Thanks to Cozy Productions, those of us who did not have the good fortune to hear the late Cassietta George perform in person can now experience the next best thing.
Cozy recently re-issued the 1979 Audio Arts two-LP set, Cassietta in Concert on CD as Cassietta George Live in Concert at the Coconut Grove. The 1979 program in Los Angeles, with Reginald Utley as master of ceremonies, featured a lineup of solid background musicians and vocalists, including Ricky Grundy on organ, Charles Barnette providing a stellar piano accompaniment, and the voices of the Pentecostal Outreach Choir under Barnette’s direction. Like Clara Ward, Rosetta Tharpe, and Mahalia Jackson before her, Cassietta took gospel straight to the people, unafraid to perform in a secular venue.
While the former Caravan begins the concert with “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” two well-rendered but intriguing selections (and very indicative of the times), she hits full stride in “There’s a War Going On.” Her signature “Walk Around Heaven All Day” and a improvised version of the Gay Sisters’ “God Will Take Care of You” are obvious crowd pleasers.
What really sets the recording apart is the marathon rendition of “Come on Children, Let’s Sing,” which contains a ten minute vamp to test the heartiest of gospel singers. On the LP, this track comprised the whole of side four. Cassietta, her background singers and band turned this gospel song into a minor masterpiece of sanctified singing. After hearing it, one can understand the comments of Los Angeles Sentinel’s Tom Reed who said at the time, “The evening entertainment…built to a pitched gospel fever with Ms. George bringing the house to its feet.” In fact, anyone who was still sitting by the end of the performance had probably just fainted dead away.
Although the CD does not improve on the technical challenges of the master recording – such as a hollowness to the vocals and a sound imbalance that prohibits Cassietta’s voice to be heard in its fullness – this is still an important historical piece worthy of reissue. Cassietta was made for live performance, and she demonstrates it on this project.
“Cassietta George Live in Concert at the Coconut Grove” can be purchased directly from www.cassiettageorge.com.