OK…strap yourselves in…this is going to be a long ride! It’s been 6 years since the Hinsons released a live album. A lot has happened in those 6 years…they had gone through a bit of a transition in group members and sound between 1980 and 1981, enjoyed their first #1 song, released a massively popular album in 1982 (“Hinsongs”) and enjoyed two more #1 songs from that album, and they were seemingly sitting on top of the world. So, it was definitely time for another live album. As I’ve said before, each of their live albums had very distinct personalities, and with this new live album, the Hinsons had a more commercial sound, but with a slicker presentation. Their unique country sound was still there, as well as the Pentecostal and charismatic delivery, but it was a bit more refined than in the past.
As I already alluded to, the Hinsons were enjoying some of their best successes during this time and they were enjoying immense success in concert as well. Their concerts were such a class act, and they had a contagious energy from the platform that was electrifying. Along with that exciting presentation, the Hinsons had one of the best stage bands in the business. On this album, the band consisted of Rodney LaShum on piano, Kerry Huckaba on bass, Tracy Richardson playing drums, Scott Sanders picking the steel guitar and Kenny Hinson on guitar. They always employed top notch musicians, many of whom went on to become highly sought-after studio musicians and producers including Gary Prim, Dirk Johnson, Kelly Back, Scott Sanders, Darrell LeCroy, Rodney LaShum, Kerry Huckaba, and others. Their band was as much a part of the Hinson sound as the vocals were, and both the band and the Hinsons were on their “A” game on this live recording. It’s a power packed concert, and they evermore lifted the roof off!
The recording begins with a brief introduction of Calvary Records’ president, Nelson Parkerson. As he begins his introduction of the Hinsons, he attempts to set the stage by playing off the album’s title (much like Ronny Hinson did with the McGruders’ live recording, “Come Fly with the McGruders”). Nelson doesn’t quite create the same excitement as Ronny did on that memorable intro on “Come Fly…”, but once the Hinsons hit the stage, they really do “Lift the Roof Off”, as the band kicks off and they hit the ground running with “Something Keeps Pulling Me Home”, before the tempo goes into high gear with the popular, “Soldier in the Army”.
For the remainder of this side, Ronny spends about 13 minutes introducing the Hinsons and the band. Ronny takes time to “roast” Kenny, Eric and Yvonne, and Kenny, in turn, “roasts” Ronny. The banter between Kenny and Ronny is hilarious and some of the “roasting” (especially Yvonne) is epic. Let me say this…after over 2 minutes being spent with Parkerson’s introduction of the group and the 13 minutes Ronny spent individually introducing everyone, I personally would have rather had less talking and heard live performances of such songs as “The God That Cannot Fail” and “Till the Land”. That is my one and only gripe with this live recording…that side 1 was spent more on talking rather than music. But I digress…
Finally, after a brief intro by Kenny, the Hinsons turn in an excellent performance on their former #1 hit, “Two Winning Hands”. Here, they do something with the song that they pretty much did for the remainder of their time on the road…rather than sing the song through and then come back with an encore, they, instead, turn right around after the chorus following the second verse, and Kenny sings his verse again, but on this pass with the verse, he adlibs his way through the whole verse, much to the delight of the audience. It’s an exciting performance and a highlight of the recording. It, again, proves that Kenny never sang a song the same way twice!
Kenny then picks up the tempo with his song, “The Cost of Living” before the pace slows back down a bit for one of 6 brand new songs on this recording, “Old Fashioned Altar”. Written by Ronny, it’s one of my all-time favorite Hinson tunes. With Kenny taking the lead, I love the old-fashioned country gospel feel of the song, as it recalls the sound of the Hinsons from back in the 70s.
Ronny then begins to set up another new song entitled, “The Dream”. As Ronny sets up the song, he gets into “preacher mode” as campmeeting almost breaks out before Ronny, Eric and Kenny respectively each take a verse on this wonderfully descriptive song of Heaven. They come back with an encore of the last verse and chorus, and it’s an emotionally driven song and a highlight of the recording. The Freemans did a really nice cover of the song the following year on their “Everything New” album, which coincidentally, was produced by Kenny.
