SOUTHERN GOSPEL MUSIC:
40 GREATEST LIVE ALBUMS
Riversong Records (RO2387), 1987
Producers: Eldridge Fox & Jim Hamill
Location: Municipal Auditorium - Jackson, MS
Personnel: Ray Dean Reese, Eldridge Fox, Jim Hamill, Ed Crawford, Arthur Rice, Garry Sheppard, Anthony Burger, Greg Fox, Gary Dillard
The Kingsmen have appeared on more than twenty live albums in their more-than-six-decade career, and quite naturally appear on this list more than any other artist. It would seem that the live album had become a mastered art form for the Kingsmen by 1987, yet recording a live album in Jackson, Mississippi, proved to be no easy task. The year prior, the group attempted to record a live album only to suffer equipment malfunctions while recording. A few days later, they regrouped in Nashville and recorded what would be known as Stand Up - At Opryland USA. However, the audience response in Jackson was such that Kingsmen manager and producer Eldridge Fox promised that the Kingsmen would indeed record a live album there at the Municipal Auditorium. He delivered on his promise the following year, and the Kingsmen classics "Look for Me at Jesus' Feet", "Inside the Gate", "When Mama Prayed", "Holiness Fire", and others were captured on tape before one of the most enthusiastic audiences for which the Kingsmen had the priviledge of performing.
A Farewell Celebration
Gaither Gospel Series, 2000
Producers: Bill Gaither & Bryan Bateman
Location: Ryman Auditorium - Nashville, TN
Personnel: George Younce, Glen Payne, Scott Fowler, Ernie Haase, Roger Bennett, with special appearances by The Statler Brothers, Oak Ridge Boys, Sandi Patty, Guy Penrod, Bill Gaither, Buddy Greene, Jake Hess, James Blackwood
The Ryman Auditorium, already rich in history, made additional history with the Cathedrals Farewell Celebration. Bill and Gloria Gaither and their Homecoming production team captured not just a great live video and audio recording for their Homecoming series, but one of their greatest Homecoming productions period, with the final taping of the Cathedrals before their retirement at the end of 1999. The legendary quartet performed their hits and were joined by an all-star guest list that represented a who's who in Christian and Country music. No one could have imagined that beloved lead vocalist Glen Payne would be laying down some of his final recorded performances. Payne would unexpectedly pass only months later after a brief battle with liver cancer. Payne's final stamp on "We Shall See Jesus" proved that the "old man" was going out at no less than his very best.
Lift the Roof Off
Calvary Records (STAV5187), 1984
Producer: Nelson Parkerson
Location: LaFayette, LA
Personnel: Kenny, Eric, Yvonne, Ronny
The Hinsons found their match in an audience in LaFayette, Louisiana, and some of their greatest hits of the decade of the 80s rang through the auditorium as only the Hinsons could render them. Riding on the success of their number one hit, "Call Me Gone", Ronny, Kenny, Yvonne, and Eric staged another of their grand barn-burners for the first time, "Old Time Feeling", which would provide them with yet another Singing News Top Ten Hit. Yvonne Hinson was perhaps at her vocal peak during this period, and the messages of new Ronny Hinson songs such as "I Am Free" and "I Must Be Getting Closer to the Cross" proved simple, yet profound. Lift the Roof Off represents the Hinsons just as we remember them...dynamic, charismatic, and certainly annointed.
Live at the University of Alabama
Heart Warming Records (RO3816), 1983
Producers: Eldridge Fox & Jim Hamill
Location: University of Alabama Campus - Tuscaloosa, AL
Personnel: Ray Dean Reese, Eldridge Fox, Big Jim Hamill, Wayne Maynard, Ed Crawford, Ernie Phillips, Anthony Burger, Greg Fox, Gary Dillard
From the moment the boys from Asheville stepped to the stage and harmonized "Rolllllll Tiiiiddde", the momentum remained high from the first note to the last, as the Kingsmen recorded another live album of memorable favorites. They earned their second Singing News number one hit, "Saints Will Rise", as well as another flagship favorite, "Child, Child", which are still performed by The Kingsmen today. "More Excuses" could easily be looked upon by fans as a musical misstep, yet it only testified to the magnitude of the quartet's previous number one hit. Ernie Phillips placed two more memorable tenor performances on his final Heart Warming album for the Kingsmen, "When Crossing Time Shall Come" and "I'm So Glad That Jesus Saved My Soul".
