This brilliant compilation from Rhino Records takes a look at black gospel music, predominately, of the forties & fifties, though there are tracks from the sixties & seventies as well, the music that people like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin grew up with and then brought the sound of into the mainstream. This is a really, really great compilation. For the age of some of these recordings, the sound quality is pretty spectacular. There are a couple of tracks with a lot of crackle on them, but for the most part, the sound is really pristine. The album has a few mediocre tracks, as any compilation will, but they are far outweighed by the genuinely great tracks. Some of the tracks have an early R&B shuffle, while others are high-energy a cappella tracks. Jesus Met the Woman at the Well is a finger snapping a cappella quartet song by the Famous Blue Jay Singers. Brother Joe May contributes an up tempo, howling version of the old hymn Search Me Lord. Clara Ward & the Ward Singers absolutely rip things to shreds with a high-intensity rendition of How I Got Over. Shirley Caesar takes a pretty hokey country tune called No Charge and elevates it with her pure sincerity. The Golden Gate Gospel Quartet contributes a fantastic a cappella turn called Golden Gate Gospel Train; at one point, one of the singers pulls off an imitation of a muted trumpet that is breathtaking and he spins it into a lengthy “trumpet” solo. A couple of iconic tracks show up: the Swan Silvertones’ Mary Don’t You Weep is always welcome and Edwin Hawkin’s Singers’ Oh Happy Day is the pitch perfect album closer. A few tracks fail to land. Unfortunately, a couple of genuine greats, Aretha Franklin & James Cleveland, are represented by a duet track, Precious Memories; I’ve always hated the song and they drag the tempo down to glacial pace and stretch the song to nearly eight minutes in length and it’s easily the worst track on the album. By and large, however, this album lives up to its name. It has eighteen tracks and around an hour of good old black gospel experience. For those who already love black gospel, it’s a really good compilation; for those who have never gotten into this kind of music, I think it’s a fantastic introduction. Won’t we have a happy, happy time? Oh, yes. Oh, yes indeed. 4 stars.
tl;dr – brilliant compilation of black gospel music features iconic tracks and obscure delights; a great time in the grand old black gospel style and a good introduction to the genre as well. 4 stars.