Sunday, October 02, 2011

Times Has Brought About a Change, Y'all

This is, for the time being, the next to last post featuring the Meditation Singers. You can hear them today and, God willing, next Wednesday. But not to worry: I kept one of the highlights of my little series for the great finale. You're in for a rare Funk Gospel treat!

Remember Ralph Bass? The producer and A&R director at Chess who, among much else, supervised the Meditation Singers' Checker LP # 10044 (The Bad Apple) (see the previous posts:
and here). Well, he said the following in a Billboard interview (Oct. 12, 1968, p. 88): »The message of 'gos-pop' is that there is more to gospel than just finding solace in the church. This follows the same message of Martin [Luther] King, who was fighting for a new way of life.« He was putting that credo into practice at Chess, not the least with the Meditation Singers. But their way did not end at Chess. In autumn 1971, the Meditation Singers moved on to Stan Lewis's Jewel/Paula Records (Shreveport, La.). On Jewel, they had two albums out, the second of which already featured in this blog (here). However, the true gem of their Jewel output is their first album entitled Change Is Gonna Come (Jewel # LPS 0048). It was released in October '71, some forty years ago to this day.

Jewel # LPS 0048 (1971)
While with Jewel, the Meditations went beyond what they had recorded for Chess, and that is saying something. Their sound became still grittier and funkier. Clearly, they went with the times and from »gos-pop« to funk gospel. »Times has brought about a change, y'all«: The line above, apt title of today's post, is from a song on the Meditation Singers' first Jewel LP, »Trouble's Brewin'«. Together with several memorable recordings by the Loving Sisters from Arkansas, the first Jewel LP by the Medi- tation Singers is just about nothing short of the very definition of funk-gospel. As it is, they were helped in achieving that by the famous Detroit-based r&b producer, arranger, composer and, well, singer Andre »Mr. Rhythm« Williams. (There is much to know about Andre Williams, but best read his 2001 interview first.)

Williams penned all but one song of the Medita- tion Singers' first Jewel LP and produced the album as well. As for the Medita- tions themselves, we have to go with the photo from the cover: seated in the center is Earnestine Rundless, behind her to the left is Marie Waters; at the right margin we see Patricia Lyles. One of the other two singers should be Donna Hammonds, though I'm not sure which. The second is unknown to me. There's a high soprano lead voice in some songs that sounds very young; maybe it's her (and, I'd say, the second from right on the photo?). According to the information on the back cover, the songs were recorded at United Sound Studios, Detroit. Strange thing is that on the back cover we also find a highly emotional text written in the first person but signed »The Me- ditation Singers«. Can't make much sense of that!

Whatever. Let's get down with it! This superb LP contains so many songs worth hearing that I post only part of them today; the others will follow. First, there are two utterly funky pieces to start with: »Trouble's Brewin'« and »Good Old Gospel Music«. They'll sweep you off your feet right away. In addition, they're graced with significant lyrics that dwell on social and political issues. But in the end, it all comes down to the groove: I wonder, do you feel it?
I wanna ask you one more time: Do you feel it? Oh yeah. The more you saying it: Do you feel it? Oh y'all. I wonder, do you feel it?

The Meditation Singers: »Trouble's Brewin'« / »Good Old Gospel Music« from the Jewel LP # 0048 (1971):

* * *
It's not all about heavy gospel funk on this album, however. We also have the title track, Sam Cooke's »A Change Is Gonna Come«. And I'm sure you'll agree with me that it's one of the best versions of this song ever recorded. The arrangement is complex and innovative, and there are several lead voices woven in. Jewel sensed the beauty and sales potential of that version and released it on the subsidiary Paula # 356. They were right about the beauty. Happy Sunday all!

The Meditation Singers: »A Change Is Gonna Come« from the Jewel LP # 0048 (1971):


  1. i think it's a chef d'oeuvre thanks to put some songs & the infos.

  2. thanks, I appreciate it. You might as well write in French, makes this blog a little more global :)