Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Up Above My Head: 50 Of Her Greatest Recordings On 2CDs

Published Monday 5th May 2014
Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Up Above My Head: 50 Of Her Greatest Recordings On 2CDs
Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Up Above My Head: 50 Of Her Greatest Recordings On 2CDs

STYLE: Gospel
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 150279-21893
LABEL: Not Now Music NOT2CD467
FORMAT: CD Album
ITEMS: 2

Reviewed by Lins Honeyman

This 50 track retrospective spans gospel pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe's early works with recordings from 1938 to 1948 showcasing the power, charisma and force that became synonymous with the Arkansas-born singer and guitarist. Tharpe puts her own inimitable stamp on what we would now deem standards with the likes of "Down By The Riverside", "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" and Blind Willie Johnson's "Nobody's Fault But Mine" all possessing an urgency that came directly from her high octane vocal delivery as well as an attacking lead guitar style that undoubtedly paved the way for the likes of Chuck Berry a decade or so later. Thanks to the early nature of these recordings, most of the material here is stripped back instrumentally which gives a delightful pre-war blues feel to proceedings and makes fuller sounding numbers such as Tharpe's signature song "This Train" and the recently Hugh Laurie-covered "Didn't It Rain" sound even more stunning. Tharpe's occasional collaborators the Lucky Millinder Orchestra make a cameo near the end in the energetic "Shout, Sister, Shout!" and, with this appearance in mind, it's something of a mystery as to why this release's compilers chose to leave out the Millinder-backed "Rock Me" given its status as one of Tharpe's most recognisable and celebrated songs. Nonetheless, the sheer wealth of other material found here more than makes up for this omission and ensures that this is another worthy dip into the archives of one of gospel music's most important and influential figures.

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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