POWERHOUSE GOSPEL ON INDEPENDENT LABELS 1946-1959 (4CD SET)
Pilgrim Singers, Silvertone Quintet, Kansas City Soul Reviewers, Jackson Gospel Singers, Blair Gospel Singers, Rosetta Winn & Her Tornadoes, Norfleet Brothers, National Clouds Of Joy, Dixie Nightingales, Blind Wonders Of Washington DC, Drexall Singers, Ethel Davenport, Saints Of Glory, Southern Echoes, Rising Sun Gospel Singers, Ida Hayes & The Mello-Tones and many more...
In the years following World War Two, gospel records were in short supply due to recording bans caused by the major record companies' troubles with the musicians union. Small independent labels like Songs Of The Cross, Octive, Lamp, Gotham, Nashville, Red Robin, Lenox, JOB, JVB and Fortune, who had no truck with the unions, quickly moved in to take advantage of the gap in the market and released a massive amount of product from some tremendous unheralded gospel talent. During the forties and fifties they recorded everything from jubilee singers and gospel quartets to close harmony groups and the gospel shouters who were to have such an influence on later soul stars like James Brown, Don Covay and Wilson Pickett - and this glorious music is what you'll find crammed inside this 4CD box set.
There's not a single performance here that isn't fabulous and, although there isn't space to write all I could about this stuff, I do have to mention the Kansas City Soul Revivers' Jesus Came At Midnight with it's lolloping rhythms and devilish bass lines swirling around the terrific vocals and the Spiritual Wonders' You Got To Move which jumps right out of the speakers thanks to the terrific chonking beat supporting the full-blooded, fiery vocals. Then there's the unidentified quartet that sings I Look Back Down The Road And Wonder. They open in a tremulous, wailing mood and then proceed to rip the roof off with their barely controlled chilling screaming vocals. They are equalled in intensity by Nellie Lynn & The Sons Of Harmony on their insistent vocal harmony gem If Jesus Had To Pray and I love the choppy guitar sound on The Friendly Brothers Need Jesus On My Journey with it's soaring Sam Cooke style attack.
I've discovered new heroes here too - like Rev HB Crum who must have had a pair of lungs the size of South Carolina judging by his performance on Do You Know Me Thomas, and The Soul Satisfiers Of Philadelphia, whose house-wreckin' call and response vocals on Run On Home And Live With God lay goose pimples on your goose pimples.
Then there's the terrifying power of the preachers and their congregations that appear on the fourth disc. They wail out some wonderfully scary stuff including the stupendous lining hymn Lord I Cannot Live In Sin by Deacon Leroy Shinault with his followers in Chicago, then Rev Charles Beck out in Buffalo, NY gets indignant about the youth of the day in his Rock And Roll Sermon while, almost perversely, the backing band plays some of the rocking-est music on the entire box set!
Compiler Louis Opal Nations has done a terrific job in sorting out the wheat from the chaff, selecting the very best examples of some of the most thrilling, emotion packed music in America's history. There's no doubt in my mind that this is one of the best gospel sets ever issued.
Review Date: October 2010