5 Stars

When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936

Various Artists When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936 Tompkins Square (released December 9, 2014) www.tompkinssquare.com By Bob Marovich Tompkins Square continues its stretch of quality black sacred music reissues with the three-CD When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel 1926-1936. Using 1926 as a starting point is not a random decision. That year saw the release of debut recordings by two seminal artists: Church of God in Christ powerhouse Arizona Dranes (who has already received a handsome Tompkins Square retrospective) and Baptist minister Rev. J. M. Gates of Atlanta, who became a bestselling recording ...

Read More »

Fred Hammond – I Will Trust

Fred Hammond I Will Trust RCA Inspiration (release date: November 17, 2014) www.rcainspiration.com By Bob Marovich One thing’s for sure: listen to Fred Hammond and you can’t help but have a good time praising the Lord. His latest album, I Will Trust, is packed to the CD’s brim with bracing musicianship, creative melodies and arrangements, rich singing, and demonstrative lyrics. The opening selection, “Festival of Praise,” could easily have been an alternate title for the CD, as the entire album is a musical festival, a cornucopia of praise and worship, Fred Hammond style. Hammond shifts effortlessly from an appropriately Brazilian ...

Read More »

Various Artists – Motown Christmas

Various Artists Motown Christmas Motown Gospel (2014) www.motowngospel.com By Bob Marovich Motown Christmas is the best yuletide album I have listened to in years.  Gifted executive producer Aaron W. Lindsey (who also plays, writes, and sings on the album) seamlessly blends the old and the new with the sacred and secular to create an overall vibe that feels cozy and familiar. First off, the duet couplings are inspired. For example, Kierra Sheard (gospel) and Chrisette Michele (pop) give “Angels We Have Heard On High” a beautifully traditional reading while injecting just enough of their own vocal personalities to make it ...

Read More »

Bessie Jones with the Georgia Sea Island Singers and Others: Get In Union

Bessie Jones with the Georgia Sea Island Singers and Others Get In Union: Recordings by Alan Lomax 1959-1966 Tompkins Square (released, October 28, 2014) www.tompkinssquare.com By Bob Marovich Students of ethnomusicology and folk music enthusiasts fortunate enough to hear the two or three LPs of Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers can tell you the thrill of hearing the group’s music for the first time. The singers’ dedication to preserving a music with roots that run all the way back to West Africa has enabled generations to hear something of the foundation of spirituals, the blues, jazz, gospel, and ...

Read More »

Lecrae – Anomaly

Lecrae Anomaly Reach Records (2014) www.reachrecords.com By Bob Marovich Lecrae’s new CD, Anomaly, is Christian music’s most incisively honest, but at the same time most bravely hopeful, project this year. To Lecrae, being an anomaly, being an outsider, is both an advantage and disadvantage. On one hand, anomalies are outcasts who don’t fit in. At the same time, as Lecrae articulates on the title track, being an outsider is “exactly what God created us to be.” “Why you scared to be different?” he asks on “Say I Won’t.”  Anomalies call it like it is, and Lecrae does just that on ...

Read More »

Evang. Nelson Larkins & God’s Posse – The Kind of God We Serve: Live in Chicago

Evangelist Nelson Larkins & God’s Posse The Kind of God We Serve: Live in Chicago TREWWORKS Music Group/Deznell Music Group (2011) www.cdbaby.com/cd/nelsonlarkinsgodsposse By Bob Marovich It is always a pleasure to hear a live gospel quartet album that truly captures the excitement of a group having church. Such an album is The Kind of God We Serve by Chicago-based Evangelist Nelson Larkins & God’s Posse. Although the group’s name gives the impression that it is a contemporary small choir, make no mistake: Nelson Larkins & God’s Posse is a rompin’, stompin’ quartet that is 70 percent traditional, 30 percent contemporary ...

Read More »

Various Artists – The Best of Revelation Records: 1959-1962

Various Artists The Best of Revelation Records: 1959-1962 Narro Way Records (released September 16, 2014) www.cityhallrecords.com www.gospelfriend.com By Bob Marovich Mention the name Bobby Robinson to popular music historians, and you will hear how he founded a number of New York-based record labels, including Whirling Disc, Fury, Enjoy, and Red Robin, and released classic hits for Wilbert Harrison (“Kansas City”) and Gladys Knight and the Pips (“Every Beat of My Heart”). He even allegedly advised a young vocal harmony group called the 5 Satins on how to approach a record company with a song they had called “In the Still ...

Read More »

Sallie and Cora Martin – Just A Little Talk With Jesus

Sallie and Cora Martin Just A Little Talk with Jesus Gospel Friend (release date: September 16, 2014) www.cityhallrecords.com By Bob Marovich Sallie Martin, the Mother of Gospel Music, paved the way for those who paved the way. A no-nonsense singer, group leader, choir director, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Martin helped Thomas A. Dorsey sell his catalog of songs before going into business with Kenneth Morris in 1940 to form the Martin & Morris Music Studio. It is in 1940, when Sallie was a member of the Martin & Morris Singers, where Just A Little Talk With Jesus, Gospel Friend’s superb twelve-year ...

Read More »

The Soul of Designer Records

Various Artists The Soul of Designer Records Big Legal Mess (2014) www.biglegalmessrecords.com By Bob Marovich In the days before YouTube and other social media outlets, before mp3s and CDs and music maker software for home computers, gospel artists looking for greater promotion but without a major label deal sought out the expertise of bootstrap entrepreneurs such as Idessa Malone and Style Wooten. While Malone recorded church choirs and radio preachers, Wooten recorded hundreds of black and white gospel artists for his Designer imprint. Wooten’s pitch was simple: for a flat rate, artists could make a studio recording and have copies of ...

Read More »

Smokie Norful – Forever Yours

Smokie Norful Forever Yours Tre Myles Music / Motown Gospel (2014) www.motowngospel.com By Bob Marovich Grammy Award-winning vocalist Smokie Norful burst upon the national stage in 2002 with the breakout hit, “I Need You Now.” The song, featuring Norful’s trademark melismatic tenor, not only garnered significant gospel radio airplay, but also made the playlist of nighttime Quiet Storm programming. A licensed minister even before his solo career took flight, Norful founded Victory Cathedral Worship Center in suburban Chicago in 2005 and has released at least three recorded sermons. Forever Yours, the latest fruit of his labors, explores new musical territory ...

Read More »