STYLE: Gospel RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 96397-BOK539 LABEL: Lion 9780745953397 FORMAT: Book General book RRP: £18.00
Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Having long been an admirer of Turner's fine music books, such as his works on Cliff, Cash and The Beatles, and being a music buff who has been an avid follower of black gospel music for nigh on five decades - a review of this handsomely designed tome might appear to be a bit of a no-brainer. And certainly for those looking for an introduction to the history of African-American gospel music this is probably the best volume ever published while the design and photos make it the kind of book where turning each page is a delight, but there are flaws. For a start, there's a little too much emphasis given to secular acts like Ray Charles who stylistically pillaged gospel rather than fed its creative development while there are also plenty of omissions of acts who contributed significantly to gospel's development (eg not even a mention of The Charioteers). Also, although the book finds space for early musical figures who were white, like Isaac Watts and Ira Sankey, from the '50s on white people hardly get a mention (not even gospel chart makers like Martha Munizzi). However, despite these problems this is still a book that many listeners of gospel music will enjoy. Steve's writing is always sharp and though there is little here that hasn't been documented previously, this is still a useful and attractive book to have on the shelf.
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Far beyond its immediate image of robed choirs, Gospel - through its solo singers and quartets, its impresarios and recording companies - has helped to give voice to the history of black people in America as well as shaping more obviously secular musical forms such as blues and rock 'n' roll.
In this compelling and lively study, Steve Turner tells the story of Gospel agains the backdrop of the social and economic changes taking place in the USA ove a century and a half. He traces its history from its earlist expressions on the plantations of the south to initial influences in churches, its movement into the mainstream of popular music and on to its major period of popularity and influence in the middle decades of the 20th century. The book also features original interviews conducted by the author with many of the legendary figures of Gospel and is illustrated with photographs and memorabilia throughout.