I was browsing through the vinyl selection at Greville Records in Prahran one day when I stopped cold. There, resting between a Bobby Bland Japanese import and an old Blackalicious record, was an album I had long since stopped searching for: Charlie Rich’s Silver Linings, his mid-70’s gospel classic. Asking price $5!
I grabbed it and at the counter the store manager couldn’t believe the price either. ‘Is this right’, he muttered to himself but then shrugged. ‘You’re lucky day, I guess.” He took my money and I rushed out of the shop in case he changed his mind.
In the 1960s, Gospel albums were pretty much a must-do for an established Country artist. Basically they are easy to do with the same familiar standards that they used to grow up with, also it is an opportunity to show one’s faith and respect for tradition. With the coming of the glossy Countripolitan era, which Charlie Rich played an important role to form, those kind of albums became less fashionable (the Outlaws weren’t much interested in keeping that tradition either). However, producer Billy Sherrill seems to be one of the few who kept that going, as he kept recording Gospel albums with George Jones and Charlie here.
Gospel music is nothing new for Charlie, in fact his second single “Big Man” is a fine piece of Gospel-Pop. Here he keeps to the old standards with only one contemporary song in Kris Kristofferson‘s “Why Me”. Unlike his other albums from the era, Sherrill cut down a bit on the production here (there were no hits to be expected from this project anyway) and also Charlie is back on the piano stool (on his other later Epic recordings, session player Hargus “Pig” Robbins took over mostly). What we get is one of his best albums of the 70s and one of the greatest Country Gospel albums ever – his voice was made for this it seems (I wonder if I would have minded if he had become a full-time Gospel artist in the late 70s – sure would have been better than those lackluster Country-Pop LPs he put out). My favorite performances are especially “Down By the Riverside” and the grand finale of “The Milky White Way” and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” – they rank among is greatest vocal performances and he sucks you right into it. All the time he gets backed by a spirited chorus, but really his voice and the piano are up front and do the trick here. I really like the original cover of this LP, the CD issue I have looks bad and has also the wrong title, maybe I should get this on vinyl.. Well if you are a Charlie Rich and/or a Gospel music fan you really should get this, no matter what format.
So, dear readers of this blog, I commend to you the wonderful, somewhat hard to find, good old country gospel gem, from the Silver Fox, Mr. Charlie Rich.
Praise the Lord.
01 Will the Circle Be Unbroken
02 Down by the Riverside
03 Why Me
04 Were You There?
05 Old Time Religion
06 Just a Closer Walk With Thee
07 Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
08 Amazing Grace
09 The Milky White Way
10 Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child