November 3rd, 2014


Title: Best of Revelation Records, 1959-1962

Artist: Various artists

Label: NarroWay / dist. City Hall Records

Format: CD

Release date: September 16, 2014


Best of Revelation Records,1959-1962 is certainly one of the best compilations of late 1950s and early 1960s gospel music released this year! Featuring 27 tracks, the music was selected from 27 singles released by different “gospel quartets, groups, soloists, and choirs.” Regarding the genesis of the present album, gospel historian Bob Marovich reveals that “over the course of three years, Revelation produced dozens of fine singles and a couple of albums,” which “provided struggling independent gospel singers and groups the aural business card they needed to garner radio airplay and more bookings.”

Revelation Records, whose producer was John Bowden, was originally founded in Harlem by Bobby Robinson, who also “founded a number of New York-based R&B record labels including Whirling Disc, Fury, Enjoy, and Red Robin.” The present Revelation singles compilation, re-mastered from the original vinyl by Per Notini (who also wrote the liner notes and runs the Gospel Friend label with Jonas Bernholm), is an effort to give voice to the many gospel musicians and ensembles that, otherwise, would remain unheard and unknown.

Of course “various artists” implies variety and variation of sounds and styles. And so, a listener encounters the sobriety coupled with confidence of “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” (track 10), performed by Dr. Coleman and her Gospel Singers, and can’t fail to be touched by the inciting and commanding tone of the ensuing number, “Pick Up Your Bed” by the Twilight Gospel Singers. There is also “the hard-charging quartet energy of the Echoes of Glory on “Journeying On” (track 9), the trained vocalizing of Christine Clark on “Sinner Like Me” (track 7), and the spirited singing of Bishop William O’Neal’s Christian Tabernacle Choir on their trademark song “Down by the Riverside” (track 15).”

Going further, Marovich notes the imitation of Johnnie Taylor by the Sensational Canarians’ Quartet’s rendition of “Place Called Heaven” (track 25). Similarly, the bass intro of the Gospel Harmanaires on Alex Bradford’s “Too Close” (track 18) reminds the listener of the irreplaceable role of the ‘Russian bass’ solo in the evolution of contemporary Christian a capella ensembles. Newark’s Holy Wonders’ upbeat rendition of “I’ve Got a Home” (track 1) sets the tone of the whole album along the path of evangelical intensity and eschatological urgency characteristic of gospel music. With the exception of Christine Clark, the Twilight Gospel Singers and the Christian Tabernacle Choir, all other named singers and ensembles are more or less ‘relatively unknown’ to us at present, some releasing just one 45rpm record before fading into history.

Nevertheless, Best of Revelation Records 1959-1962 presents a monumental material history that serves as point of departure for the adequate historical understanding of African-American religious music during the Civil Rights Movement era (1954–68), which coincided with “the heyday of the Golden Age of Gospel.”

Reviewed by Jude Orakwe

Review Genre(s): Gospel Music and Spirituals


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