Benny Ray Hester was born on May 3, 1948 in Waco, Texas. Early on he sang with The Texas Boys Choir and became the youngest member of the Texas swing band named Sam Weaver and The Playboys. He was also a founding member of the Texas pop/rock band The Morticians. In 1972 Benny recorded his first solo album with Elvis’ TCB Band. Most copies of it were destroyed in a studio and warehouse fire. He released his self-titled debut CCM album in 1978. He had accepted Christ at a traveling tent crusade called Christ is the Answer. Over the years he became known for songs such as ‘Nobody Knows Me Like You’, ‘Legacy’, and ‘To Fill our Empty Hearts’. His mid 80’s song ‘When God Ran’ was the longest running Number 1 song in CCM history, holding that spot for thirteen weeks. From 1992 to 1996 he was a driving force behind the Nickelodeon tv show Roundhouse, which was popular with tweens and teens. Back in 1989 Benny released the album PERFECT on Frontline Records. It was co-produced with Bill Baumgart.
To start things off, ‘Headlights on the Highway’, written by Lauren Stalnecker, is an upbeat pop/rock song that includes a good electric guitar solo. It conveys a desire to rescue others: “Out on the turnpike/Running in the fast lane/Speeding to nowhere/Getting caught in the rain/The signs are provided/To keep you on track/It’s getting harder to see them/So you better turn back/Headlights on the highway/That is what I want to be/Headlights on the highway/Just to help you see (2X)”. ‘Before you know It’ is an adult contemporary number based on Ecclesiastes. Here are some of the words: “To live in this hour is all that I wanna do/But time moves so quickly and precious is the heart that’s true/The hard times that we face may frighten us/But trust Him, it’ll be OK, cause/Before you know it, this could all be gone/Before you know it, life moves us on/Before you know it, love can fade away”.
Matthew 10:39 reads: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it”. ‘If you Die before you Die’ has a quirky rock feel to it musically. The chorus goes: ``If you die before you die/Then when you die you won’t die/If you die before you die/Then when you die you won’t die”. Benny wrote the title track, ‘Perfect’, alone. It is a ballad of praise to God: “You’re perfect/You helped me turn around, break free/You’re so perfect/Now You’re a part of me/The love I knew before was a different kind/Without trying You reached in and stole my heart this time/And for all that You’ve done and You are/You’re perfect”.
‘Hungry World’ speaks of the spiritual need in society: “I was cruisin’ the drag in my car/Flipped the radio on and it’s the news/I just don’t like what I hear/I’ve got a little sister, she was alright, jack/But someone turned her on to a little bit of crack/I lived through the sixties, but now we’re hangin’ by a thread/I took a deep breath, turned to my girl and said/Oh, oh, oh, baby, it’s a hungry world (2X)”. ‘You Weren’t Meant to Live your Life Alone’ is a quiet song penned by Benny and Niles Borop. It reminds us that no man or woman is an island: “You weren’t meant to live your life alone/Open up now, don’t close me out/You don’t have to make it on your own/Let me know what your life is about/’Cause I love you just the way you are/And you know I’m talking straight from my heart/No, you weren’t meant to live your life/You don’t have to live your life/You weren’t meant to live your life alone”.
‘Two Good Reasons’ is a pop/rock story song that begins like this: “Suzanne Lavern and Bobby Mack Birch/Two carefree kids that both went to my church/Things made a turn the day that they learned/She would be a mom, he would be a dad very soon/And if they wait any more, they’re never gonna live it down/They’d plan to marry someday/So Bobby pleaded/’Suzie, hear what I’m sayin’/Give me two good reasons if I’m way out of line/I’ve got to know if your heart feels just like mine’”. ‘This one’s for Keeping’ relates a tale of spiritual transformation: “So surprising, new horizons/Open around me now that You’ve found me/Like a child I find I’m smiling/Oh what a wonder, I hardly understand/This feeling, my heart’s reeling/This time it’s more than a dream.../Wide awake, I finally believe in love and what it means/This one’s for certain/For healing up a heart that was hurting/Holding on and never deserting love/This one’s for keeping”.
‘Passion, Possession, Position’ is a jazzy, funky, pop/rock song written by Benny, Bill Baumgart, and Tim Heintz. It warns against following after the wrong things: “Passion-everybody knows what that means/Intense desire-suffering/Possession-gotta get it before it’s gone/You see someone else’s/So many things you wanna own/Position-you wanna get ahead/See someone with power/You don’t wanna be you, but them instead/These were the original, some play with dangerously/But they can have you as easy as one, two, three”. ‘Shall We Gather at the River’ is beautiful. It begins with these hopeful, joyous, old-school lyrics: “Shall we gather at the river/Where bright angel’s feet have trod/With its crystal tide forever/Flowing by the throne of God/Yes, we will gather at the river/The beautiful, beautiful river/Gather with the saints at the river/That flows by the throne of God”.
While PERFECT is not a perfect album, it does have its strengths. Benny’s voice is passionate, unique, and memorable, sort of comparable to that of Phil Collins. The background vocals are very prominent on this release and are performed by Benny, Bob Carlisle (Allies/Butterfly Kisses), Bill Baumgart, and Allison Beech. If you liked the 1980’s catalogue of Christian pop/rock music by Rick Cua and Morgan Cryar, you should enjoy this project. I’m rating PERFECT 86%. For more info visit: www.bennyhester.com.