The Hemphills – “Excited!” (1985)

by | Mar 27, 2024 | LP Review, Reviews

Coming off the tremendous success generated from their “Together” album, the Hemphills released another exciting album called, “Excited!” in 1985. It truly was an exciting time for the Hemphills as they were continuing to enjoy immense success via radio and in their concerts, and this latest album would garner them even more success, as the album spawned 2 hit songs as well as winning the Dove Award in 1986 for Southern Gospel Album of the year!

The album was once again produced by Trent Hemphill and Wayne Hilton. Also, Wayne assisted with the co-writing process for 4 songs on this album. For many years, while Joel had a few co-writes here and there, Joel typically wrote alone. With this album, Joel sought Wayne’s opinion on some song ideas and he, Candy and Wayne churned out some amazing songs for this album. While I will readily admit, I think nowadays songwriters don’t write enough songs by themselves, in the case with these songs, I think the added creativity made these songs better and truly enhanced what Joel was trying to say in them.

Another aspect I loved about this album was the cover. The cover shot was taken by Dennis Carney and the concept for the cover shot was his idea. Using a set that was created for something else, they made a few modifications to it and voila…we have what you see on the cover, and it was absolutely perfect! With purple being my favorite color, naturally I loved the cover and thought the artwork was extremely cool as well. In fact, the album cover was nominated for a Dove Award in 1986 for “Recorded Music Packaging of the Year”, which is an award created specifically for cover art and photography.

The album kicks off with the whimsical feel-good song, “God Likes People”, which features LaBreeska. This was the first single from the recording, peaking at #10 in November 1985. Wanting to convey the message that God not only loved people, but he liked them as well, Joel co-wrote the song with their producer, Wayne Hilton. The song was initially met with some resistance, and it became somewhat controversial because some people didn’t understand what the song was saying. Essentially, you can love someone, but not like them, but God not only loves us, but likes us too, and that was the message Joel was trying to get across. The final choruses of the song feature a choir of Benson employees and staff songwriters, and I love how each line of the chorus featured some everyday person who wasn’t necessarily a singer, showcasing the uniqueness of each individual, further demonstrating the message of the song. In fact, the song spurred a spin-off of sorts as Joel and LaBreeska released a children’s musical titled, “God Likes Kids” a year or so later, which won the 1987 Dove Award for “Children’s Music Album of the Year”.

Slowing the pace down, Candy does a marvelous job singing sentimental, “The Soldier Won the Battle”, which is one of my all-time favorite songs by the Hemphills. Written by Joel with a little help from Candy and Wayne Hilton, the song is a heartfelt tribute to Joel’s dad, before the tempo picks up for the peppy prophetic tune entitled, “Changing of the Seasons”, which has that classic Hemphills feel to it. With fun dobro, harmonica, and piano accents, it’s an enjoyable tune and was a nice inclusion for the recording.

With the haunting strains of the electric guitar and mandolin, Joey steps up next as he sings another one of personal favorites from this album, a song simply titled, “Chains”, which is another song Joel co-wrote with Candy and Wayne Hilton. A powerful song inspired by one of Paul’s many imprisonments for sharing the gospel and the joy he felt when those he loved came to visit him while in prison. The song parallels the joy Paul felt, with the warmth we feel as we come to know and understand the love Christ has for us…“you weren’t ashamed of my chains, I needed a friend when you came, the love that you showed, and your smile let me know, you weren’t ashamed of my chains”. I love the message in the song and of all of Joey’s features, this is my absolute favorite song that he sings.

For the first time (and to my knowledge, the only time), Trent steps up to the mic as he sings, “Have You Made Your Reservation”, which features some nice piano and guitar work. It’s a wonder Trent never recorded more solos, as he has a nice voice, and the song rounds out this side on a happy note. In fact, the Greenes eventually recorded the song a few years later, on their 1993 recording, “It’s a Sweet Life”.

Kicking off the second side is the title song, “I’m So Excited”, which Joel co-wrote with Trent. The song has the Hemphills hallmark arrangement with Joel taking the lead and Candy kicking it into high gear on the final choruses. The song features some cool guitar licks and harmonica highlights, and was a big hit for the group, peaking at #9 in the June 1986 Singing News chart.

Joel, Candy and Wayne penned probably my favorite song from this album, “I Know You Would”, which features a wonderful performance by Candy. Written from a place of deep reflection, the song was profoundly personal for Joel and was inspired during a time he had gotten slack in his walk with the Lord and he eventually poured his heart out in the song…“If I should somehow stray away from all that’s pure and good, and wake up somewhere I thought I’d never would, when you heard me calling, without wondering if You should, would You long to hold me, I know You would…Lord I know You’d find me, cause that’s the way You are, like the Shepherd searching for the lamb who wondered far, I’m sure I’ll never leave You, but realizing that I could, it’s comforting to know You’d love me, I know You would”. The song is a powerful reminder that if anyone falls into a snare by the enemy, we know WHO would come looking for us. I’ve been surprised no one has picked up and recorded this vulnerable lyric, as it’s one of the most powerful songs Joel ever wrote.

Keeping the tempo in slow mode, LaBreeska steps up to sing this album’s “blood” song entitled, “What Calvary Bought”, before the tempo picks back up as Joel and Joey both take the lead on the ¾ time of the song entitled, “My Armor”, which recalls an earlier sound and style of the Hemphills.

With a mournful violin playing at the beginning, the album closes out with another one of my favorites, “All That You Dream”, which Joel co-wrote with Candy and David Huntsinger (former pianist for the Rambos). With Joel handling the melody for most of the song, it’s primarily a duet with Joel and Candy, with the rest of the family joining in on a couple of lines on the chorus. It’s a striking performance and once again amazes me how much Candy sounds like Dolly Parton on the song. I love the song’s message, which was written as an encouragement for those whose dreams have seemingly been shattered…“I know you’ve been crying, there are tears on your cheeks, you’ve just seen your plans fall apart…I just want to say that your Father above…loves you much more than I ever could, and He’ll help you with all that you dream”. It’s such a wonderful and encouraging song to wrap up such an amazing album.

I had bought this album (along with the “Together” album) when I saw the Hemphills at a church here in Durham in late Summer/early Fall of 1985, and I fell in love with it the first time I heard it. I think seeing the Hemphills sing many of these songs live that day, helped solidify this album as one of my all-time favorites by the group. It had a different feel than “Together” did, but there were many similarities. Both albums were filled with songs that were authentic and easy to relate to, were musically enjoyable and creatively inspiring.

From a business perspective, things were changing within the Benson Company as it appears their focus was shifting away from Southern Gospel Music. While the company has always had a very diverse roster representing all areas within gospel music, it seems the company had decided they did not want to maintain a Southern Gospel arm, so the Heartwarming label was dissolved. But in 1983, Bill Traylor created RiverSong Records, and by 1986, in a unique turn of events, the Benson Company bought RiverSong Records (and brought Bill Traylor on board as well) and the Hemphills were once again part of the Benson Company, as they were signed to the RiverSong label. That relationship would continue for another couple of years and the Hemphills would continue to enjoy great success under the new RiverSong label.

Please check out my music page on Facebook for more content related to Southern Gospel Music including more discography reviews on other groups, we well as other thoughts and discussions related to Southern Gospel Music.  Please like and follow my page at https://www.facebook.com/James-Music-Page-102612571620560.

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James Hales

James Hales

James is a lifelong fan of Southern Gospel Music. Being exposed to the music through his dad's record collection as a 7 or 8 year old boy in the late 70's, James grew to love the music of the Happy Goodmans, Kingsmen, Inspirations, Rambos, Florida Boys and others. James has been a staff writer for Absolutely Gospel since 2000 writing music reviews and various articles, and he has contributed to Musicscribe and SGHistory.com for several years as well. James also writes for his own music page on Facebook as well, via James' Music Page (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063484056683).

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