Various Artists Nuggets of the Golden Age of Gospel 1945-1958 [Box] CD

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Various Artists Nuggets of the Golden Age of Gospel 1945-1958 [Box] CD. Personnel: Dr. Morgan Babb, Sullivan Pugh (vocals, guitar); Clara Ward, Curtis Dublin, Wynona Carr, James Cleveland (vocals, piano); Clarence Fountain, Iola Pugh, Della Reese, Willie Smith , Rev. George W. Warren, Lorenzo Brown, Clem Reed, Ira Tucker, James W. Alexander, Paul Owen, Lou Rawls, Shirley Caesar, Bernice Cole, Bessie Griffin (vocals); Ernest McLean, Howard Carroll, Bobby King , Everett Barksdale, Eddie Lester, McKinney Jones, Tommy Gaither, William Stewart , Joseph Wallace, Leroy Crume, Lonnie Liston Smith, Roebuck "Pops" Staples, Arthur Crume (guitar); Royal J. Abbit, Leon Lumpkins, Conrad Frederick, William Neal, Charlotte Nelson, Kirk Stuart, Evelyn Gay, Bertha Smith, Joe Washington, Kelly Owens, Margaret Allison, Sam Price (piano); Emory Radford, Alfred Miller, Prof. Herman Stevens, Gwendolyn Cooper, Rev. Maceo Woods (organ); Earl Palmer , Sam Reese Sheppard, Marty Wilson, Al Duncan , Osie Johnson, Terry Snyder, Oscar Lee Bradley (drums).
This wonderful four-disc, 105-track box of postwar Afro-American gospel releases from the 1940s and 1950s was compiled by record collector and gospel historian Opal Louis Nations, and it perfectly captures what was surely a golden age for black gospel. Gospel as we now know it emerged in the South in the early '30s, an outgrowth of the right to assemble and the advent of gospel songwriters like Thomas A. Dorsey (who had sung previously in the secular arena as Georgia Tom), who brought the blues to church, tossed in some ragtime piano rhythms, and almost single-handedly created the genre to the point that his compositions were simply known as "Dorseys." Then, in the early '40s, performers like Sister Rosetta Tharpe added a kind of theatricality (not to mention electric guitar) to the mix, and this generous box chronicles the confluence of all this. There is so much to marvel at here, including the opening track, "Walk Around," by the Five Soul Stirrers, Tharpe's jazzy, bluesy "Didn't It Rain" (complete with her concise electric guitar runs), the Five Blind Boys of Alabama's beautiful and haunting "Mother's Song," Sam Cooke & the Soul Stirrers' intimate "Pilgrim of Sorrow" (the take included here has some off microphone conversation that only adds to the song's feel of immediacy), Lou Rawls & the Pilgrim Travelers' doo wop-inflected (before doo wop was even a named genre) "Come Home," and Sister Marie Knight's uptown jazz version of "Trouble in Mind," a song that had long been performed as a secular blues, albeit with a high degree of spiritual overtones. Gospel, of course, traveled back to the secular side of the tracks when soul arose in the 1960s, but the roots of that explosion are here in this delightful collection. ~ Steve Leggett


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