The second half of the recording kicks off with the exciting, “Old Time Feelin’”. Written by both Ronny and Kenny, they follow the tried-and-true formula with Ronny hitting the first verse and Kenny bringing it home with the second verse and chorus. The song did very well on the charts, peaking at #4 in February 1985. Written in the spirit of such songs as “Campmeeting Days” and “Hallelujah Meetin’”, this was one of the most exciting songs in the entire Hinson repertoire, and they could evermore sell it! After Ronny does a little mid-song preaching, they slow the pace way down as Kenny takes his time to adlib his verse, and the crowd just eats it up! Kenny exudes charm, charisma and excitement, and he truly shines on this song. If you want to actually see how they did it live, check out You Tube, as there is a fantastic clip of them singing this song from July 1986 at PTL. I remember watching this back when it initially aired, and I can trace it back to this particular performance as the point where I really started to pay more attention to the Hinsons. It was only a few months after this performance that I saw them in person with new eyes and ears, and I’ve never looked back!
As they segue into the next song, Ronny, very cleverly, sets up “Call Me Gone”, and Kenny absolutely knocks it out of the ballpark with one of the best live performances ever on the song and the crowd is loving it! After some lighthearted banter between Ronny and Kenny, Ronny introduces, and the group sings, “I Already Know How the Story Ends”. Here, they put a little different ending on it than what is on the original version from the “Bubblin’” album. I love the way they end the song with the key change and letting Yvonne take it out to the end. I feel that slight change in the arrangement added even more excitement to an already exciting song.
Changing the mood, Ronny takes a moment to introduce one of my favorite Yvonne features, “I Must Be Getting Closer to the Cross”. I love the dynamics of the song and how the chorus builds with intensity before the final tag of the chorus. It’s a special moment and Ronny recognizes that, as he leads the audience in a new chorus he wrote entitled, “I Am Free”.
The mood then quickly shifts as the band kicks off “God’s Gonna Do the Same For You and Me” and the Hinsons give a rousing performance. This appears to be the end of the first segment of the concert, though we’re on side 4 of the recording. As the applause fades out and back in via some studio editing, it appears we are at the beginning of the second part of their program, as they kick off with one of Larry Hinson’s newest songs, “Keep ‘em Burnin’ On”. Recalling a sound from their earlier days, it’s an excellent performance of the song, before the tempo slows down as Eric comes forward to sing, “Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt”.
Before the group wraps up this exciting concert, Kenny, starting off slow, begins adlibbing his verse of “Old Time Feelin’” and when he gets to the chorus, the band kicks things into high gear and the Hinsons are off and running…and they’re not done yet! As the crowd is clamoring for more, Kenny comes back and takes his time adlibbing the second verse of “God’s Gonna Do the Same For You and Me” and again, when he gets down to the chorus, the band kicks it back into high gear for a wonderful and exciting grand finale!
Kenny produced this “on fire” live recording, and just as their previous live albums had proven, the Hinsons were among the best at recording these types of albums. I remember originally having this recording on cassette when I was a junior in high school, and I listened to this recording like a rabid fan. I remember days when I couldn’t wait for school to get out so I could get in my car and crank up “Lift the Roof Off”! While other kids were jamming to Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince, U2, Run DMC, Van Halen and the like…I was jamming to the Hinsons!
This was one of the most exciting and electrifying live albums released at the time. There is no doubt that the crowd that night was a Hinson crowd; and they were an excited crowd, which is one of the most important elements for a successful live album. If the crowd isn’t behind you 100%, your live album can be a complete dud! There is only so much fake applause you can add, but you can’t duplicate the excitement this crowd had for the Hinsons that night.
I can’t choose which live album is my personal favorite by the Hinsons. They each portray the Hinsons at pivotal points in their career and are each very exciting. They are all very special in their own way, but I have to admit that I may a bit partial to this one. It’s part of the soundtrack of my high school years, which is when my tastes and preferences in music was being solidified, so “Lift the Roof Off” definitely holds a very special place in my heart for that reason alone; plus, it’s just a really great live recording…period!
Please check out my music page on Facebook for more content related to Southern Gospel Music including more discography reviews on other groups, we well as other thoughts and discussions related to Southern Gospel Music. Please like and follow my page at https://www.facebook.com/James-Music-Page-102612571620560.