Double Take Live
Riversong Records (RO 2320), 1986
Producer: Eldridge Fox
Location: Lightsey Chapel Auditorium at Charleston Southern University - Charleston, SC
Personnel: Tim Riley, Mike LeFevre, Ivan Parker, Brian Free, Garry Jones, Jerry Lloyd, Jeff Hullender, John Noski
Gold City was no doubt America's fastest-rising quartet during the mid 80s. With Double Take, their career ascended to even greater heights, providing them with their third number one single, "When I Get Carried Away". Brian Free gave some of his most popular performances with "Come On In", and especially on the Squire Parsons-penned ballad, "The Greatest of All Miracles". Particularly memorable on the latter was Free's testimony of just recently accepting Jesus as his personal Savior. From this point, the vocal lineup of Riley, LeFevre, Parker, and Free could quite literally do no wrong for their audiences over the next six years.
National Gospel Quartet Convention
RCA Victor (LSP-2728), 1963
Producer: Darol Rice
Location: Ellis Auditorium - Memphis, TN
Personnel: The Blackwood Brothers-JD Sumner, Cecil Blackwood, James Blackwood, Bill Shaw, Wally Varner; The Stamps Quartet-Big John Hall, Terry Blackwood, Roger McDuff, Jerry Redd, Joe Roper; Oak Ridge Boys-Herman Harper, Gary McSpadden, Smitty Gatlin, Willie Wynn, Tommy Fairchild; Statesmen Quartet-Hovie Lister, Big Chief, Doy Ott, Jake Hess, Rosie Rozell; Kingsmen-Reece McKinney, Raymond McKinney, Frank Cutshall, Jack Henderson, Ray Talley; Speer Family-Mom & Dad Speer, Brock Speer, Ben Speer, Ginger Smith Laxson
Perhaps no greater sample of gospel music during the decade of the 60s exists than this recording captured at the 1963 National Quartet Convention at Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, Tennessee. The Blackwood Brothers, Oak Ridge Boys, Statesmen, and Speer Family were riding high as four of the industry's top groups, and the newly-reorganized Stamps Quartet and rising favorite The Kingsmen were given a grand opportunity to display their fresh talents. This marked the only time that any Kingsmen lineup prior to the Jim Hamill era was featured on a live record. The Blackwoods, Speers, and Statesmen even staged some newly-written songs just for this album. JD Sumner penned "I'll Be Alright Someday" for the Blackwoods, Big Chief contributed "Trying to Get a Glimpse" and Ralph Goodpasteur "I'm Saved and I Know That I Am" for the Statesmen, and the Speer Family recorded "When I Think of Calv'ry", written by then-fledgling songwriter Bill Gaither.
JD Sumner and the Stamps
Live in Nashville
Heart Warming Records (R3128), 1971
Producer: Bob MacKenzie
Location: War Memorial Auditorium - Nashville, TN
Personnel: JD Sumner, Richard Sterban, Ed Enoch, Donnie Sumner, Gary Buck/Bill Baize, Tony Brown, Duke Dumas, Kenny Hicks, with guest Mark Ellerbee on drums
Multiple great albums were captured during this era at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. On one particular night in 1970, four live albums were recorded for Heart Warming Records. The team of Gospel Festival USA, featuring the Stamps, Oak Ridge Boys, and Rambos each recorded live records, and then recorded their drama in which they presented on the second half of their program, The Three Nails. Noteworthy for the Stamps record is the first appearance of additional Stamps bass vocalist Richard Sterban. JD had realized how his fans were responding to the younger members of his quartet, and therefore went full scale in adding Sterban to a lineup of talented men who, other than Sumner himself, were all under 30 years of age. It was certainly a different Stamps than the singing convention days of ten years earlier, yet the Stamps name was more popular and versatile than ever. Some slight adjustments were made to the record following the taping of the concert, as tenor Gary Buck departed the Stamps shortly afterwards, being replaced by Bill Baize. Buck's vocals were replaced by those of Baize on tenor features, and in places where the difference would be most noticeable.
