My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Charley Pride – ‘Did You Think to Pray’

Produced by Jack Clement and released in 1971, Did You Think To Pray was Charley Pride’s first gospel album. The album, which emerged at the height of Pride’s popularity, hit #1 and was certified Gold.

Despite his goodwill with country radio, his previous six singles had been chart toppers,  Pride could only get the album’s sole single to #21. “Let Me Live” has a strong lyric about the guidance of God’s love, but a melody that leaves much to be desired. The song takes a bizarre and jarring turn halfway, turning from a simple ballad into a gospel rave and back again.

The title track, which opens the album, preaches about the power of prayer. The track is somewhat overwrought and brought down by the heaviness of the background vocalists and what appears to be a low humming throughout.

The album kicks into high gear with Pride’s spirited take on “I’ll Fly Away.” The fiddle is a perfect accompaniment for the backing vocalists who join Pride throughout. Also fantastic is his banjo-drenched take on “Angel Band,” one of the album’s strongest tracks. “Whispering Hope” is also fantastic, with Pride channeling Jim Reeves.

Pride gets back to preaching on “Take Time out for Jesus,” which is heavy-handed but otherwise excellent. The melody is inviting and draws you right in. The confessional “Jesus, Don’t Give Up On Me,” finds Pride hoping for redemption after failing to heed his own advice.

“The Highway Leads to Glory” is about the journey, and it’s glorious. His take on the oft-covered “The Church In The Wildwood” is of similarly high quality. The album closes with “Lord, Build Me a Cabin in Gloryland,” which retains the album’s winning ways.

Apart from a couple of moments that get the album off track, Did You Think To Pray is an excellent recording, gospel, secular or otherwise. It’s well worth checking out if you want to hear it again after many years or are just discovering it for the first time.

Grade: A

6 responses to “Album Review: Charley Pride – ‘Did You Think to Pray’

  1. Paul W Dennis July 26, 2017 at 6:52 am

    During this period there was a strong radio bias against religiously-themed songs, so such great efforts as “Let Me Live” (the B side, “Did You Think To Pray” also charted) and Jack Greene’s masterful rendition of Dallas Frazier’s “Lord Is That Me” had tough sledding at country radio. A subsequent Charley Pride release “All His Children” did better but that had a movie tie-in and the Henry Mancini connection to help it gain airplay

    • Ken July 26, 2017 at 10:33 pm

      Interesting topic Paul. To be honest I don’t recall any general bias by country radio stations against religious songs. Perhaps individual radio stations, program directors or music directors may have had an issue with programming religious-themed songs but there was no industry wide boycott of religious material to my knowledge. My perception is that the success of those types of records was based upon the type & strength of the song and/or performance.

      Country radio played quite a few singles of that genre in that era. In 1969 Johnny Cash had a 6 week #1 hit with “Daddy Sang Bass.” Merle Haggard’s “Jesus Take A Hold” went to #3 in 1970. As you mentioned Charley Pride had a huge hit with “All His Children” [#2 in 1972] Kris Kristofferson scored his biggest single with “Why Me” [#1/1973] Donna Fargo had a #1 in 1974 with her gospel-themed “You Can’t Be A Beacon (If Your Light Don;’t Shine)” Cristy Lane’s biggest hit was “One Day At A Time” [#1 in 1980] So there was quite a bit of chart action for songs with a spiritual message.

      Although I agree that Jack Greene’s 1970 song “Lord Is That Me” was a very well-crafted song and Jack’s performance was first rate it had several things working against it for radio programming. It was a very slow song that clocked in at 4:14 with a very dark theme concerning a man watching his own funeral. Also the timing was not the best as it was released in the spring – not the best season of the year to program a dark, depressing ballad. The single did make it to #16 in Billboard [a bit better in Cashbox #11] so that indicates despite it’s many drawbacks it did get some quality airplay – likely because of Jack’s stature as an artist at that time. But the audience response did not match most of his earlier releases and it fell short.

      The issue with Charley’s two songs was that “Let Me Live” had a schizophrenic tempo so it was a bit hard for folks to follow while “Did You Think To Pray” at 3:50 was a long, mostly down-tempo song. In both cases the recordings sounded more like church hymns than radio records which worked to their detriment. Had Charley recorded and released something more like his version of “Wings Of A Dove” it probably would have received more spins and been more successful.

    • Luckyoldsun July 29, 2017 at 1:59 am

      People didn’t tuned to country radio to be hit with Christian hymns–or Charley Pride’s recordings of ` “Let Me Live” and “Did You Think To Pray.” An artist like Kristofferson maybe had a little more leeway to do a flat-out Christian devotional song like “Why Me, Lord” precisely because he was seen as a long-hair and “outlaw” rather than someone who would be expected to sing a Christian song.
      Religiously-THEMED songs are something else. Randy Travis’s “Three Wooden Crosses” (admittedly from a later period) was a smash hit because it was a killer story song, masterfully sung–what country music is known for–rather than a hymn.

      • Ken July 29, 2017 at 3:09 pm

        For someone who was not listening to country music or country radio back in that era and has frequently demonstrated a glaring lack of familiarity with country artists and music of that time you seem to a have remarkable insight into what the country radio listeners desired. You assume that almost 50 years ago they all share your point of view.

        To be clear there was far more tolerance by country listeners in that era for religious-themed songs as well as what might be called church music. Many country stations played religious songs as part of their regular programming as well as on dedicated country gospel programs. A “song of faith” was integrated into the format clock at many stations at regular intervals. Songs ranged from lighter fare like “Wings Of A Dove” to traditional hymns such as “Whispering Hope,” “In The Garden” and “How Great Thou Art.” One large mid-western country radio chain played a religious song every hour of the day just before airing their top-of-the-hour news. Those stations were all extremely successful in their respective markets. My radio station had a Sunday morning show that featured country gospel music and it was extremely popular.

        As far as a religious-themed current single receiving a slot on a station’s playlist and being played in a current rotation that is different matter. As I pointed out in my earlier post it was contingent on a recording having a message that connected with listeners as well as a great musical arrangement and performance by the artist. Just like secular recordings some of them hit the mark while others did not. Many of those singles received some airplay but only a few became significant hits.

        Kristofferson’s appearance and/or image had little to do with the success of “Why Me.” the song had a concept that connected with the audience and a very memorable hook with a catchy chorus. Not to mention that Kristofferson’s heartfelt delivery was very honest and believable. The “outlaw” movement had not yet reached critical mass at that time so his image neither hurt nor helped that record. At the time of that 1973 hit Kristofferson had no prior successful single hits on country radio. The song earned airplay on it’s own merits as he had no track record at that point.

  2. Luckyoldsun July 30, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    I didn’t read your comment, but I’m quite sure that in 30-plus lines you manage to eloquently and politely note that you found a minor point of disagreement with something in the 7 lines that I wrote.
    I’m sure your comment was absolutely brilliant and I thank you for edifying the dozens of people who did take the time to read it.

    • Ken July 30, 2017 at 4:07 pm

      You’re welcome. But it’s too bad that you did not take the time to read it. You may have actually learned something. But I suppose that unless info comes your way from the error-filled Wikipedia or is based upon your own erroneous conclusions you have no interest.
      Easier to spout nonsense or present false conclusions than to make a fact-based informed comment.

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