The Hemphills – Good Things (1981)
By 1981, the Hemphills were riding a massive wave of success spurred by several top 10 songs as well as two #1 songs (one of which remained at the #1 position for 8 months). They were definitely enjoying lots of “good things”, and 1981 saw the release of another hugely popular album aptly titled, “Good Things”, which brought them yet another #1 hit with the title track from the album!
Produced once again by Jerry Crutchfield, “Good Things” had a different feel than “Workin’” did. While it did have strong country undertones to it, it incorporated some different sounds and styles and was one of their most diverse albums to date. With multiple individuals playing keyboards, drums, and guitars, this was obviously recorded over the course of weeks and possibly months, and with each unique individual playing those instruments, it gave each song a unique feel. Also, Don Hart was tapped to provide string arrangements for the album as well.
Along with its cutting-edge sound, the album boasted one of the coolest covers as well. Featuring individual shots of each member spread out with a wooden background with various kitchen items along with strawberries and eggs in the foreground, it was an ingenious cover shot that gave a warm and inviting ambiance, beckoning each person to come and partake in some “Good Things”!
The disco vibe of the title track, “Good Things” gets the recording underway. Accented by electric guitars and a nice string section, this upbeat song was a big hit for the group, going all the way to #1 in May 1982 during its lengthy run in the charts. Inspired by a deliciously decadent display of donuts Joel saw at a truck stop in Kansas, Joel immediately went to the bus singing, “Our God specializes in good things”, and the song was born! Featuring Candy in the first verse and Joel in the second verse (a combo that worked very well for the Hemphills), the song was very different and was quite progressive at the time, but it’s one of my favorites by the group. In fact, Joel’s nephew, Tim McKeithen (who sang with the Hemphills from 1969-1976) and his family group, the McKeithens brought this song back as the lead-off song for their 1996 recording, “A 30 Year Celebration: Live in San Francisco”.
With LaBreeska singing the verses and Joel taking the melody on the chorus, the country feel of the medium tempo, “I Needed You”, is one of my personal favorites from this recording. I love the steel guitar, harmonica, and electric keyboard accents on the song and I love the honesty of the lyric…” my eyes were blind enough to make me know I needed sight, my life grew dark enough to make me know I needed light, I got lost enough to know I’d need a guide to see me through, my needs were strong enough to make me know, dear Lord, I needed You!” I think that this would be a great song for someone to bring back and record today.
The tempo is kicked back up as Joey sings the up-tempo, “I’m Not Perfect (Just Forgiven)”. Inspired by a bumper sticker he saw on the back of a car, Joel co-wrote the song with Jerry Crutchfield, and it became a staple in the Hemphills’ concert repertoire for several years, becoming Joey’s signature song.
A song not penned by Joel, but rather written by their producer, Jerry Crutchfield along with Claire Cloninger, Candy turns in an exceptional solo performance on the song, “I’m Yours Now”. Tastefully orchestrated, this is probably my all-time favorite Candy solo, as she does a magnificent job singing this meaningful prayer in song…“my life is wide open for Your love to enter, here at the center of all I am, I’m so happy I found how to simply say Lord I’m Yours now”. Candy recorded an updated arrangement that features a bit more dramatic vocalization by Candy the following year on her first solo effort, “Candy”, which was released in 1982. From what I can tell, it’s the same music track, but an updated vocal by Candy.
Joel picks the tempo back up as he sings, “There’s No Stopping Us Now”. Featuring a solid, Southern Gospel feel recalling an earlier sound of the Hemphills, the song is a challenge for the church that
“there’s no stopping us now, when we love one another and pray”, before Joey finishes out this side as he sings a beautiful song that he wrote entitled, “Lay Your Burden’s Down at the Cross”, which is nicely accented with strings.
Kicking off the second side is the medium tempo, “I’m a Winner”. With harmonica, dobro, and piano accents, it’s another song that has that old Hemphill sound and features Joey and Joel in their respective verses, before Candy steps up to sing the verses of the worshipful, “Create in Me”. With Joel taking the lead on the chorus (and Candy providing some nice call-back lines on the final chorus), the song is an honest and humble cry to the Creator…“Creator please create in me, something to glorify Thee, You made all the heavens and earth out of nothing, nothing is all I will be unless You come create in me”. This ranks as one of my favorite praise songs from Joel’s pen and is a highlight of the album.
With a fun electric guitar track and piano fills, “When the Clouds Roll Back” kicks things back up and is one of my favorites from this album. Featuring Joey in the second verse and with Candy kicking it up a notch in the last chorus, it’s a fun and enjoyable song with a good Southern Gospel feel to it. Though it was not a chart song for the group, it was a concert favorite that made its way to their forthcoming live album, which was released 2 years later in 1983. Making it a wonderful quartet song, the Southern Brothers did a really great job with their rendition of the song, which charted in the Top 10 for them in the early 2000s.
With a beautiful steel guitar intro giving it the feel of a country ballad, Joel is featured on the poignant, “What Else Could God Do”. With the haunting steel guitar throughout and Candy providing harmony behind Joel in parts of the song, it’s a nice departure from the usual for the Hemphills. It’s amazing how much Candy sounds like Dolly Parton when she harmonizes with her dad on songs like this. Joel and Candy do this with several songs on future recordings, and I really enjoy it when they do, as they beautifully complement each other vocally.
LaBreeska closes things out with an enjoyable rendition of “The Message of His Coming”, which was written by R.E. Winsett (writer of the classic, “Jesus is Coming Soon”), and it’s one of my personal favorites from the album. The guitar work is exceptional, and I love the acoustic feel of the song. The Goodmans ramped up the song a bit when they recorded it the following year on their “Chosen” album. The Williamsons adapted the Goodman’s version (and took it up another notch) when they recorded it a few years ago on their 2018 recording, “Give Them Jesus”.
In 1982, instead of the group releasing a new album, Candy released her first solo album, “Candy”, which was produced by Jerry Crutchfield. I had alluded to the album a bit earlier, and it really was a great album that was more country in nature with some contemporary undertones, but still Southern Gospel enough that fans of the Hemphills would enjoy it. The album featured such great songs as “Cast Your Bread on the Water” (which was later recorded by Gold City on their 2008 recording, “Moment of Truth”), “Hold Fast to the Right” as well as the original version of Joel’s classic song “The Only Real Peace” and a vocal do-over of “I’m Yours Now”, which I had mentioned earlier. Funny story about “…Bread on the Water”…I had heard Candy’s version of the song on one of those “Campmeetin’ Time” variety recordings that Heartwarming Records put out during the early 80’s, and when I started collecting records in the 90’s, I unsuccessfully tried to find the album the Hemphills recorded it on (I had assumed it was on a Hemphills album) and was quite frustrated in my search. This was before the internet became the real information hub it is today, and finally, about 20 years ago, someone directed me to Candy’s first solo album (which I was unaware of at the time) and there it was! I was delighted to find the album and add it to my collection.
Anyway, back to “Good Things”…
This was a top-notch recording and was very different from your average Southern Gospel album at that time. It was a very diverse album that featured hues of country and bluegrass, Southern Gospel, contemporary, praise and worship, and even a hint of disco. Despite the many musical flavors, this was an amazingly cohesive album that was filled with lots of good things for the body and spirit…and all you had to do is listen and just believe!
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