Gospel Music

CD Review: Turn to Hymn #… Vickie Woodard’s Melodious Praise

Turn to Hymn #… “Forgotten Hymns of the Church” featuring Vickie Woodard’s Melodious Praise Gospel artist Vickie Woodard set out to celebrate the beauty of the old hymns in her latest project, Turn to Hymn #…. Her vocal tribute to these revered Christian songs is accompanied by piano, organ, and electronic keyboard. Vickie’s intention to pay homage to classic hymnody while infusing each song with a modern sensibility would have come off much more effectively had the accompaniment been limited to piano and organ. The electric keyboard gives the tracks too much of a hotel lounge feel, obscuring the simple ...

Read More »

Classic Gospel – Essential Recordings: Week 116

“I Believe” — Sons of Wonder Honey-B-Recording Co. 1045 Early 60s I have heard plenty of syrupy-sweet or just plain bad versions of the gospel/country chestnut “I Believe” to make me want to abandon hope of ever fully appreciating the composition. Until recently, only Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelle’s glass-shattering version recorded for Parkway in the early 1960s held my utmost respect. Until I heard the Boys of Wonder, that is. Think Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells, but male. This quartet’s version of “I Believe” is part preaching and part singing. While the narrator intones how as a boy, he ...

Read More »

Classic Gospel – Essential Recordings: Week 115

Week 115: “No Love is Sweeter” Echoes of Harmony ca. early 1970s (Savoy LP 14280) I could not find definitive information on the Echoes of Harmony, and that’s a shame, because they are superb! If, however, this quartet is the same as the Echoes of Harmony of Jersey City, NJ — and given Savoy’s headquarters in Newark, NJ, it is entirely possible — then the quartet was founded by Deacon Robert W. Jones in 1947. By 1969, Jones was the only remaining original member. At that time, Echoes’ personnel was Jones (founder and tenor), Simon Dingle (lead), Otis Dingle (2nd ...

Read More »

“Saint” Samuel Patterson: 1920-2004

Samuel Patterson, known as “Saint” Samuel Patterson, left this world for his eternal reward on Thursday evening, September 16, 2004. According to information generously supplied to me by Chicago COGIC and gospel music historian Mack Mason, Patterson was memorialized at the church he founded, St. Samuel Temple COGIC, 8749 South State Street, Chicago on September 24. The wake and service took place on the 25th at the Life Center COGIC, 5500 South Indiana, with Bishop Robert R. Sanders of the Third Jurisdiction officiating. Patterson was born August 31, 1920 in Morgan City, Mississippi as one of 14 children of John ...

Read More »

A History of Preacher Gay and the Famous Gay Sisters by Gregory Gay

NOTE: Gregory Gay, the son of Donald “Preacher” Gay, wrote this brief history of the Gay Sisters, a family that gospel music historian Anthony Heilbut once wrote “is worth a longer study; they provide in microcosm a history of black migration.” ################################################################################### The church and gospel music has long played an integral part in the lives of Fannie and Jerry Gay’s children. Eight children were born to this union. While three were born stillborn, the remaining five were endowed with a gift of music. Their parents knew early on that these children were indeed unique. Evelyn began piano lessons at ...

Read More »

From NuWave to Fortitude

From the South Side of Chicago — where gospel music found its voice more than eight decades ago — comes Fortitude (Jamie Simond, Cinque Cullar, Leon “Rock” Guyton and Teddy Jackson). Originally the Stellar nominated NuWave, the group has been reborn as Fortitude with the same tight harmonies, only richer and more robust. I dare you to listen to these guys and not think “early Boyz II Men.” Their first CD as Fortitude was released last month, and it has all the components of a winner: strong urban beats, superb harmonies, crystal-clear production, and two songs that have crossover potential. ...

Read More »

DeNetria “Aretha” Champ — gospel’s newest “it” girl?

On its list of “Best Decisions of 2004,” Professor James Roberson’s JDI Records must have included at the top its release of DeNetria “Aretha” Champ’s first solo CD: “I Really Love You.” Having appeared as a guest on a number of JDI projects, including Chicago’s Greater Walters (“He Can Do Anything”) and with Norman Hutchins (“Jesus Whoop”), DeNetria is head and shoulders JDI’s finest asset. It’s not hard to understand why DeNetria earned the nickname “Aretha;” her high soprano passages sound almost eerily like the late Rev. C.L. Franklin’s famous daughter. At the same time, she has a style and ...

Read More »

Classic Gospel – Essential Recordings: Week 114

Week #114: “To the End” – Hightower Brothers Nashboro 719, early 1960s [also available on Nashboro LP 7011; on CD as “The Best of the Hightower Brothers” NASH 4004] Eschewing the frenetic shouting typical of the Hightower Brothers’ most popular recordings, Robert Lee “Sugar” Hightower slows it up on “To the End,” delivering a gospel ballad with a melodic line more reminscent of early soul than gospel music. The remainder of the Hightowers provide a nicely crafted harmony line behind Sugar as he infuses each note with passion. While the Hightower Brothers’ recording days were few in number — approximately ...

Read More »

CD Review: Bishop Leonard Scott – “Hymns for the Nation”

Bishop Leonard Scott – “Hymns for the Nation” (Tyscot 2004) There are some projects that I especially enjoy reviewing, and this is one of them. Bishop Leonard Scott’s “Hymns for the Nation” not only features an all-star cast, including Albertina Walker, DeAndre Patterson, and Nicki Ross-Turnley, but also showcases old school gospel in a way that pays homage to its traditional roots while draping it in sufficiently modern arrangements to render the performances enjoyable to old and new school gospel music aficionados alike. Outstanding tracks on this remarkable project include Walker’s splendid, singing-is-second-nature work on “Even Me,” DeAndre Patterson’s sanctified ...

Read More »

CD Review: Joe Stevenson & Friends

Joe Stevenson & Friends: “I Had to Wait on Him” (Blessed Man Music, 2004) Joe “Quarterback” Stevenson – a high school and college gridiron athlete, law enforcement officer, elected official, and musician – passes for far more completions than incompletes on his debut effort, “I Had to Wait on Him.” Stevenson wrote, arranged, and produced all of the songs on the CD. Dr. John R. Adolph, Pastor of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, interjects energetic and inspiring messages to set the mood for a couple of tracks. Stevenson’s vocal dexterity on “He Won’t” is by far his ...

Read More »