Rev James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, Albertina Walker - Timeless Gospel Classics: Inspirational Gospel Vol 1-3

Published Sunday 7th June 2015
Rev James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, Albertina Walker - Timeless Gospel Classics: Inspirational Gospel Vol 1-3
Rev James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, Albertina Walker - Timeless Gospel Classics: Inspirational Gospel Vol 1-3

STYLE: Gospel
RATING 6 6 6 6 6 6
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 156423-23012
LABEL: Sonorous Entertainment SONCD750

Reviewed by Lins Honeyman

Previously issued as individual components, this compilation is the first half of a six disc reissue from Sonorous Entertainment featuring some of vintage gospel music's greatest exponents. Emanating from the renowned Hob label, the tracks in question have been remastered from the original tapes and, for the most part, are live recordings that succeed in capturing the stage presence, fervour and energy of each artist. Each of the three acts - Rev James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar and Albertina Walker - were one time members of legendary gospel group the Caravans but unfortunately the less than scant sleevenotes give nothing away as to the history or significance of either this group or the featured singers and this only serves to put the release in the shadow of more lovingly compiled historic gospel collections which contain the now almost mandatory tome-like liner notes. Nonetheless, new listeners will still get a glimpse of the greatness of Cleveland, Caesar and Walker in tracks like "Lord Do It", "Tear Your Kingdom Down" and "Stand By Me" respectively - all of which showcase the vocal talents of all three - and more familiar numbers such as "Old Time Religion", "Dry Bones" and "If I Had A Hammer" are given new life on account of each artist's innate ability to make these old songs their own. Regrettably, the whole collection feels a bit hash bash with the small number of more polished studio cuts being overridden by freeform and of-the moment live recordings giving the impression that the compilers have failed to consider if the chosen tracks represent the very best from their featured artists. A case in point being the version of "Old Rugged Cross" on the Albertina Walker disc which is evidently not Walker singing - instead it appears to be the uncredited Loleatta Holloway who, as any dance music and soul buff will tell you, possessed a voice of epic power. Such shoddy compiling and packaging rather drags down what should have been a fascinating glimpse into gospel history.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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