Such is the beat up quality of the first couple of 78s that open up this compilation that only the most avid music historian will want to persevere through the hiss, bumps and crackle. In fact, the intro to the secular and rather risqué "Please Give Me Some Of That" is all but inaudible. But sound, thankfully, improves though it has to be said that of the nine recordings on this compilation made in 1929 the best ones are the acapella tracks without the over-jolly piano accompaniments. Much better in sound quality are the 13 recordings here made in 1937 when the quartet travelled from Norfolk, Virginia to record for Decca Records in New York. As it turned out, new York was where the group were to stay until they broke up in the early 1940s. Early in their career the group had earned most of their money singing secular stuff in prohibition-era house parties but in New York they established themselves in the church scene (at one Harlem church causing such a sensation that the fire department was called out!). But despite their church-wrecking performances and their fine gospel recordings ("You Got To Live So God Can Use You" - with wonderful interplay between Norman 'Crip' Harris' lead and Raymond Smith's second tenor, or the plaintive spiritual "Believe In Jesus"), "the money wasn't in church singing" as the sleevenote observes. So it was with the assistance of Louis Armstrong that the group got lucrative bookings like with the white Guy Lombardo Orchestra and began working on New York radio stations as the Four Alphabets. Songs here like "Tell That Broad (You Came Too Late)" and "Swinging That Blues" give you the flavour of what they must have sounded like when gigging as the Norfolk Jazz Quartet it's the "Pure Religion" songs that best stand the test of time.
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