A Night of Inspiration
Canaan Records (CAS-9803), 1976
Producer: Marvin Norcross
Location: Civic Center - Warner Robins, GA
Personnel: Martin Cook, Mike Holcomb, Eddie Deitz, Troy Burns, Archie Watkins, Jack Laws, Roger Fortner, Dale Jones
The boys from Bryson City owned the decade of the 1970s. The latter of their two legendary live recordings at Warner Robbins, Georgia, seems to be the larger favorite of their many fans. This certainly makes sense, as three of their five number one hits from the decade of the 70s are performed from the stage for this album - "Touring That City", "When I Wake Up to Sleep No More", and "Jesus Is Mine". Also included are Inspirations standards "The First Million Years", "More to Go to Heaven For", "Tears Will Never Stain the Streets of That City", and Archie Watkins' popular a capella rendition of "Amazing Grace".
One Live Family
Heart Warming Records (2R3352), 1975
Producer: Phil Johnson
Location: Huguley Congregational Christian Church - Lanette, Alabama
Personnel: Joel Hemphill, LaBreeska Hemphill, Tim McKeithen, Candy Hemphill, Joey Hemphill, Trent Hemphill, Harold Timmons, Bruce Watkins
This record could almost be titled "Sunday Morning Service with The Hemphills", as the album was captured during Sunday morning worship service at Huguley Congregational Christian Church in Lanette, Alabama. The Hemphills never resorted to fancy stage theatrics or even intricate harmony stylings, they simply belted out the gospel in a style that many found refreshing. Plus, one cannot think of the word "refreshing" without reflecting upon the outstanding songwriters pen of family patriarch Joel Hemphill. A great number of Hemphill early classics are on this dual-record set, including "The Sweetest Words He Ever Said", "Worth Every Mile of the Trip", "Ready to Leave", "I Came on Business for the King", "Sing the Glory Down", and "I'll Soon Be Gone". 14-year-old daughter Candy Hemphill made her album debut, displaying a talent that far exeeded her years. Fans were also treated to the instrumental talents of Bruce Watkins, and of course piano man Harold Timmons would in time make history as the first and only pianist for the legendary Chuck Wagon Gang. The Hemphills would only go higher in gospel music following the success of One Live Family. Although they retired in 1990, they never remained far from the fans' minds.
Hovie Lister and the Statesmen
Through the States with the Statesmen Quartet
RCA Victor (LPM/LSP-2351), 1961
Producer: Brad McCuen
Location: Medina Temple - Chicago, IL
Personnel: Hovie Lister, Big Chief, Doy Ott, Jake Hess, Rosie Rozell
Medina Temple of Chicago was the location for the Statesmen Quartet's second live recording. The response and energy felt within the grooves of this record certainly reflect the Statesmen's "superstar" status in gospel music during this era. Among the Statesmen's most popular performances on this record include their arrangement of "Just a Little While", "To Me It's So Wonderful", "Our Debts Will Be Paid" written by the Big Chief, "Bye and Bye When the Morning Comes", "I Believe In the Man in the Sky", Rosie Rozell's self-penned classic "He's Not Disappointed in Me Anymore", and "I Believe in the Old Time Way", with encore interrupted by Hovie Lister's famous "wait a minute, let me say something and we'll do it again...." moment. All of the above mentioned have been re-recorded and re-staged by numerous quartets in the past near six decades, but the blueprint remains on Through the States.