Title: Your Man of Faith
Artist: Elder Charles Beck
Label: Gospel Friend/dist. City Hall Records
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: November 20, 2020
Elder Charles D. Beck, born in 1902 in Mobile, Alabama, was a self-taught musician who covered a variety of instruments including drums, trumpet, saxophone, vibes, piano, and organ. A member of the large African American Pentecostal denomination, Church of God in Christ, he was influenced by the performance style of another well-known church member, the early gospel singer and pianist Arizona Dranes. After cutting his first recordings on the OKeh label in 1930 (a year after Dranes’ final OKeh session), Beck became an ordained COGIC minister and briefly moved to Chicago, where he met Thomas A. Dorsey, before permanently relocating to Buffalo, New York. Known as the singing evangelist and one of the most accomplished sanctified musicians of his generation, Beck released many recordings and also spread the gospel far and wide through weekly radio broadcasts of his sermons and live performances at churches across the U.S.
Your Man of Faith is a new compilation from Swedish gospel enthusiast Per Notini on his Gospel Friend label, features 26 tracks recorded from 1937-1956 and accompanied by liner notes penned by noted gospel record collector and historian, Opal L. Nations. Though all of these tracks have been reissued previously by Document Records, this set appears to feature new transfers with superior sound. Included are some of Beck’s most well-known recordings, from his 1938 rendition of Dorsey’s “Precious Lord” to his fiery “Rock and Roll Sermon” from 1956, that finds him testifying about the new secular music that “has just about brought down the disintegration of our civilization.” Works by other Chicago gospel songwriters are also featured including Roberta Martin’s “He Knows Just How Much We Can Bear” and “Didn’t it Rain,” featuring flashy piano technique from Bertha Potter; Kenneth Morris’s “If I Can Just Make It In” and “Jesus I Love You;” plus another Thomas A. Dorsey work, “I’m Gonna Live the Life I Sing About in My Song.” The majority of the tracks, however, feature Beck’s arrangements of traditional songs and his original compositions. These include “Dry Bones” and “Blow Gabriel,” both featuring Beck’s Trumpet and Radio Chorus, “There’s a Dead Cat on the Line” with Beck preaching and singing, and the celebratory “Shouting with Elder Beck” from 1950, one of the best examples of call and response singing with rhythmic hand clapping and a fast and furious piano accompaniment.
Your Man of Faith is the perfect introduction to Elder Charles D. Beck, a very influential COGIC musician, preacher and civil rights activist whose recordings should be included in any collection of Black gospel music.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss