Release Date: 07/27/06
Like an evangelist's tent show sweeping the Southern states, Document's gospel music campaign is starting to make serious inroads into the other half of the story of African American vernacular music. Here we have the first four recordings of the young Mahalia Jackson - just voice and piano, but still a compelling sound, though less so when organ takes over - for Decca in 1937. Then Lottie Peavy, with a band featuring Bunk Johnson and Turk Murphy, recorded in San Francisco. I prefer her powerful vibrato to Jackson's vocal, and the accompaniment is quite attractive, especially Johnson - the trumpet is uncharacteristically muted (but still very effective) on one track, but open and shouting on the second. Sister Copeland accompanies herself on guitar, these are pleasant sides. Rosetta Wynn is very interesting with potent preaching and subtle background moaning, interspersed with rough but very effective singing and excellent down-home guitar work, at least some of which is probably by Jesse Thomas. Elder Michaux's two-part 'I Am So Happy' is a classic and should be well known to many for its almost hysterically optimistic sound and frantic clapping; you can imagine that the singers would have had to have had the smiles surgically removed after this cut. Madame Ernestine is not Ernestine Washington, and in fact she sounds a little like Mahalia Jackson. Into the 50s, we have Prophet B.W. West, who recorded in Hollywood for Imperial. This is quite primitive, if gripping stuff, in which the prophet preaches in a low gruff, chanting voice, while his acolytes clap and bear witness noisily around him. Finally, Sister Goldia Haynes is as interesting for her accompaniment as for her own intrinsic qualities, as it comprises Joe Liggins on piano, Gene Phillips on guitar and Eddie Davis on string bass. The result, not surprisingly, swings very pleasantly, causing at one or two points the oxymoron 'after-hours gospel' to spring unbidden into the mind. Altogether, a thoroughly fascinating compilation, illustrating the remarkable variety of ways in which gospel singers chose to praise the Lord - or maybe that should be the remarkable variety of ways in which record producers sought the next gospel hit sound.
|Label: Document Records|
|Run Time: 70 mins|
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