Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Absolutely Gospel called, “Vinyl Record Review”. I am excited to offer this weekly feature and I appreciate the opportunity to do so! First, let me introduce myself to you for those who don’t know me. My name is James Hales, I live in North Carolina, and I’ve been doing music reviews and feature articles for Absolutely Gospel for 22 years now, but my love for this music started way back around 1978, when I was about 6 or 7 years old. Being a nosy little kid, I started plundering through the bottom of a bedroom closet in our house, and I discovered a treasure trove of records there. In that stack, there were a few country artists mixed in, but most of the records I found were gospel, and those were the albums that I was interested in the most. In this stack was a wonderful mix of artists such as the Oak Ridge Boys, Rambos, Inspirations, Speers, Sego Brothers & Naomi, Florida Boys, and many others. In all the wonderful music I discovered that day, the group that intrigued me the most was the Happy Goodman Family, and after I discovered them, I was hooked for life!
I grew up watching the Gospel Singing Jubilee on Sunday mornings during the late 70’s and early 80’s, and outside of those records and the Gospel Singing Jubilee, that was my only exposure to Southern Gospel Music for a few years, as there wasn’t a local radio station playing Southern Gospel Music. I attended my first concerts around 1980 where I saw the Inspirations and Florida Boys at 2 separate events in the area, but didn’t really start going to more concerts until around 1982 or so. During my high school and college years (late 80s and early 90s), I was a DJ playing Southern Gospel music and fancied myself a young Paul Heil, as I would go around to concerts and interview the artists. In the early and mid-90s, I started seriously collecting records, and as my wife would probably tell you, it’s become a bit of an obsession! I love this music, especially its rich history.
I don’t fancy myself as being an expert, but I am much more than just a casual listener. I love studying the evolution of a group’s sound and I pay attention to little music nuances in a song. I am a huge fan of this music, especially the music of the 60s, 70s and 80s. As I have studied this wonderful music, I’ve been able to play a small role within the industry as a DJ and journalist, and it’s become a bit of a passion of mine to write about the music I love so much! As I stated earlier, I started writing for Absolutely Gospel back at the turn of the century (that sounds SO long ago!) and then back in October 2020, on a whelm, I started my own music page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/James-Music-Page-102612571620560) as an extension of what I do here for Absolutely Gospel. Soon, an idea sparked in my mind to review each album by the Happy Goodman Family (since they were my all-time favorite group), and in late January 2021, I embarked on that journey. I never intended to continue beyond just the records by the Goodmans, but I enjoyed it so much that I jumped into reviewing each album by the Hinsons and then the Rambos. You can check out those reviews by visiting my music page on Facebook (see link above). I have thoroughly enjoyed writing these reviews, so my intentions are to continue doing so there on my music page, as well as at Absolutely Gospel.
So, starting next week here at Absolutely Gospel (in conjunction with my music page), I will start my next series with one of the most popular groups during the 70s…the Downings. Please join me as we walk through each album and song during the ensuing weeks; and for those who enjoyed their music back in the day, I hope it’s a wonderful walk down memory lane. If you’ve never experienced the music of the Downings, may this be your introduction to what you may have missed, and hopefully you’ll find how awesome their music was and become a fan yourself!
Who knows who I’ll hit up next after the Downings, as I’ve got several other groups lined up that I want to tackle! I always welcome your comments, and I love to hear your perspectives about these legendary groups and their albums, so I look forward to hearing from you! So, until next week…