STYLE: Gospel RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 26630-12749 LABEL: Primo PRIMCD6037 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 2 RELEASE DATE: 2007-08-31
Reviewed by Lins Honeyman
Born in New Orleans in 1911, Mahalia Jackson was known as the Queen of Gospel by her peers and fans alike. Influenced by her upbringing in the Baptist church and the likes of Bessie Smith, Jackson was to change gospel music forever and subsequently influence artists such as Aretha Franklin and countless other female singers. This 40-song portrait of the great woman reflects her wide ranging career with recordings from 1937 to 1954 and serves as an excellent taster of an artist who achieved acclaim by performing at the request of Martin Luther King immediately before his I Have A Dream speech in Washington in 1964 and becoming gospel's first million seller with the single "Move On Up A Little Higher". Within this collection, Jackson's versions of standards such as "Amazing Grace", "Go Tell It On The Mountain" and "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" are simply breathtaking and showcase the supremacy of her voice. Elsewhere, traditional numbers such as "Up In Jerusalem" and "I'm On My Way To Canaan" sound incredibly fresh given that they were recorded over half a century ago. Mostly accompanied by piano and organ to a backdrop of male harmony vocals supplied by the wonderful Southern Harmonaires (check out "In The Upper Room" for a delightful sample of their trade) and latterly the Melody Echoes, Jackson was much more than just a gospel singer. Although she refused to sing about anything except her Lord, this collection shows her ability to diversify into genres such as blues ("I Wonder If I Will Ever Rest") and popular song ("I Believe") and there are unmistakable traces of what would become soul music in songs such as "I'm Getting Nearer My Home" and Tommy Dorsey's "What Could I Do?" The highlight for me is Jackson's intense rendition of Malotte's setting of "The Lord's Prayer" - the unquestionable high point of the 1958 live concert film Jazz On A Summer's Day - which sums up the power, emotion and conviction of Jackson's style whilst bringing something uniquely spiritual to the fore. In truth, this collection could have benefited from some of the more upbeat numbers from Jackson's back catalogue and most of these recordings for Apollo Records have been reissued on dozens of other compilations. But that does not detract from the fact that this is a hugely enjoyable release.
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