[photo © David Bram]
The long overdue sequel to the 07/07/07 Spiritual Funk/Soul/Rock/Jazz mix. "I Remember" keeps things gospel, an oft-overlooked genre that I became acquainted with through my love of soul music. Many of the early soul artists started out in gospel, and "went secular." Artists like Ray Charles didn't even bother to change the music, singing secular lyrics over gospel standards. "God" simply became "you babe."
As I wind my way through this genre, I never stop being surprised just how diverse the sound can be. Gospel aint just church organ and choir. Gospel-funk, gospel-jazz, gospel-rock, rockin-gospel-anti-rock, gospel-disco, modern-soul-gospel, there's plenty of stuff to love, and hate, within the genre. "I Remember" isn't so much about representing the diverse limits of the gospel genre (perhaps another mix?) as it is about blending together the finest examples of this vast genre that I could find. I hope you enjoy it.
For the curious, here is some background info on the music:
Kicking things off with a blessing from Marvin Peterson and the Soulmasters, a great jazz/funk record, but not really suitable for this mix. I like his sentiment though.
James Chapman's "Overtime." Both sides of this New Orleans gospel 45 are sublime, and get their proper respect as the opener and closer for the mix. "If I keep working 'till the end of the day, I know I'll get my pay." Indeed. Treasures in heaven perhaps. Sadly, the few known copies of this record are all hand scrawled in pen, "disk jockey, not for sale."
Next up is the Golden Harmonizer's "I Come To Serve The Lord." From Cleveland, Ohio, this group might get a bit of recognition from the amazing new Numero "Boddie Recording Company" compilation. Although Numero chooses a different track, "Won't Be Back No More", to represent the group -- which honestly doesn't hold a candle to "I Come To Serve The Lord."
Next, Etoy Bogart weighs in on a question we've been dying to have answered: "Bogart, why you sing so hard?" The answer: "This Maybe [sic] The Last Time."
Evelyn Freeman blazes through a version of "Didn't It Rain" -- a gospel standard popularized by Mahalia Jackson, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe [check the vid, well worth a view]. Best version ever? No, apparently that title goes to Tom Jones.
The Spiritual Four give us "If You Think Your God Is Dead." The date on this record, 1978, always makes me do a double take. Recorded during the height of disco, P-funk, and into the anemic sounds of the 80s, you'd never know it from this cut, which could have been recorded twenty years earlier. Good music is timeless.
Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth For Christ Choir's "Nobody Knows", may be the most well known track on this mix, thanks to a reissue by Light In The Attic a couple years back, and rave reviews by, well, everyone who has heard it. To me it sounds like Vince Guaraldi at the piano, with the production genius of David Axelrod, and the earnestness and authenticity that said producer never quite achieved on his spiritual endeavors. Enough said.
This next record is a sad one, both in content, and in the circumstances of my trying to get a hold of a copy. Definitely rare, I sourced a copy of Charles Collins' "Heartaches and Pain" from a dealer in Ireland. I happily awaited its arrival, which never occurred, due to "major disruption and losses in the postage system due to extreme weather and major flooding." It all sounded fishy, but YouTube backed it up. Ireland be flooded. I got my money back, but RIP a rare, beautiful record, and my chances of ever finding a copy. I did find a digital copy to share with you all -- good enough? It's about the music, not the records. It's about the music, not the records. Repeat as necessary. Then hit eBay and refuse to buy reissues or bootlegs.
Frank Hutson, "Big Man". "I aint talkin' about the president. With all of his power...aint worth one cent." Don't let the Republicans get a hold of this one. Rick Perry campaign song anyone? What a record. The B-side, "Old Man Me", is the title track from my deep soul mix and the cause for all the hype around this record in the resurgent soul scene. I managed snap one up at a reasonable price due to a misspelling(?) of Hutson as Hutton. This is likely an earlier recording of Hutson, as "Old Man Me" is a rawer version without the lovely vocal backing of the Exposures. I'm guessing they polished up the recording, and fixed the misprint, and pressed up some more copies.
Adding some New Orleans horns to the mix is Artistic Sounds' "Message To A Nation." There's a nice party vibe throughout the same titled LP. Out of any group in this mix, I'd say the Artistic Sounds had the most commercial success. There's plenty of copies of this album out there, and can be picked up for relatively cheap.
The Reverend Johnny L. "Hurricane" Jones drops in for a quick message, and it's off to...
...Mighty Voices Of Wonder's "I Thank The Lord." Certainly these were times when the fear of God resided in man's heart -- when each day we thanked God for not smiting us in our sleep.
