Merry Clayton – Beautiful Scars

 

Title: Beautiful Scars
Artist: Merry Clayton
Label: Motown Gospel
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: April 9, 2021

 

Vocal legend Merry Clayton embodies the true essence of the words resilience and fortitude. The Grammy Award-winning artist has made a return to her southern Baptist gospel roots with her new album, Beautiful Scars. Co-produced by Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Lou Adler and Grammy Award-winning songwriter, vocalist and instrumentalist Terry Young, Beautiful Scars is a testimony of the hardship that Clayton has endured over her lifetime and in recent years. In 2014, she survived a tragic accident but unfortunately her doctors were forced to amputate both of her legs. In the eye of this storm, when doctors told Clayton she would have to lose her legs, she began to sing. Drawing form the strength of her ancestors and giving praise to God, she persevered despite the new challenges that she would face.

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A Capella Black Gospel: Look How the World Has Made a Change, 1940-1969

 

Title: A Capella Black Gospel: Look How the World Has Made a Change, 1940-1969
Artist: Various
Label: Narroway/Dist. City Hall Records
Format: CD
Release date: November 2020

 

This recent gospel compilation from Swedish producer and collector Per Notini is a three disc, 84 track set focused exclusively on a capella singing without any instrumental accompaniment. Featuring many well-known quartets such as the Fairfield Four and Soul Stirrers as well as lesser known artists, the set traces stylistic changes over a thirty year period, concluding in 1969 before the ‘contemporary’ gospel era. These groups created some of the most inventive and progressive African American vocal music of the post-war period, which had a profound effect on later R&B and soul artists, not to mention artists across all other genres.

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December 2020 – January 2021 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released December 2020 and January 2021 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

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The Gospel Truth: The Complete Singles Collection

 

Title: The Gospel Truth: The Complete Singles Collection
Artist: Various
Label: Stax/Craft
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: November 13, 2020

 

The Gospel Truth: The Complete Singles Collection is a two CD compilation of all of the gospel music singles released from 1972-1974 by the Stax subsidiary label, Gospel Truth.  One of the many highlights of this set are the opening tracks by the most popular artist on the label, Bishop Rance Allen and the Rance Allen Group, who perform “Just My Imagination (Just My Salvation)” and the song popularized by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, “Up Above My Head.”

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The Staple Singers – Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection

 

Title: Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection
Artist: The Staple Singers
Label: Craft
Format: 7CD Box Set
Release Date: September 23, 2020

 

Released last year as a vinyl box set, Craft has now issued the seven disc deluxe CD edition of Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection. Celebrating one of the most influential gospel and soul groups of all time, the box set features all of the Staple Singers’ studio albums recorded for Stax Records from 1968–1974: Soul Folk in Action (1968), We’ll Get Over (1969), The Staple Swingers (1971), Be Altitude: Respect Yourself (1972), Be What You Are (1973)and City in the Sky (1974)These albums were released after the Staple Singers had already transitioned from the gospel circuit to the stages of folk and rock music festivals, and they were well on their way to becoming musical icons of the Civil Rights Movement with albums such as Freedom Highway (1965) that preached a message of empowerment and racial equality.

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Elder Charles Beck – Your Man of Faith

 

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.

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Chicago Mass Choir – My Soul Says Yes

 

Title: My Soul Says Yes
Artist: Chicago Mass Choir
Label: New Haven
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 31, 2020

 

There’s truly no sound like that of the gospel mass choir and the Chicago Mass Choir embodies the very spirit and essence of this tradition. With thrilling heart thumping, hand clapping, foot stomping songs, the choir takes you back to the “old time way,” to quote the late Bishop G.E. Patteson (former presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ denomination). My Soul Says Yes, the choir’s 17th album release, continues this legacy through their creation of songs that further their mission of giving back to their community and the world.

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Various Artists – The Last Shall Be First: The JCR Records Story

 

Title: The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1
Artist: Various
Label: Bible & Tire
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 18, 2020

 

Rev. Juan D. Shipp was the force behind many Black gospel recordings emanating from Memphis, Tennessee in the 1970s. A pastor at the Greater Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church, Shipp also had a gospel radio show on K-WAM, where he spun gospel quartet records as “Juan D.” Believing that “local artists deserve a better sound,” he formed a relationship with Clyde Leoppard, a former Sun Studio drummer who owned Tempo Recording Studio in downtown Memphis. Shipp began recording and releasing professional quality singles for many local and regional gospel groups on his own small boutique label, D-Vine Spirituals. Soon business was booming, and he spun off a secondary label, JCR, for up-and-coming artists who wanted to press a record but didn’t make the D-Vine cut. Seventeen of these tracks are featured in The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1, which was produced by Rev. Shipp.

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Summer 2020 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during June, July and August 2020 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

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Deitrick Haddon – TIME (Truth Is My Energy)

 

Title: TIME (Truth Is My Energy) 
Artist: Deitrick Haddon 
Label: eONE   
Formats: CD, Digital  
Release date: March 13th, 2020 

 

Detroit native Deitrick Haddon launched his solo gospel career in 2002 with the album Lost and Found, which peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Charts and received a GRAMMY nomination. Since then he has released a string of critically acclaimed albums as well as singles that have been played extensively on both gospel and mainstream R&B radio stations. Known for  his  progressive, urban style of gospel music, Haddon is also the founding pastor of Hill City Church in Los Angeles and a former cast member on Oxygen’s reality television show Preachers of L.A. Haddon’s new album, TIME (Truth Is My Energy), has been hailed as his “best work yet.” 

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May 2020 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during May 2020 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.  

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The Legendary Ingramettes – Take a Look in the Book

 

Title: Take a Look in the Book  
Artist: The Legendary Ingramettes 
Label: Virginia Folklife Records 
Formats: CD, Digital 
Release date: March 20, 2020 

 

 Born July 4, 1930 on Mulholland’s Plantation in Coffee County, Georgia, Maggie Ingram worked in the cotton and tobacco fields with her parents as sharecroppers. She began playing the piano and singing in church at an early age and fell in love with gospel music. Later, she formed the quintet known as Sister Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes, a singing group that became sought after for appearances throughout the South. In 1961 Maggie moved her family to Richmond, Virginia, where she became known as the “gospel queen of Richmond.” Regrettably, Maggie passed away in 2015, but the group still presses onward in her absence.  

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Sam Cooke – The Complete Keen Years: 1957-1960

 

Title: The Complete Keen Years: 1957-1960 
Artist: Sam Cooke 
Label: ABKCO 
Format: 5-CD Box Set, Digital 
Release date: February 7, 2020 

 

After six extremely successful years as lead singer of the influential gospel quartet, the Soul Stirrers, Sam Cooke left the group in 1957 to embark on a solo career. Becoming one of the first gospel stars to go pop, Cooke’s gospelized-pop template paved the way for soul music. Just six weeks after recording his final session with the Soul Stirrers, Cooke released his first single under his own name, “You Send Me.” Not only did he manage to crossover on his first attempt, he took the pop music world by storm while also landing at #1 on the R&B charts. Over the next three years, Cooke released a quick succession of albums on the Keen label. All are faithfully remastered and reproduced with original album covers in this 5-CD box set, which includes excellent liner notes by Michael Corcoran, rare photos from the Keen archives, and complete session details.  

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