Light on the South Side


Title:  Light: On the South Side

Artists:  Various

Label:  Numero Group

Format:  Book + 2 LPs

Release date: November 2009

If you’re shopping around for the perfect coffee table book, what could be better than a slick tome that’s packaged with 2 LPs chock full of vintage blues?  Between 1975-1977 photographer Michael Abramson shot images of crowds and performers at various clubs on Chicago’s South Side, and over 100 have been selected for inclusion in the book, which also includes an essay by Nick Hornby.  The accompanying 17 track compiilation features artists such as Little Ed (“It’s a Dream”), Syl Johnson (“Is it Because I’m Black?”), Willie Williams (“Detroit Blues”), Detroit Jr. (“Young Blood”), Bobby Rush (“Bowlegged Woman”), Lucille Span (“Women’s Lib”) and Arlene Brown (“I’m a Steaker Baby”). The tracks have been skillfully remastered, but still retain all of the grit of a South Side Blues club, as illustrated in the official promo:

If you act fast and score one of the first 1000 copies, you’ll also receive a bonus 45 (may only apply to purchases made directly from the Numero site).

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

When the Church Becomes Your Party


Title: When the Church Becomes Your Party: Contemporary Gospel Music (African American Life)

Author: Deborah Smith Pollard

Publisher: Wayne State University Press

Format:  Book (240 p.)

ISBN: 0814332188

Date: 2008

If gospel means “good tidings and good news,” then gospel music should definitely engage us in spiritual celebration of the good news. Agreeing with this premise, Deborah Smith Pollard’s book on contemporary gospel music, When the Church Becomes Your Party, maintains that you should celebrate the church through the gospel music tradition as reflected in a phrase adapted from a popular secular refrain, “Ain’t no party like a Holy Ghost party. . .” (viii). Ethnographer Deborah Smith Pollard, also a professor of African American Studies, articulates varied dimensions of gospel music in a well-documented study using data reflecting her scholarly background and her experience as a gospel announcer for a popular Detroit radio station.

Here is an interview with “Dr. Deb” Pollard about her gospel radio show on WJLB:

]

Consistent with its celebratory theme and nature, Pollard’s book, using a lively format, details the joyous contributions of gospel music through interviews with well-known gospel artists, musicians, and preachers, most of whom have longstanding ties to the gospel music scene in Detroit. Indeed, an array of talented gospel families who hail from Detroit have helped catapult it into the national gospel music spotlight: the list includes artists such as, the Rev. C.L. Franklin and daughter Aretha; the Clark Sisters; the Winans; Rance Allen and relatives; the Hawkins family, along with individual artists like the well-known Donnie McClurkin.

Pollard helps to foster an understanding and appreciation of praise and worship music by explaining its origins and challenging the prevailing claim that it has replaced the traditional hymns and the conventional devotional services of the church. Additionally, she examines other musical traditions within gospel, particularly gospel music stage plays, underappreciated dramatic celebrations rooted in African American folk culture. Pollard brings the culture surrounding gospel music into the twenty-first century by discussing the appropriateness of dressing up or down for gospel events by considering the changing dress codes for gospel musicians, audience members at gospel concerts, and churchgoing women. More importantly, she underscores the significant, but often overlooked contributions of women gospel announcers whose work provides an inspirational and empowering spiritual outlet for their listeners. Finally, the book restores the skillful sermonic deliveries of contemporary Holy Hip Hop artists to a respectful place within an oral tradition that harkens back to African griots.

When the Church Becomes Your Party, aimed at both scholars and laypersons, helps to unlock the many layers that comprise the phenomenon of gospel music and the industry responsible for producing it.

Reviewed by Lena Ampadu, Director, African and African American Studies Program, Towson University.

Born in the Bronx

born.jpegTitle: Born in the Bronx
Editor: Johan Kugelberg
Publisher: Rizzoli (New York)
Format: Book (208 p.)
Date: 2007

In an unusual twist on the “coffee-table book”, Born In The Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop tells the story of the origins of hip hop through page after page of vivid, expressive images displayed as oversized two-page spreads. Editor Johan Kugelberg brings the scene of the 1970s Bronx to life with a combination of photographs (by Joe Conzo), flyers and posters (by Buddy Esquire), and album art and other memorabilia-rarely-seen images depicting the raw energy of the music, community, culture, styles, and attitudes that gave birth to one of the biggest musical and cultural phenomena of the twentieth century. While light on text, the few written sections scattered through the book highlight the first-person voices and testimonials of hip hop pioneers and early participants, and a helpful four-page timeline situates the Bronx scene in historical context- starting with the completion of the Cross-Bronx Expressway in 1963 which ushered in hard times for the neighborhood, and ending with Run DMC taking their Raising Hell album platinum in 1986. But the photographs and posters are the true storytellers, and this collection is a must-have for the hip hop enthusiast on your gift list this year.

Posted by Sunni Fass