A White boy (what?!), bluegrass legend John Hartford drops in and tells us to "Turn Your Radio On." An decided un-gospel moment, but I think it fits.
More un-gospel, Professor Johnson sings the blues about "Standing In The Safety Zone." This track was taken from the "Life Is A Problem" compilation, by Mississippi Records -- worth a listen.
The Windy City Four weigh in with "Lord Walk With Me." This 45 cut appears on their sought after "Don't Let The Devil Ride" LP, which easily goes for 10x the cost of the 45. Perhaps it has something to do with the AMAZING cover picture?
Back to another "Life Is A Problem" track, this one definitely gospel. "Seat In The Kingdom", by the Crumb Brothers (a.k.a. Hightower Brothers) is quality, no doubt, but prepare for mind blowing-dom: the lead vocals are courtesy of 10 year old by Robert "Sugar" Hightower. What a monster! That's him, front and center. Sugar went on to play guitar with the Supreme Angels when, uhmm, his voice...cracked?
Next up, my personal favorite, "Let Jesus Work It Out" by the Daytonians simply transcends. If the Daytonians aint heaven's house band, I'm gonna feel gypped.
"Is There Any Love", by Trevor Dandy, is a track I heard some time back in early 2000 at a friend's house. Immediately loving it, I begged him to sell the LP to me. I think I offered $50, which was a lot in year 2000 record prices. He said "Naw, I think I'll hold on to it." About once or twice a year, I'd ask if he still had it. "Yup." Then a couple years ago, "Oh...no. I sold it on eBay for $50." A friend no more. The latest copy to surface went for $760 on eBay in September.
The Holy Disciples, "After Every Dark Cloud" wins the righteously moody award. Northern Soul aficionados are tripping over themselves trying to pick up a copy of their "Trying To Make a Hundred" 45, the latest "in tune", paying upwards of 500 GBP for one. But I'll stick with this album cut, thank you.
Mack Simmons sings "It's gonna rain, it's gonna rain, you better get ready and bear this in mind. God showed Noah, showed him the rainbow sign, it won't be water, but fire next time." Right on. Such a catchy little tune.
You can definitely judge a book by it's cover, and this Brooklyn Skyways cover is P.I.M.P. I get a little lost in the message of "Help Yourself." Are we supposed to help ourselves, or "reach out a little further"? I do know one thing: those suits are bangin'.
The Florida Spiritualaires, "I Remember When," this mixes' title track. "I remember, the way we used to shout. We don't even shout that no more. We don't even sing like that no more. We don't even go to church like that no more." Seems apt. Good music makes me nostalgic. I yearn for a time when sounds of yesterday were the pop sounds of today. And maybe that is unrealistic, perhaps the music I'm attracted to was always on the fringe. But I can at least pretend, and make mixes like this -- sifting and mixing together a playlist for a mythical radio station that never was.
Dwain Vinyard's "Sit Down And Rest Your Soul" is probably my most daring pick for this mix, falling into the modern soul genre: a polarizing genre if ever there was one. It's the primary contributing factor to the death of the northern soul scene. I like the quaint, self-made appeal of this track though. From the multi-tracked solo vocals, to the Vinyard Records label, everything about this track screams one man show. And it's catchy.
And lastly, we finish up where we started, with James Chapman, singing "How Far Is Heaven." I wish I could say more about Chapman, his contribution to music deserves mention, but sadly an artist/producer/label search turns up nothing.
Phew. That's it. I hope you enjoyed this mix, and me blabbing about it. I think that's the most I've ever written about music. If you made it this far, my hat is off to you. Please, send me your thoughts.
James Chapman - Overtime
Golden Harmonizers - I Come To Serve The Lord
Etoy Bogart - This Maybe The Last Time
Evelyn Freeman - Didn't It Rain
Pastor T.L. Barrett - Nobody Knows
Hank Collins - Heartaches and Pain
Frank Hutson - Big Man
Artistic Sounds - Message To A Nation
Mighty Voices Of Wonder - I Thank The Lord
John Hartford - Turn Your Radio On
Professor Johnson - Standing In The Safety Zone
Windy City Four - Lord Walk With Me
Crumb Brothers - Seat In The Kingdom
Daytonians - Let Jesus Work It Out
Trevor Dandy - Is There Any Love?
Holy Disciples - After Every Dark Cloud
Mack Simmons - It's Gonna Rain
Brooklyn Skyways - Help Yourself
Florida Spiritualaires - I Remember When
Dwain Vinyard - Sit Down
James Chapman - How Far Is Heaven