The Downings – I Feel So Good About It (1974)
I will go ahead and start by saying that this is my all-time favorite album by the Downings. When I got this album, I was already familiar with several of the songs, as I had heard them on their “Praise Him-Live!” recording, which I had heard prior to getting my hands on “I Feel So Good About It”. When I first heard this album, I was absolutely floored by it. The robust arrangements, the strings and brass, the singing, the songs…it was perfect in every way! I remember the giddy feeling I had when I first listened to the album, and I just could not stop listening to it. Even now, every time I listen to the album, it still brings me great joy as it not only reaches me at a spiritual level, but it also makes that creative side of my brain say, “wow…this is some good stuff!”
The album was produced by Bob MacKenzie and string/horn arrangements were provided by Barry McDonald. I was unfamiliar with who McDonald was, but after some research, I discovered that he was the assistant music director for Johnny Cash’s network TV show in the early 70’s. He was a much sought-after individual for his excellent orchestral work. He also did the orchestrations for the Imperials’ highly acclaimed album, “No Shortage”, which was released the following year in 1975. McDonald was a genius (in my opinion), as the orchestral arrangements on this album are simply spectacular and they really pop. The album has a very bright and exciting feel to it, and it’s one of my all-time favorite orchestrated albums.
I love the backliner notes on the back cover, which were written by Bob MacKenzie. In his assessment of this album, he states to the Downings, “The way you sing these songs is special! You bring them so much heart…so much deep feeling that I have to say what for me is the ultimate compliment to a singer…I believe you! This honesty…this believability is what makes me excited about the Downings…and especially your new album.” I concur with Bob, that the greatest compliment you can ever give a singer is “I believe you”, and the genuineness of the vocals on this album definitely convey that believability factor.
The title song, “I Feel So Good About It”, penned by Dave Redman and published by the Downings, gets the album started with its “feel good” vibe and truly sets the tone for the album with its bright horns and groovy feel. Featuring Dony, the song enjoyed a few months in the charts, cresting at #15 in September 1975. While the song wasn’t a Top 10 or Top 5 hit, it was a huge concert favorite for the Downings, and still remains one of their most remembered tunes. In fact, Bob MacKenzie wasn’t too keen on the song at all, but after traveling with the Downings one weekend and seeing the crowd response to the song, he was completely sold on it, and the rest is history!
Slowing the tempo down, Paul steps up to sing the worshipful and unassuming, “In His Presence”, reminding us that “in His presence, there is fullness of joy”, before the tempo picks back up for the Lanny Wolfe classic, “God’s Wonderful People”. Featuring Joy and Ann, I absolutely adore this arrangement, and how they transition into the Gaither penned, “The Family of God” at the end is really cool as well. I love the playful horns and how they literally “pop” on this song, and it’s one my all-time favorite Downing tunes, before Ann sings the deeply emotional and contemporary sounding, “Lord, Don’t Take Your Love From Me”. I love the strings and guitar work on the song, as it recalls those deeply personal songs Ann is known for, and it’s one of my personal favorite Ann features.
This side concludes with the highly invigorating, “Come On, Let’s Praise Him”, which was another great Lanny Wolfe penned tune. Starting off slow, the song quickly jumps into high gear, with everyone taking multiple step out lines in the song, it’s literally, every man for himself before the song is over! “Greater is He” was just a warm-up compared to this song, as this really moves along at a pretty good clip! I can only imagine what it was like trying to learn and sing this song in concert…it had to be fun, but also a bit intimidating at the same time trying to keep up with who sings what and where! Nonetheless, it’s a highlight of the album and another one of my all-time favorite tunes by the Downings.
Side two starts off slow as Joy sings the Red Back Hymnal classic, “Oh, I Want to See Him”. The group joins her on the second verse as the tempo picks up ever so slightly, before the banjo chimes in as they kick things into high gear on the chorus. Spending almost 6 months in the Top 20, peaking at #12, the song was a highly popular concert favorite for the Downings and it’s my personal favorite rendition of this classic gem!
Ann, Joy, Dony and Paul each take the lead on the verses on the highly enjoyable, “He Gave Me Joy”, written by Terry Harper and published by the Downings. Filled with Pentecostal undertones, it fit the Downings’ style and messaging perfectly, and is one of my favorite tunes from this album.
Starting off acapella, the worshipful “Praise Him Now” slows the pace back down a bit after two power packed up-tempo songs. With Ann and Paul taking a verse and Dony and Joy taking a verse, it’s a very calming worship tune written by the same gentleman who penned the album’s title song, Dave Redman.
Keeping the tempo in slow mode, Paul thoughtfully takes the lead on the acoustically driven, “He Rescued Me”, written by Jimmy Pearce. Starting off slow, the song sounds like it would have fit perfectly on their “Greater” album. The group, Endless Highway, has recently enjoyed some success with their version of this song and they do a really great job with it. I was actually very familiar with this song long before I heard this record, as a local group in my area, the Whites, sang and recorded the song, but they really made it into an amazing power ballad, and when I heard this album, I was like “I know that song!”. It’s a really great song and a terrific inclusion on this album.
The album closes out with the dramatic flair of “Just Keep Praising Him”, written by Carolyn Gillman. If that name sounds familiar, she also wrote the wonderful song, “He’s Ever Interceding” that the Speers recorded in 1980. I loved this song the very first time I heard it and really wish someone would bring it back, as it’s such a tremendous song! I love the dynamics of the song…the singing, the arrangement and the horns are all perfect, and it was a great way to end such an amazing record!
When this album came out, it was met with much fanfare. In fact, during the 1974 National Quartet Convention, the Downings performed their set backed by an orchestra. Those who were witness to this event, say it was the highlight of the convention that year!
“I Feel So Good About It” was a very progressive sounding album that was very upbeat and cheerful. While “Greater” dialed back the progressiveness ever so slightly, this album put it squarely in focus! “I Feel So Good About It” is truly an experience to be relished and it’s such a tremendous piece of creativity that far excels anything else the Downings ever recorded. Some of the greatest music the Downings ever created is found on this one album and it’s such an enjoyable listen…and it just makes me feel so good about it!
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