The Hinsons – Prime (1979)

The Hinsons – Prime (1979)

We have finally reached what I consider to be the Hinsons’ best studio recording (the live albums are in a class by themselves), and what is my favorite album by the group. By this time, gospel music was being bombarded by so many different sounds and styles, it was hard for many groups to keep up. Groups like the Speers, Rex Nelon Singers, Rambos and even the Happy Goodman Family were experimenting with different styles and sounds, and while some were very successful incorporating the more contemporary sounds into their music, some groups were not as successful; one example was the Goodman’s take with their “Better Hurry Up” album, which didn’t yield the results their past albums had. However, the Hinsons “Prime” album incorporated some of the more contemporary and mainstream sounds and it yielded an exciting album which truly showcased the Hinsons in their “Prime”!

Produced by Jimmy Capps and Ronnie Drake, with production assistance provided by Gary Prim (who was the Hinsons’ piano player at the time), “Prime” was a classy album from beginning to end. Featuring 15 musicians in addition to brass and strings, this recording is the first Hinson album that features background vocals on select songs, which was provided by the Sound Seventy Singers, a Nashville based vocal group that did background vocals for many country, pop and gospel artists during the 70s. The overall quality of the recording…the music, arrangements, songs, vocals…even the cover shot, was pure class. The cover of “Prime” is one of my all-time favorite album covers; the guys all decked out in tuxes, top hats, canes and white gloves, and Chris donning a white fur and black evening gown, all gathered around the hood of a beautiful black Rolls Royce, is class personified! I would probably rank this album in my top 10 or 20 all-time favorite albums (I’ve never actually sat down and tried to figure out what my true top 10 or 20, or so albums are, so this is pure speculation!). Simply put, “Prime” is a highly enjoyable album that is filled with lots of ear candy!

The album kicks off with the classic Hinson feel of “The God That Cannot Fail”. Featuring Ronny on the first verse and Kenny on the second, it was a popular song for the group, spending a few months in the Top 20 charts, peaking at #16 in the early months of 1980. I never understood why the song didn’t do as well as I think it should have, as I always thought it was a great song. In fact, I wish the Hinsons had included the song on their 1984 live album, “Lift the Roof Off”. Speaking of live, John Starnes had a fantastic live cut of the song, which he recorded on his 1984 self-titled LP. It’s an electrifying performance, if you ever get a chance to hear it.

In a rare occurrence (up to this point), Kenny renders a solo performance on one of my all-time favorite Hinson tunes, “You’re All I Need”. Here, he is backed by the Sound Seventy Singers (instead of the Hinsons) and it’s an absolutely breathtaking performance. With the feel of a country ballad, it’s a love song to the Lord that is filled with lots of symbolism, and it’s one of my all-time favorite lyrics. I love the dynamics of the song and how it builds to a wonderful crescendo, and then it ends just as softly as it begins. Up until this point, the Hinsons pretty much sang everything together as a group, and from this point going forward, just about every album would include a solo performance by Kenny or Ronny.

The tempo picks up as Kenny sings the pulsating, “We’ve Got to Fight”. One of two songs on this recording that was written by Larry, it’s a highlight of the album, as is the beautiful ballad, “Remember These Things”, which features Chris. This is her only feature on this recording and it’s my all-time favorite feature by her with the Hinsons. I love the retrospective and humbling lyric of the song written as a response to the question, “Can the world see Jesus in me?”

The mood shifts to the fun and whimsical feel of the upbeat, “You’re the Only One for Me”. This is a highly enjoyable tune that was penned by Larry, and it’s a great closing to the first side.

The second side starts with the biggest hit from this album, “He Will Calm the Troubled Waters”, which features one of my favorite performances by Larry. The song spent over a year in the charts and peaked in the Top 5 during the middle and latter half of 1980. Bit of history here…the group was performing this song a couple of years prior to recording it on this album and it appears, based on a performance on the Gospel Singing Jubilee, that the song originally featured Larry on the first verse and Kenny on the second verse, plus the basic arrangement of the song is slightly different as well. In comparing the two versions, the one that appears on this album is my favorite. This is one of the songs I have distinct memories of them singing on the show, which was one of the reasons I bought this album back in 1986. The other reason was because I loved the cover!

Kenny steps up for another solo on the song, “Look to Him”. Many Kenny Hinson fans regard this as one of his best features, and the song is a gentle reminder to look to Christ when this world lets you down and you feel all alone. Several artists have covered this song through the years, and one of my favorites was John Starnes’ rendition that he recorded back in 1984. It’s an honest lyric written by Ronny, and Kenny performs it flawlessly before the tempo picks up for Kenny’s self-penned tune, “I Never Heard a Real Love Song”. This country flavored, acoustic guitar/dobro/harmonica driven tune is a fun and invigorating song, and is one of the highlights of the recording.

For the first time (and to my knowledge, the only time), all three brothers collaborated together in writing the brass infused, “Who Do You Know”. Complete with guitars, horns and background vocals, I love the groovy feel of the song and its disco slant. I don’t hear Chris in the mix, so I am assuming it’s just Kenny, Ronny and Larry singing together on the song, and it’s a really cool song. I’d love to hear someone bring this song back today, as it’s such a fun song and one of my favorites from this album, as is Kenny’s, “By the Time They Find Me Missing”, which closes out the album with that traditional Hinson feel. This was a popular concert favorite for the Hinsons and it’s one I remember them singing on the Gospel Singing Jubilee. Funny thing about memories…I had forgotten all about the song by the time I got this album, and when this song came on, I immediately recalled the song and was singing right along with it. It had been at least 6 years since I last heard the song on the Gospel Singing Jubilee, and I could remember it word for word.

As already mentioned, creatively, this album was a big step forward for the Hinsons, and it would be a big departure from the norm for them; but it would go down as one of their greatest albums, if not THE greatest! The vocal structure also changed a bit with this album as well, as the arrangements are generally built around Kenny. Yes, Kenny was the lead singer for the Hinsons, but on this album, everyone took a back seat and Kenny was the main vocalist for most of these songs. Ronny only has a feature on one verse, Larry has one feature and a couple of standout lines, Chris also has one feature and a couple of standout lines, but Kenny sings everything else (and has 2 big solo performances as well). For the most part, that would be the vocal structure for the Hinsons going forward…and it worked!

This album would also be the end of an era, as it would be the last album Chris would make with the Hinsons, as she would leave the group sometime in 1980, when she married Darrell Freeman. Chris would continue making her mark on the industry with Darrell’s group, the Freemans (formerly known as the Pathways), where she still sings today. Larry would eventually leave the group as well, sometime in late 1980/early 1981, and focus on preaching the Word through evangelism and pastoring. Sadly, Larry would pass away April 22, 2020. As mentioned in my last article, the group’s sound and style would change further, and within a couple of years, they would settle into a new stride, blazing new trails not yet traveled!

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  1. Reply September 01, 22:55 #1 Steve

    If I’m not mistaken, Mercy’s Well redid “who do you know” a couple years back and released it. Great song and cover by MW.

    • Reply September 02, 07:27 James Hales Author

      I had forgotten Mercys Well did the song. Also, Jessica King recorded it several years ago as well.

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