With the Dixie Echoes in the ten on ten spotlight yesterday, I thought it fitting to include them in the classic video feature as well. This clip of the Dixie Echoes is from the Sing Out America television program. The year was 1986; the song “It’s So Good”. Enjoy!
Another week, another ten on ten feature. This week finds an artist whose recording career spans nearly 50 years. The Dixie Echoes released their first recording in 1963. Their discography now consists of over 60 recordings. A group that was the product of JG Whitfield and later purchased by Dale Shelnut. The group transitioned to Randy Shelnut at the passing of Dale Shelnut in 1983. The group continues today under the leadership of Randy Shelnut Jr and Stewart Varnado.
How do you determine the ten best recordings of a group with an extensive recording career like the Dixie Echoes? While tough, it was completed. Here are the results.
The Dixie Echoes ten best albums are:
Harvest Of New Hits (1974)
Press On (2002)
Sounds Of Sunday (2006)
Shades Of Thought (1970)
A New Chapter (2005)
Exciting And Inspiring (1968)
One Mind And Many Chords (1991)
Memories – A Tribute To Dale Shelnut (1983)
The strongest period of the Dixie Echoes career came between the years 1968 and 1974. It is not surprising that 4 of the group’s top 10 albums are from this time period. The legends in the group sometime during this time frame, in addition to Dale Shelnut, were Bobby Clark, Coy Cook, Larry Ford, Tim Riley, Calvin Runion, Billy Dale Sexton, Vaughn Thacker and Ken Turner.
The group’s #1 album was their 1973 release Live. This was recorded in Gadsden Alabama the same night the Kingsmen also recorded a landmark album; Big And Live. ”He’s More Than Just A Swear Word”, “Life Can Have New Meaning”, “I Want To See Jesus”, “Walking The Sea” and “Trouble In My Way” all highlight this album.
The very next year the Dixie Echoes followed up Live with Harvest Of New Hits. This 1974 album ranks #2 among the Dixie Echoes best albums. One of Dale Shelnut’s all time biggest songs, “My Real Home” is found on this album.
The biggest modern era Dixie Echoes recordings are Press On (2002) and Sounds Of Sunday (2006). The albums rank #3 and #4 respectively. Since you can still find Press On in CD format, it is the one Dixie Echoes recording that every Southern Gospel listener should have in their collection.
Dale Shelnut was another of those larger than life stage personalities. He could command a stage like few could. Few groups, during the height of the Dixie Echoes popularity, wanted to follow them on stage.
The group released what would be their final album with Dale Shelnut in 1982 titled Assurance. This legend left us way too soon when he suffered a heart attack in 1983. Both the Assurance album and the Tribute To Dale Shelnut Album is among the group’s ten best.
The group is at a place again in their career where they command a stage. In the early part of the 2000′s, Randy Shelnut decided to re-invent the group by going retro. He decided the group would do every concert around two mics. The group continues to impress with vocals and light musical accompaniment.
The forgotten gem in the Dixie Echoes discography is their 2005 effort, A New Chapter. One of the strongest song selections of any album in the group’s career.
As with any group, there is also that album that should be forgotten. In the Dixie Echoes case that album is their 1994 recording One More Celebration. Speaking of the ’90s, there is only one album from that decade that ranks among the group’s ten best. That album is their 1991 recording One Mind And Many Chords.
Since the Dixie Echoes have such a large discography there are a few honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the top 10 but still deserve a mention: Heaven Is What Dreams Are Made Of (1997), New Sounds (1972), Coast To Coast (1979), So Many Reasons (2008) and Reunion (2000).
***NEXT UP ON TEN ON TEN: KAREN PECK & NEW RIVER***
Now, lets take a look at the second part of our spotlight on 1973. Enjoy!
The Dixie Echoes released one of my favorite recordings by the group in 1973; Live. Dale Shelnut was still in top form and the album included songs such as “Life Can Have A New Meaning” and “Trouble In My Way”. My favorite from that recording was “I Want To See Jesus”. Take a listen.
Talking about music from this era wouldn’t be complete without looking at the Happy Goodmans. The Legendary Goodmans was the album released by Canaan in 1973. While not on the cover, John Cook was part of the vocal line-up on the recording along with Vestal. Listen to “He’s Coming Again”.
The Hemphills were recording for Benson and the Heart Warming label at this point in their career. The group was a trio vocal line-up during the recording of In Action, a live recording released in 1973. One of Joel’s classic songs, “I Found A Better Way”, kicked off the recording.
The Hopper Brothers & Connie were not ‘top tier’ in the early 1970′s. Their time would come in the ’90s. Nevertheless, the group was still releasing music that deserves a mention. During this time, the group released several albums with Calvary Records. In 1973 came Our Kind Of Gospel and a song titled “But Such As I Have”.
When I Wake Up To Sleep No More was the album released by the Inspirations. This song went on to be one of the most recorded songs of this time period and is now a true Southern Gospel classic. Listen to that title track.
The Kingsmen released a landmark album in 1973 with the release of Big And Live. This brought them to the forefront of the industry and the group would go on to release several more landmark live recordings in their career. The group also introduced a song that would go on to be a quartet classic; “Glory Road”.
Dottie Rambo is one of Southern Gospel’s most influential songwriters, penning many gospel music standards. The Rambos were also no slouches when it game to singing. “Sailing Toward Home” is now one of those Dottie Rambo standards. Here’s the group singing that from their 1973 album Sing Me On Home.
To close out the look at 1973 I decided to go with a lesser known artist instead of a more high-profile artist like the Imperials or Oak Ridge Boys. While both groups had strong recordings from 1973, I wanted to take a look at the Telestials. The members of the group are probably more well-known for writing classics of this era, “Here They Come” and “One Way Flight” than they were for performing. Jesus Christ More Than Just A Superstar was released on Calvary Records in 1973 by the Telestials. Listen to a song titled “Eternal Life”.
Thanks for allowing me this walk down memory lane. Be looking for more retro spotlights in the future.
This week’s smack down feature has a song written by noted Southern Gospel songwriter Ann Ballard. There are several other versions of “It’ll Be Joy”, but this week I wanted to use the 1974 Dixie Echoes version and the 2001 version by the Poet Voices.
One of Southern Gospel’s all time greatest lead singers Dale Shelnut was featured on the 1974 Dixie Echoes version. Dale was known for the spirituals he did in concert. Those same songs found their way on to the group’s recordings. The 1974 album, Harvest Of New Hits, that featured “It’ll Be Joy” was a great album. Another song from that recording that I enjoy also features Dale titled, “My Real Home.” The Dixie Echoes will take the first verse and chorus.
Phil Cross put Poet Voices together sometime around 1992. The group first started as a trio and put their debut recording out in 1993. The group was an instant hit as their debut single “Jesus Built A Bridge” went to #1 in 1994. By the end of the ’90s the group had become a quartet and found even greater success with the 1998 song of the year “I Am Redeemed”.
Quite a few individuals spent some time with Poet Voices during the group’s career. Tony Jarman, who would later join Legacy Five, sang tenor for the group. Mike Allen, now a member of LeFevre Quartet, sang bass and Scott Inman began his career as the group’s final baritone. Another member that would later go on to big things with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound was bass singer Tim Duncan. Tim was a member of the group when they recorded their 2001 recording, This Changes Everything. The Poet Voices version of “It’ll Be Joy” features Tim on the verses. Poet Voices will take the second verse and chorus.