In this edition of Classic Album Review, we reach back to 1965 to remember a classic by Jake Hess & The Imperials. In late ’63, Hess organized the group with the goal of forming a quartet that would be one of the elite groups in Gospel Music immediately. Along with pianist/arranger/songwriter Henry Slaughter, Hess would enlist baritone Gary McSpadden, tenor vocalist Sherill Nielsen and Armond Morales on bass to round out the group. The inaugural lineup would remain together till 1966, when Nielsen departed and was replaced by Jim Murray. In my opinion, Slaughter Writes, Imperials Sing, was their finest album and the ultimate display of Jake & The Imperials at the top of their game. Each and every song on the album was written and arranged by Slaughter.
Things kick off with a great uptempo quartet song, I’m Gonna Move Up To Heaven, with Hess leading the verses and Nielsen featured on the step out lines on the chorus. The group slows things down a bit with What A Precious Friend Is He, featuring the silky smooth bass of Morales on the second verse. The harmony on the chorus of this song is absolutely impeccable, four part harmony at its finest. Morales is also featured on the first verse of the next cut, I’ll Be There, with Hess singing the second verse. Slaughter himself is featured on the next cut, If The Lord Wasn’t Walking By My Side. Hess takes the feature on There’s A Reason For It All, a song that seemed to be tailor made just for him. Jake was one of the finest stylists to ever sing lead in a quartet, he knew exactly the right touch that a song needed vocally. Side one comes to a conclusion with For Such A Time As This.
The second half of the album kicks off with a Hess standard, God Takes Good Care Of Me. Hess once again struts his stuff on “It’s Worth More Than Anything”, another excellent example of fine quartet singing. Gary McSpadden is featured on the next cut, Then The Answer Came, with Hess & Nielsen taking the first verse and McSpadden the step out lines on the chorus and second verse. Gary once again is featured on I’ll Never Forget, with Hess leading the chorus. Next up, the group tackles another classic, “I’ve Never Loved Him Better”. The album closes out with Nielsen singing “A Place of Peace”.
The inaugural lineup would remain together till 1966, when Nielsen departed and was replaced by Jim Murray. Slaughter would leave in 67, with the late Joe Moscheo (Harmoneers, Prophets) taking his place. The group would release one album that year, To Sing Is The Thing. In 1968, health problems would lead Hess to leave the group, with McSpadden following. Hess would surrender the management of the group to Morales, Murray, and Moscheo, who led the group for the next decade into a new era of Christian music. Although they were only together for two years, Jake Hess & The Imperials cemented their place in the history of Gospel Music as one of the genres most talented groups. If you have this album in your collection, I highly recommend giving it a spin on the turntable once again.
I hope you enjoyed this edition of Classic Album Review, be sure to leave a comment below!