nelon Singers came out and sang the second half of the song. As an aside, there is another version of this song that is pretty appealing to me…the Hoppers recorded it around the same time as the Rex Nelon Singers, and instead of it being a bass feature, they turned it into a feature for the tenor and it worked out really well for them. They recorded it on their 1979 “Garment of Praise” album with Kirk Talley and then recorded it on their 1980 “Live” album with Will Hopper taking the lead (as Kirk had already left the Hoppers to join the Cathedrals by that time).
Gary Paxton, a rather eccentric singer/songwriter, penned another one of my all-time favorite Rex features, “Chains of Yesterday”. I remember I heard the song on the radio back in the mid-80s, and I absolutely loved it. Featuring a very progressive, country laden track, it’s one of the coolest songs I’ve ever heard! Aside from it being a very cool and groovy tune, it’s actually a pretty powerful lyric asking God to “give rest to the man in chains of yesterday”.
Slowing the tempo down, Kelly takes the lead on her own self-penned tune, “I’ll Have Faith”. Accented by strings and harmonica, it’s a wonderful effort by Kelly (both as a singer and a writer), who would eventually go on to write many other tremendous songs.
“Turn it Over to Jesus” is another Nancy Harmon penned tune that features Janet. Starting off slow and with a bit of a soulful feel, the tempo picks up about halfway through as it becomes a driving, infectious tune with a bit of Pentecostal fervor and is a highlight of the album.
Master songwriters, Joyce & Colbert Croft penned the worshipful, “Jesus is Here”, reminding us that “Jesus is here, to bless all His children”, before the record concludes with another one of my all-time favorite Nelon tunes, “Won’t it Be Worth it My Child”, which features Rodney. Several groups were singing this song back in the day, but I most remember hearing the Rex Nelon Singers sing this song on the Gospel Singing Jubilee as a kid, and I always loved hearing them sing it. No doubt, the song was a concert favorite as it has a contagious energy and a tune that will stick with you long after the music stops.
I remember the first time I ever heard this album…I was 16 years old and was working my first job as a Southern Gospel DJ at a local radio station in 1988. Working there afforded me the opportunity to hear a lot of music that had not been exposed to at that point in my life, and I was able to listen to records that I did not have in my collection at the time including albums by the Kingsmen, Sego Brothers & Naomi, Lanny Wolfe Trio, Rambos, etc. I was already familiar with some of the songs from this album, but when I finally was able to listen to it in its entirety, I absolutely fell in love with it. When I started collecting records in the early 90’s, this was one of the first albums I added to my collection. I also have always loved the cover shot on the front cover. I love the casualness and earthiness of it, as it gave a rather unassuming feel of what was truly captured within the grooves of the record inside.
While their first 2 albums were popular and successful, this album began a wave of success for the group that brought numerous hit songs and awards that would carry them for the next 10 years or so. In fact, “Feelings” was nominated for a Grammy (the first of 3 Grammy nominations the group would receive). In the first of many industry awards they would win, Janet Paschal took home the Singing News Fan Award for Female Singer of the Year for 1979.
As the title, “Feelings” implies, this was an album full of emotion and creativity, and it would prove that the group were trendsetters, and they would continue to release some of Southern Gospel’s most groundbreaking albums during the following decade.
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