Sunday, August 28, 2011

Holy Moses!

There is much to be learned from the Gospels [!] as an art form, just as the same is true of the Blues and the Spirituals. (S.D. Plumpp)
When funk and other urban forms evolved from soul music during the mid- 1970s and 1980s, they retained the energy, rhythms, textures, and stylings of gospel music. ... Many components of gospel music have been incorporated into popular music, where they have intermingled with new techniques and expressions and then recycled back into gospel. This cyclical process has ex- panded the foundations of gospel and popular forms, generating new styles in both traditions. (P.K. Maultsby)
In 1973, nobody was any longer able to tell gospel from soul or pop, musicallywise at least. The development within the gospel field which was to lead to the new forms of »contemporary« gospel was well under way by then. And after the musicologists discovered the obvious fact that much of r&b, soul and funk had evolved out of gospel music, some others started to realize how gospel in its turn was influenced by the trends in secular music. This was plain as well by 1973, and indeed the more important phenomenon: Many gospel artists were looking towards contemporary soul and funk in order to further developing their style. However, influences were mutual in many cases, and the best illustration for this I could think of is an ad from the EBONY October '73 issue. There, a chocolate brown lace-up platform stepper is offered to the benevolent regard of stylish customers under the soulful name of »Holy Moses«, and it comes with similar examples of deviant shoe fashion called »Wattstax« and »Knocked Out«:

There is a rumor that the shoe firm advertising guy was sacked after he proposed other models called »Unto Thy Lace« and »My Sole's Salvation«. (Unfortunately, he hadn't thought of »Rubber Soul« what might have saved him his job.)

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However, funky gospel was the call of the day in 1973. The Loving Sisters heard that call eagerly, around the same time, and so did the Meditation Singers. They released two albums on Stan Lewis's Jewel Records between 1971 and 1973, the second of which was entitled »Alright« (Jewel # LPS 0071). This album fea- tures nine songs. They are a mixed bag, but all closely modelled, as to rhythm, harmonies and instrumentation, on contemporary soul and funk music. The one exception from that is the longest song on the LP, »A Mother's Prayer« (aka »If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again« or similarly), which has some more traditional churchy feel to it. Apart from this, we have soft soul gospel (»Jesus Is Always On My Side«, »Everything Is Gonna Be Alright«) and bluesier tunes (»He Will Take Care Of You«, »Trouble Will Be Over«).

The funkiest piece on the album is, without any doubt, »I Love My Jesus«. It was the obvious choice for the single that was released some weeks before the album (Jewel # 205, B-side »Trouble Will Be Over«). The bluesiest song of the LP, on the other hand, is arguably »Why«. Both songs feature the forceful voice of Ernestine Rundless prominently. Especially her strong and dynamic performance in »Why« reminds much of her '60s recordings, without sounding dated in any way. »Why« is clearly the house-wrecker on this album.

Happy Sunday all!
My thoughts today go to the people at the East Coast who have suffered from the terrible hurricane.

The Meditation Singers: »I Love My Jesus« / »Why« from the Jewel LP »Alright« (1973):

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Sources for the citations above:
... and just as an afterthought: If you have wondered whose brush created the front cover portrait of Jewel LP 0071, little flattering as it is, I can tell you that the artist named on the back cover was a certain Cynthia Rodrigues ... didn't find anything out about her, though. I couldn't even determine whether she did other covers for Jewel or another record label.

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