The Nelons – Glad You’re Here (1996)
“Glad You’re Here” was the first studio recording for the Nelons in 2 years. The group did not release a new studio album in 1995, but instead released a live recording and video entitled, “Hallelujah Live”. It contained a few songs from their 1994 “Triumphant” recording, as well as live versions of previously recorded songs such as “Holy is Thy Name”, “I’ve Won”, “Walk Right Out of This Valley” and “Revival in the Land”. The recording also featured a couple of songs the group had not previously recorded such as “You Gotta Walk that Lonesome Road” and “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand”. It was recorded live at Mount Paran Church of God West, not to be confused with Mount Paran Church of God North, which is where their live recording, “A Promised Reunion” was recorded. The singing is great on “Hallelujah Live”, but my favorite part of the evening is hearing is Amber say, “It’s shake and bake, and I helped!”. Priceless!
For “Glad You’re Here”, Lari Goss is back in the producer’s chair, but much like their “Triumphant” recording, outside of a couple of songs, the orchestrations are kept at a minimum. It still has that Nelons feel to it, but it has a very warm and “homey” vibe. The cover is one of my favorite cover shots of the group and it also emanates that warm, inviting and “homey” feeling. The entire recording has a rich feel to it and a certain depth in its overall quality.
The recording starts off with the medium tempo, acoustically driven tune, “No More Tears”, which was written by Mark Mathes and published by Rex Nelon Music. Featuring Charlotte and having almost an Irish feel to it, the song was the first single released from this recording, peaking at #15 in the Singing News Chart for July and August of 1996. The Nelons recorded several of Mathes’ songs in the forthcoming years and his tunes have been recorded by numerous other groups including Gold City, Tribute Quartet, Karen Peck & New River, and the Gaither Vocal Band. On a personal note, his song, “Finish Well”, by Karen Peck & New River, was one of the songs I chose to be played at my mom’s funeral in 2015.
As the tempo slows, Jerry and Kelly are featured on the beautiful testimony song, “I Touched His Garment”, which was written by Jerry, Kelly, and Wayne Goodine. This soothing song features lush harmonies as only the Nelons can do, before the tempo picks up for the progressive feel of the title song, “We’re Glad You’re Here”. The song was a wonderful opening tune for the group, as it played a two-fold purpose…welcoming those in attendance as well as welcoming the Holy Spirit.
One of my favorite songs from this recording is, “The Lord Stood By Me”, written by the Lois Gail Sypolt, who is the writer of such fabulous songs such as “The Judgement” by the Kingsmen and “It’s Still the Blood” by the Inspirations. Featuring Charlotte, the song charted briefly for the group in the latter half of 1997. It always puzzled me why the song didn’t fare as well, as it’s a fantastic song. The Down East Boys recorded it on their 1990, “Musical Cheers” recording, and I thought it was a great song then and was glad the Nelons recorded it and put their spin on the song. I particularly enjoyed the Nelons’ live performance of it on the Gaither Homecoming video, “Sing Your Blues Away”.
Jerry steps up next to sing the fun, up-tempo tune, “See What God Can Do”. Featuring some nice modern harmony, it’s a gem of a song, before Rex is featured on the bluesy feel of the JD Sumner penned classic, “I’m Gonna Serve the Lord Today”, which is a highlight of the recording, as was Rex’s performance on the timeless classic, “Time Has Made a Change in Me”, which features some really nice fiddle accents. I always loved hearing Dad Speer belting out the emotional sentiment of this song, and Rex’s wonderful performance ranks as my favorite rendition behind Dad Speer’s. Both aforementioned songs are examples of Rex’s drive to keep those wonderful classic songs alive, as he owned the publishing for both songs, and they were both brilliant inclusions on this recording.
Slowing the tempo down further, Kelly takes the lead on the song, “Blood on my Armor”, which was her big feature on this recording. This uniquely written lyric is a powerful reminder that though the battles we face may be rough and long, His blood is always covering us, and is always protecting us.
Starting off acapella, the upbeat, “Go Tell My People I’m Coming” features Kelly, along with some step out lines by Rex on the last chorus. Written by Jerry and Kelly, like many of Jerry’s songs, the song is about the second coming of Christ and is an enjoyable tune with a timely message for the church.
The sentimental, “I Will Always Need You” features, Kelly and her daughter, Amber, and is such a heartwarming song speaking on the strong bond between mother and daughter, before the recording closes out with one of my favorite Jerry Thompson features, “Only a Look”. The song actually comes from the black gospel genre, made popular by Rev. James Cleveland, and along with Cleveland, the song has been recorded by the Thrasher Brothers, Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Richard Smallwood, and others. Interesting tidbit about how songs will hit you later…I got this recording when it came out in 1996, and apparently glossed over the song for whatever reason. It was not until I heard Lillie Knauls’ version on the Gaither Homecoming video, “Sweet, Sweet Spirit”, which came out a few years later in 1999, did I sit up and take notice of the song. When I went back and listened to Jerry’s rendition from this recording, I fell in love with it, and it has become one of my favorite songs, and was a spectacular closing number for the recording.
Much like “Triumphant”, I thoroughly enjoyed “Glad You’re Here” and as I have already stated, I really enjoyed this particular version of the Nelons. Though “Triumphant” and “Glad You’re Here” were similar in many ways, as I said in the beginning, I felt “Glad You’re Here” had a richer quality to it and a fuller sound; which could have been the Lari Goss affect, since he produced this recording. Again, filled with strong songs, nice arrangements and a general cohesive “Nelons” feel, it was the perfect follow-up to “Triumphant”, and made me ready for more! Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen, as change was a-comin’. Charlotte met the fate of many-a female singer in our genre, as she married Greg Ritchie, who was the drummer for Jeff & Sheri Easter at the time. Eventually, she left the Nelons to be with her husband and provided the soprano vocals for Jeff & Sheri Easter, where they both remained for several years. Eventually, Greg moved on to play drums for the Gaither Vocal Band and the Homecoming events for several years, and then in late 2022, he moved on to play drums for the Isaacs. Charlotte became a staple in the Gaither Homecoming concerts, and she still remains a popular soloist on the Gaither Homecoming videos and concerts to this day. As a historical side note, Greg Ritchie’s father, Jerry Ritchie, was an original member of Gold City and sang with them from 1980 through 1985.
With Charlotte’s departure, the group once again was thrust into the throws of change. Throughout the decade of the 90’s, the Nelons experienced over a dozen personnel changes, as the vocal line-up changed every one to two years (or less). It was hard on the fans, but I can only imagine the struggle it was as a group going through these changes, but the Nelons persevered and continued to boldly march on. Though change is inevitable, it made the Nelons into the group they are today! It proves that while there may be a transition period (though it may be long and hard), the end result can be a beautiful one!
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