Oak Ridge Boys “Bobbie Sue” – Classic Album Review
Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always found on the turntable, in the CD player, or in the MP3 player. Today, it’s a look back at some vintage Oak Ridge Boys. The Oak Ridge Boys have been around since the 1940’s, known originally as The Oak Ridge Quartet, focusing on Gospel music and enjoying a high level of success in that genre, through the 1970’s. However, as they began experimenting, more, with their sound and style, their gospel audience started shrinking, and eventually, the decision was made to go full-time into country music. That decision paid off, beginning with their release, Ya’ll Come Back Saloon. Today’s Classic Album Review looks back at the Oak Ridge Boys’ sixth MCA Records release, 1982’s Bobbie Sue. The album became their second number one album, along with becoming their second album to achieve at least Gold status; 1981’s Fancy Free was the first. Bobbie Sue would spend three weeks on top of the Country album charts, while peaking at twenty on the Pop album charts. Three singles were a part of the album, two would hit number one.
The album opens with the title cut, The Oak Ridge Boys’ other Pop success, as it followed “Elvira” into the Pop top 20, peaking at twelve. A blend of country and 1950’s-style rock ‘n roll, “Bobbie Sue” would become their sixth number one single.
“I Wish You Were Here (Oh My Darlin’)” is a standard country-pop ballad of the era, but that’s also the style in which the Oak Ridge Boys did some of the best work. I really loved the piano work on the second verse, an echo-y effect that sounds really cool through headphones. The rest of the track is fine, too.
A bouncy track, with more of a country and 1980’s-style rock mix, “Doctor’s Orders” isn’t the album’s best track, but it is a rather catchy, infectious melody, mixed with some mildly clever lyrical content.
On the other hand, “Old Kentucky Song” is one of the best tracks on the album, and it is a definite Hidden Gem contender. The mid-tempo piece has a sound more along the lines of the Oak Ridge Boys’ 1970’s ABC work. This is a very strong track, here.
Side one ends with another country-1950’s-style rock ‘n roll mix in “So Fine”. A 1959 pop/R & B hit for The Fiestas, this one struggled as the album’s second single, peaking at only twenty-two. I liked the track, but apparently much more so than the majority of country music listeners of that era.
Side two opens with the album’s third track and second number one single, “I Wish You Could Have Turned My Head (And Left My Heart Alone)”. Surely one of the longest titles to ever top the charts, this is one of those tracks, where as soon as you hear the melody hook, it’s burned into your brain and will play over and over and over again. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering it is a strong composition and possessor of a great sound from the Oak Ridge Boys and their musicians.
“Back In Your Arms Again” is another track that sounds like it could have been lifted from one of those 1970’s-era albums, as well. This is another high quality piece of music, though I admit, it took 2 or 3 listens before it really hooked me.
Those at least 45 years old, are likely familiar with the 1970 pop/rock hit from The Band, “Up On Cripple Creek”. Here, the Oak Ridge Boys give a slicker, more glitzy version, which actually comes off pretty well, despite the slickness. I admit, though, that the song does lose a little something with the slicker sound, losing a little grittiness found in the original. Plus, you have to like any track that includes a reference to revered leader of The City Slickers, Spike Jones.
Richard Sterban gets the lead vocals for most of the ballad “Until You”. A nice track, but not anything that stands out above the pack.
The album does have a strong end, though, as the Oak Ridge Boys return to their Gospel roots with “Would They Love Him Down In Shreveport”. Strong lyrics wondering about what people would think of Jesus in a modern world, basically doing the same things and talking to the same kinds of people he did during his first time on Earth.
This album was originally issued on vinyl, 8-track, and cassette. Used copies are plentiful, as I found all three formats (along with a couple of used CD’s) in the $3 to $15 price range. The album is still currently available in both the CD and MP3 formats, as well.
My pick for the Standout Track is “I Wish You Could Have Turned My Head (And Left My Heart Alone)”, while I give the Hidden Gem to “Old Kentucky Song”. I really don’t think there is a Weakest Track, here, though “Until You” did the least for me, out of the ten total tracks.
Overall, this is a good album that has a nice variety of music. Sure, there’s that 1980’s smooth, slick Country-pop style, but in the case of The Oak Ridge Boys, that’s not really a bad thing, because that’s the style that gave us some of their best work. No really weak songs, here, either. It’s a pleasant listening experience from start to end, that I rate a 4 out of 5.