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VINYL RECORD REVIEW : The Kingsmen- 24 Carat Gospel (1975)

The Kingsmen – 24 Carat Gospel (1975)

As 1975 marched on, the Kingsmen were pure gold and with this latest release (their 2nd label album for 1975), the record company had declared the Kingsmen were “24 Carat Gospel”.  What the Kingsmen may have lacked with chart topping hits on their previous couple of albums, they gained immensely on the concert circuit, and they were gaining success in plenty of other ways.  As mentioned in my last article, they were gaining success in the television market with their “Music City Special” television show, and they were becoming one of the most popular groups on stage.  With Jim Hamill leading the show, the Kingsmen were becoming a major force!  In fact, Jim Hamill once again took home the Singing News Fan Award for “Favorite Lead Singer” for 1975!

After the release of their last album, “Jubilation”, the group made a change that only added fuel to the already burning fire on stage.  After a couple of years of friendship and with much prayer and careful consideration, Squire Parsons joined the Kingsmen as their full-time baritone singer.  At this point, Eldridge Fox started playing electric piano and began traveling a little less (tending to Kingsmen business and other priorities at home) and singing on specialty songs.  After hearing Squire sing with the Calvarymen in 1973, Eldridge sought him out to join the Kingsmen, but Squire never felt it was the right time, and honestly, Eldridge didn’t really know what to do with him, since he was already singing baritone for the Kingsmen.  But both men made it a matter of prayer and Squire’s eventual joining the Kingsmen was definitely divinely influenced.  The years that Squire spent with the Kingsmen were very fruitful years for both the group and for Squire.  Almost immediately after Squire joined, they went into the studio and recorded an album for the QCA label titled, “The Old & The New”, which features Squire (The New) and Jim Hamill (The Old).  Two songs from the album actually charted for the Kingsmen…the recitation, “Golden Toys” (which featured Hamill) went to #23 in the Singing News chart in November 1975 and “Is Not This the Land of Beulah” (which featured Squire) charted briefly, only claiming the #40 spot in January 1976.  Incidentally, this was the song that Squire sang in concert with the Calvarymen the night Eldridge purposed in his heart to eventually hire Squire.  And coincidently, another “Beulah Land” song would be a significant song for Squire a few years down the road…but we’ll touch on that song in a later article.

Shortly after releasing, “The Old & the New”, the Kingsmen were back into the studio to record, “24 Carat Gospel” for Canaan Records.  The front cover shot was actually a real gold bar (though shown much larger than it really was), with the “The Kingsmen” name superimposed on the bar.  Once again produced by Marvin Norcross, with Nick Bruno playing piano and assisting with music arrangements, the album was another upbeat and exciting album that exhibited the unique and exciting sound of the Kingsmen.

The album begins in a very striking way, as the Kingsmen start off acapella singing the Colbert and Joyce Croft classic, “I Can’t Even Walk (Without You Holding my Hand)”.  Featuring a commanding performance by Eldridge Fox (proving he was still very much a part of the Kingsmen sound), the song was a big hit for the Kingsmen, peaking at #6 in the Singing News chart in June 1976, and again in August.  The original arrangement had the song featuring Johnny Parrack instead of Foxie, but things weren’t quite coming together as well as they had planned in the practice sessions, and after a key change and having Foxie take the lead, the song became what you hear on the record, and it became one of Foxie’s best loved tunes.  The song enjoyed a massive resurgence in the late 80’s and early 90’s when Charles Johnson & the Revivers recorded and charted their own version of the song.  In fact, the song has truly become one of the great classics of Southern Gospel music, having been recorded numerous times over the years including the Greenes, Mark Lowry, Freemans, Gordon Mote as well as having been featured in the Gaither Homecoming series.  But it all started with the Kingsmen and Foxie’s genuine performance of the song.

With a nice acoustic feel, the tempo picks up as Jim Hamill sings, “The Next Time That You See Me”.  Written by Leon Frazier, the song was published through Kingsmen Publishing and became a popular concert favorite for the Kingsmen.  The song was already a popular tune for the Heismen Quartet at the time (Leon Frazier played the piano and organ for the group), and they enjoyed chart success with the song during 1975.  In fact, when Johnny Parrack left the Kingsmen in January 1977, he later joined the Heismen Quartet.  The song remained a popular tune over the years and nearly 30 years later, the Whisnants recorded it and took it all the way to #1 in January 2004.

Squire steps up to sing his own composition, “Guide My Feet” and it’s a highly enjoyable tune and was another popular concert favorite for the Kingsmen.  This song was an outstanding introduction of Squire to the Kingsmen’s fans who had not heard him before, and I love the exciting intensity of the song, as it’s one of personal favorites from this album.  In fact, years before I got my hands on this album, I heard this song on the radio in the mid-80’s and fell in love with it.  I finally added this album to my collection in the early 90’s and I was thrilled to hear this song again!

