I have been SO excited about this weeks’ album review, and I could not wait to get started on it. Nobody recorded live albums as exciting and exhilarating as the Hinsons, and with this being their first, it showcased them still relatively unscathed by life and they still had a rather unadulterated style and delivery. This is one of my personal favorite albums by the Hinsons, and many Hinson fans will readily agree that it’s arguably one of their best recordings.
After experiencing immense success over the last couple of years, the time was right to unleash the Hinsons on a live recording! Prior to this album, no group had released a live recording with as much fervor and excitement as the Hinsons did. The Kingsmen were awfully close with their “Big and Live” album from 1973, but the Hinsons hit the stage with such a fever pitch, no other live album at the time could compete with this kind of energy…at least until the Kingsmen’s “Chattanooga Live” from 1977…but that’s another article!
Appropriately titled, “From Out of the West They Came…Live & On Stage”, it was only natural that the group came “home” to Fresno, California at the Warnor Theater to record their first live album before the home folks. The cover shot was absolutely genius and really fit the Hinsons to a “T”. If my info is correct, the album was actually recorded sometime in late 1975, but was released in early 1976. The Galileans were on the same program as well and they also recorded a live album that night.
This album was an introduction, of sorts, for many fans of the group who may not have seen them in person yet. It gave the listener a real glimpse into what they may hear, feel and experience in a live concert by the Hinsons. While many groups traveled with mostly piano and bass and maybe drums, the Hinsons boasted a 5-piece band consisting of DeWayne Wheaton on piano, Greg Taylor picking the bass, Tracy Richardson playing drums, Ronnie Moore on steel guitar and Kenny Hinson playing lead guitar; and they provided the Hinsons a dynamic musical bed to deliver their power-filled performances.
After a glowing introduction from Dr. Nelson Parkerson, the band kicks into high gear as the Hinsons hit the stage with the iconic, “He is Leading the Way”. Some songs are just meant to be “openers”, and this is one of the most perfect opening songs ever written. Done slightly faster than the original, it’s a perennial favorite of mine and is classic!
After some testimony, Ronny kicks off the exciting, “Jesus Found Me” and it’s a highlight of this recording. With Kenny egging him on in the background, Ronny turns in one of his finest performances ever and the band is right in the groove too. It’s a perfect live performance and it showcases the true excitement that the Hinsons could generate from the platform.
After Ronny spends a few minutes introducing the Hinsons, the group kicks into the campmeeting favorite, “King Jesus Will Roll My Burdens Away”, which feature Kenny and Chris. Sung with all the fervor they can muster, it’s a highlight of the recording.
Side two kicks off with “The Touch of the Master’s Hand” and it’s a highlight of the album, as is the up-tempo, “Ain’t That What It’s All About”. Here we notice something Kenny does with a lot of encores; whenever he steps up to deliver an encore, he usually ramps it up a bit and adlibs the verse he is encoring. A lot of singers can’t improvise like that, but Kenny proves he’s a pro with it. In fact, I agree with a comment a good friend of mine recently made to me, that Kenny never sang a verse the same way twice! Kenny had grown into quite the versatile singer by this point and was exuding confidence and charisma that was winning him fans all over the place; in fact, Kenny won the Singing News Fan Award for Favorite Lead Singer for the first time in 1976! He would go on to win that award 2 more times, in 1978 and 1980!
The climax of the first half of this recording is the exciting “I Never Shall Forget the Day”. This type of Pentecostal delivery of a song was typical at a Hinson concert, and it truly was an exhilarating experience. While the band plays some “preaching music” in the background, Ronny spends a couple minutes preaching/testifying before Kenny kicks in with an exciting encore. Clocking in at over 6:30 minutes, it’s a thrilling performance.
After some brief banter between brothers, Ronny introduces the popular, “The Little Storefront Church”, and side 3 is off and running! After some more light banter between the brothers, we’re led into a fantastic performance of Kenny’s tune, “Since You Gave Me a Song”. Kenny delivers an enthusiastic performance on the song and it’s one of my all-time favorite performances by Kenny.
An invigorating performance of the popular, “Sea Walker” is next before Ronny slows the pace down as he brings Larry centerstage and introduces the only “new” song from this album, “I Won’t Walk Without Jesus”. Larry does a tremendous job on the song, and it was a hugely popular hit for the group, spending about 15 months in the Top 20 between 1976 and 1977, peaking at #2 in May of 1977. In fact, the popularity of this song resulted in Larry winning the Singing News Fan Award for Favorite Baritone in 1977!
The final portion of this live recording immediately jumps into high gear with, what I must confess is my favorite rendition of, “Living in Canaan Now”. Before I heard this, I was all into the Goodmans version (and still am!), but the excitement generated on this live performance far exceeds anything I’d ever heard. It’s another song where the band kicks in some “preaching music” as Ronny jumps into “preacher mode” for a few minutes before diving into a highly spirited encore. I love how, on the final note of the encore, Ronny shouts out for them to “sing it one more time”, and Chris comes sliding off that high note right back into the 2nd verse. Epic stuff! I remember when I first heard this, I thought I was gonna “take a lap”; I was as giddy as a kid with a new toy! I know the Hinsons staged this song for a number of years before this live recording, as I’ve seen a video of the group with Yvonne singing this song in a concert somewhere, so I am glad they were able to include it on this recording for posterities sake. It’s one of my all-time favorite live performances…ever!
Ronny keeps the excitement flowing as they tear into the rambunctious, “Hallelujah Meeting”, much to the delight of the crowd. The band is on fire and the buzz this song creates is amazing and it showcases the Hinsons at their absolute best! It just doesn’t get much more exciting than this!
The recording ends with the Hinsons slowing things down and singing their hit song, “The Lighthouse”. I don’t know if it’s just a bad editing job or what, but it appears the concert had ended and the crowd started shouting out “Lighthouse” and the Hinsons ended up coming back to the stage to deliver the requested song, much to the delight of the audience.
And with that, it’s over! On this album, we’re lifted to the highest heights and then calmly brought back down to a serene calm for the finish. This album has been heralded as their biggest selling album, and I believe it. As I mentioned at the beginning, for many people who may not have seen the group in person, this live album was their introduction for what they were in store for! This live recording brought more fans to their concerts and also probably kept some others away who weren’t into how the Hinsons “feel” their music.
Ronny was the emcee for the group, and by this time, he was growing as a communicator. You see real glimpses of what an effective emcee Ronny would become and their later live albums both really showcased Ronny’s true gift as an emcee. On this album though, outside of when he went into “preacher mode”, he was pretty subdued and didn’t seem to really exude that magnetism and charisma like he did on their later live albums. History would prove that Ronny would become one of the most dynamic emcee’s to ever grace a Southern Gospel stage!
As I had alluded to earlier, the band was spot on, and they sounded awesome. During the mid-70s, and all the way to the end in 1988, the Hinsons always had a hot band. They knew how to get the job done and keep it in the groove and give the singers that momentum needed to sing hard. On this live recording, there are points where I think the steel guitar was a little too hot in the mix, but otherwise the band sounds amazing, and the entire recording was a tremendously wonderful piece of work. It was exciting and exhilarating, as well as emotionally and spiritually satisfying. This album ran the gamut of all tempos, emotions and styles, and really showcased the Hinsons perfectly, as I think all their live albums did. The Hinsons never recorded a bad live album and I think they all showcased the Hinsons at their absolute best!
By 1979, the Hemphills were really cookin’, and this latest album spurred their very first #1 song with “I’m in this Church”. Check it out!