Reviewed by Tim Chappell
There is a history to all things. The history of modern music, such as rock and roll and urban soul, can be traced back to blues. The blues can in turn be traced back to gospel music that was born out of the oppressive cotton fields and slavery trade. The 23 track collection of truly inspirational songs recorded during 1938-1939 are a testament to that heady era that spawned all modern music. And the group even borrow some jazz, blues and scat style vocals and rhythms to enhance the overall feel of the act that they took across the world, the very act that inspired Elvis Presley to differing musical directions. The Gates' lead singer Willie Johnson's narration in a hip syncopated style is legendary. It's also great to listen to those cool harmonies and rhythmic call and response vocals that are showcased so well on this compilation. This delightful set offers songs which are mainly religious in content, but some tracks are still raw in their commentary of a nation that considered blacks to be a lesser people. If you are particularly politically correct (in the modern sense) some of the truth contained in the songs may offend you. However, I urge you to overlook this and to see that these thought provoking lyrics reflected the times perfectly and with a heart to reveal, and correct, an unjust society. Do you have an ear and soul that yearns for classically executed baritone to falsetto harmonies, beautiful voices that sing with NO pretence, oral percussion that is so precise that you don't notice that there are no instruments, and a heavy slice of history through music? If so, this album is a must for your CD collection. If any educated musician saw this album on your shelf at home you would receive instant kudos from them without hesitation. To further add credence to these works, a concise documentary of the Quartet's history is given with impressive accuracy in the album sleeve. This music is soul and heart. These lyrics are honouring to God whilst not compromising on historical truths. This Quartet are the epitome of the style and movement that I, for one, love and am glad that through compilations like this hasn't been entirely lost to the grind of the modern era.
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