Keeping the tempo light, Hamill takes the lead on another enjoyable, up-tempo tune, “There’ll Be a lot of Singing”, which had a fun convention feel to it.  Written by Ruby Moody, the song was published by Kingsmen Publishing and was an excellent fit for this album, before we come to the Gordon Jensen penned tune, “Give Me a Song to Sing at Midnight”, which features some nice acoustic guitar work.  I love Hamill’s “folksy” delivery and the song was a little different for the Kingsmen and it’s one of my personal favorites from this recording.  The Speers also did a tremendous job with the song a year later, on their 1976 album, “Between the Cross and Heaven”.

Ray and Johnny are featured with multiple step-out lines on the fun and invigorating tune, “All in a Twinkling”, which was written by Squire.  This was another popular concert favorite for the Kingsmen and was an excellent song to finish out this side.  With its strong beat and filled with electric/steel guitar and harmonica highlights, this was another song I originally discovered on the Canaan compilation album, “The Best of the Kingsmen” and this was always one of my favorites and it’d be a great song for the Kingsmen or maybe even the Inspirations to bring back!

Featuring Nick Bruno’s outstanding piano work, side 2 kicks off with the popular convention favorite, “Jesus is Mine”.  The Kingsmen and Inspirations crossed paths musically many times over the years, as they both often recorded the same songs, and at the time, the Inspirations were running high with the song, who took it all the way to #1 in early 1976.  The Kingsmen’s version had a bit more pep to it than the Inspirations’ original rendition, and I felt that the Kingsmen really made the song their own, before slowing the tempo down for the Conrad Cook penned, “Jesus Never Fails”.  Featuring some beautiful guitar work, the song has Hamill taking the melody on the first verse and choruses, then Johnny sings the second verse and final tag, and the song is truly a huge highlight of the album.  In my conversations about the song with Squire and Johnny, the Kingsmen didn’t stage this song a lot back in the day, but it’s one of my all-time favorite Kingsmen tunes, and it would be another tremendous song for someone to bring back today.

Picking the tempo back up and featuring some unique electric guitar highlights, Hamill takes the lead on the fun, up-tempo tune, “If You Don’t Like Shouting”.  This was a song that was right up Hamill’s alley, as the song says, “if you don’t like shouting, you better not get on the cloud with me!”.  Wendy Bagwell & the Sunliters eventually recorded this song a few years later, on their 1978 album, “Appearing Tonight” and did a really great version of the song.

Another fun tune is the LeeRoy Abernathy penned convention song, “Over in the Gloryland”, which has a distinct Blackwood Brothers feel to it.  The song features some nice piano work by Nick, before the tempo slows down for the song, “It’s Been Done”, which features Ray on the first verse and Johnny on the second.  With a nice steel guitar intro, the song was written by Garland Craft, who was the piano player for the Oak Ridge Boys at the time, and the Oaks eventually included the song on their final gospel album before going country called, “Old Fashioned Down Home Hand Clappin’, Foot Stompin’, Southern Style, Gospel Quartet Music”, that was released the following year in 1976.

With its driving beat and feel of an old-time spiritual, “That Started My Soul to Singing”, which was written by Conrad Cook, closes out the album and is one of my absolute favorites from this recording.  It’s an exciting and bouncy number featuring each member of the Kingsmen and is such a fun song to listen to, leaving the listener tapping their feet and clapping their hands.  I’d love to hear someone bring this song back, as I think it’d go over immensely well in front of a live audience.

This album was an outstanding display of pure, “24 Carat Gospel”!  This was another exciting studio album which embodied the excitement and enthusiasm you heard in a Kingsmen concert.  With the addition of Squire Parsons on baritone, the group had a more robust sound and with Squire and Hamill switching up who took the melody, it gave the Kingsmen a lot more versatility as well.  When you add Foxie to the vocal mix, it just gave them an even more unique sound and blend, which made the Kingsmen truly exceptional.

Though each album was unique in its own right, I think that both “Jubilation” and “24 Carat Gospel” best exemplified all the things that made the Kingsmen such a great stage group during this time, and it came through loud and clear in the studio.  They could move you with outstanding performances on those meaningful slower tunes, but could turn around and really get your crank turned with exciting and exuberant songs that would leave an audience wanting more.  They were the “Ton of Fun”, but they were gaining another unique moniker that would carry them for many years to come, as they were quickly becoming the “Mighty” Kingsmen Quartet!

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James Hales

James Hales, from Durham, North Carolina, has been a writer for since 2000. James is our featured reviewer and also contributes to monthly features periodically.
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