This 2014 Real Gone two-fer contains B.J. Thomas' 1979 album You Gave Me Love (When Nobody Gave Me a Prayer) and his 1982 record Miracle, plus three bonus tracks: one taken from a 1982 hits collection, and two others from The Word Family Christmas Album, Vol. 2 in 1981.
You Gave Me Love opens with a heavy dose of mawkishness -- a children's choir singing along with "Using Things and Loving People," which has a bit more sweetness than this sparkling sing-song tune deserves. Nevertheless, this does indicate that You Gave Me Love is a considerably bolder affair than its predecessor Happy Man, boasting a greater palette of sonic colors along with a few lively tempos to boot. This cheerfulness does not outweigh the ballads that remain the focus of Thomas here. Sometimes, the production is a little bit too exacting, a choice that slows the paces of those ballads and therefore the record at large, but generally this is a nicely balanced and sharp late-'70s CCM album. Miracle, in contrast to the even-handed You Gave Me Love, is quite adventurous, something that the spooky neo-prog opener "Satan, You're a Liar" suggests. The difference is a switch in producers, with Pete Drake stepping in for Archie P. Jordan and helping bring in a strong and varied set of songs. The range on Miracle is immediately apparent, once "Satan, You're a Liar" gives way to Bobby Braddock's gospel "Would They Love Him Down in Shreveport" -- and gospel resurfaces on "The Owner of the Store," which features support from the Jordanaires -- but that is quickly followed by the punchy pop of "Hey Jesus, You're My Best Friend," and the album also touches upon straight-up country via "Hand of the Man" and "I Need a Miracle," which Thomas and his wife Gloria co-wrote with B.W. Stevenson. Elsewhere, there are some snazzy reminders of mainstream pop -- the fuzzy fanfare of "Born Again" and Vegas splendor of "Mr. Heartache Mender" -- and this variety means Miracle is his first Christian album since Home Where I Belong to be as cannily crafted and successful as pure music. It's one of his best latter-day records by any measure.