The Hemphills – Sing the Glory Down (1974)
After enjoying some good success with “Ready to Leave”, the Hemphills released another album in 1974 entitled, “Sing the Glory Down”, and this ranks as one of my all-time favorite albums by the Hemphills. I first heard the album as a teenager back around 1987, when I was a sophomore in high school. My pastor (the late Rev. M.E Cox) had it, and as I was going through his record collection at his home, I came across this one and asked if I could borrow it, and he said I could have it. I joyfully took it home and fell madly in love with it from the very first listen!
Produced by Bob MacKenzie, “Sing the Glory Down” had a very similar feel to their last album. The production value was stepped up slightly for this album and it also had a bit more variety to it as well. Unfortunately, MacKenzie would only lend his expertise to 2 albums for the Hemphills, and this would be the last one he produced for the group, as he would move on to other things by the following year. I would have loved to have heard him produce more albums for the Hemphills, but it wasn’t to be.
This album also marked the point when Joel and LaBreeska’s son, Trent, joined the group as their bass player. Prior to Trent joining, LaBreeska’s uncle, Bobby Goodman, played bass for a short time. Also, by the time this album came out, after about 4 years with the group, David Robbins had left as well, so the Hemphills were without a steel guitarist for a period of time, which I always thought was a major hallmark of their sound during their early days.
The album kicks off with the uber-exciting title song, “Sing the Glory Down”. The song was initially inspired by an article written about the Hemphills where it was stated that “they just sang the glory down”. That statement struck Joel and as he mulled over the idea, recalling the days of growing up in those old brush arbors and camp meetings, the song was born a few days later at a preacher’s home in Georgia. When I obtained this album as a teenager back around 1987, I had heard “OF” the song, but had never heard the song and after my first listen, I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. I could not stop listening to the song and would listen to it over and over and over again, taking in the thrilling performance by the group, as well as the whole musicality of the song including the piano and guitar work. Being raised in a church where they would shout and run the aisles, the mental picture this song gave me of those old saints running, shouting, and praising God was priceless to me and I couldn’t get enough of this song. The song was a hugely popular one for the Hemphills, charting for close to a year, peaking at #8 in March 1975. The song has been recorded numerous times over the years including the Speers (my favorite version after the Hemphills), Thrasher Brothers, Kingsmen, and most recently in 2017 by Jeff & Sheri Easter, where Joel himself was a guest vocalist. Of all the versions I’ve heard, none compare though, to the Hemphills’ exciting original version from this album, and it’s one of my all-time favorite Hemphill tunes.
Coming off the high from “Sing the Glory Down”, the pace slows down for another classic Joel Hemphill tune, “Jesus Have Mercy on Me”. Featuring Joel and inspired by the thought of how we fall short of the glory of God, the song is a humble testimony of God’s mercy and grace. The song went on to be recorded twice by the Cathedral Quartet in 1974 and 1987, and as much as I love the Hemphills’ version, George Younce owns the song (in my humble opinion), and his performance of the song is one of my all-time favorite George Younce features. Also worth mentioning, the Down East Boys most recently recorded the song back in 2018 on their “One Day in the Past” recording as well and did a splendid job with it!
Keeping the tempo in slow mode, Joel is featured once again on the John Stallings penned classic, “You’re All Invited to My Mansion”. Stallings was a magnificent writer who gave us such gems as “Learning to Lean”, “Love Grew Where the Blood Fell” and “Touching Jesus”, and his songs have been recorded by countless artists through the years from across the musical spectrum within Christian music. I first fell in love with this song when someone played the Sego Brothers & Naomi’s version from their 1975 album, “Down Home Singin’” (which is my personal favorite version) on the radio a couple of years before I obtained this album, and when I heard the Hemphills version, I fell in love with it all over again. Michael Combs brought the song back in the early 2000s and enjoyed great success with his version.
With a nice acoustic feel, LaBreeska is featured next on the bouncy Albert E. Brumley classic, “The Prettiest Flowers Will Be Blooming” before the tempo picks up as Joel and Tim both take a verse on the driving beat of, “A Song I Like to Sing”. Joel tended to write “happy” songs, and this was right up his alley. I really like the steel and electric guitar work on the song, as the song closes out the first side on a bright and cheerful note.
Kicking off the second side is the highly popular, “The Sweetest Words He Ever Said”, which features Joel. I love the “Pentecostal shuffle” feel of the song (as well as the false ending), and though it wasn’t a chart song for the group, it was a big concert favorite, holding a prominent place in their set list for a number of years. JD Sumner & the Stamps did an excellent job with the song on their 1992 recording, “Master of the Wind”, and the song enjoyed great success in the chart by the Stamps.
With its slow start featuring the acoustic guitar, LaBreeska is featured on her self-penned song, “Beyond the Sun”, which is one of my personal favorites from the recording. I love the electric guitar kicking off the chorus as the tempo gets ramped up into a more camp-meeting feel, and the group does a great job on the song before the tempo slows down for the beautiful melody of “Thank God for the Morning”, which features an outstanding performance by Tim on the verses, and Joel taking the melody on the chorus. I love the piano and steel guitar work, as well as the dynamics of the song as it builds up to its big finish…“Morning with all the hope that it brings, dispelling the gloom ‘til the happy heart sings, thank god for the morning!” It’s one of my personal favorites from the album and is a song worth someone bringing back today…possibly the Perrys or maybe even the Hoppers!
With its acoustic, country feel (along with the electric piano), LaBreeska sings the warm and reflective, “Don’t You Love to Sing About Home”, which is probably the most progressive song on the album.
I love hearing LaBreeska’s alto tones on this song and it sounds like something that would be right at home on a Downings or Rambos album from this era.
The album closes out with much the same vigor as it began, with the exciting and enthusiastic song, “I Found the City”. Written by Hal Reeves and published through Stamps Quartet Music, with Tim taking the lead on the chorus, the Hemphills sing the song with such vitality and energy, that it feels like the song was birthed from their inner being. I remember when I first heard this album, I played this song over and over again, as I just couldn’t get enough of it! I don’t know of anyone else who has recorded this song except for the Hemphills, but I would love to hear someone bring this song back today…my pick would be the Inspirations, as I think they could bring the house down with this song!
I’ve been writing music reviews for over 20 years now, and I have found that some of these reviews will literally write themselves; such was the case with this album! “Sing the Glory Down” was a fabulous piece of work, and it is one of my all-time favorite recordings by the Hemphills. It’s an album filled with great songs, great singing, and great music. All the necessary elements to make an exciting album had come together to create one magnificent and glorious piece of work! In my opinion, of all their albums up to this point, the Hemphills did some of their best singing on this album. As the title implies, they truly did “Sing the Glory Down”!
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