“Angels, Angels, Angels!”
Edna Gallmon Cooke with the Mt. Vernon Men’s Chorus
Another DeLuxe classic, one catalog number away from TBGB’s No. 123 “Essential Gospel” feature by the Spirit of Memphis Quartet. God must have been smiling particularly warmly on Linden, New Jersey’s DeLuxe Records in the spring of 1949.
Before the “Sweetheart of the Potomac” was waxing her classic sermonettes for Nashboro, before she was collaborating with the Radio Four, even before she was singing with the Young People’s Choir of the Springfield Baptist Church and making records for Dave Miller’s Gospel Records, Madame Edna Gallmon Cooke collaborated with the Mt. Vernon Men’s Chorus. A product of this collaboration, “Angels, Angels, Angels!” is from her first 78 r.p.m. record and arguably one of her finest performances.
Opening with a short Dixieland piano riff, the performance speeds along at a ragtime beat as the majestic chorus chants its verses with lock-step machismo. The overall feeling of the choir’s performance is grounded more in the disciplined Hall Johnson/Eva Jessye sound than in the hand-clapping, raw energetic style made popular by the First Church of Deliverance and St. Paul Church Choir with J. Earle Hines (factoid: Hines was also a DeLuxe recording artist while serving as leader of the Baptist National Convention’s famed Goodwill Singers). In the foreground, Madame Cooke loops vocally in and around the chorus like a Baptist moaner gone sanctified.
The entire company ends the song with a rousing crescendo that serves as the perfect conclusion to what is a curious but thoroughly enjoyable and memorable recording.
Hearing “Angels, Angels, Angels!” makes me wish that the Mt. Vernon Men’s Chorus had done more recordings with Madame Cooke as well as with other soloists and on its own. It was a remarkable ensemble with a mighty sound.
Want to check out other “Essential Gospel” tracks? See more of them on this blog or at “Gospel”: www.island.net/~blues/gospel.htm