The Clark Sisters and Elbernita "Twinkie" Clark - You Brought The Sunshine: The Sounds Of Gospel Recordings 1976-81

Published Sunday 22nd March 2020
The Clark Sisters and Elbernita "Twinkie" Clark - You Brought The Sunshine: The Sounds Of Gospel Recordings 1976-81
The Clark Sisters and Elbernita

STYLE: Gospel
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 167169-29317
LABEL: Westbound CDSEWD159

Reviewed by Lins Honeyman

After years performing together with their mother Mattie in church circles, sisters Jacky, Denise, Elbernita, Dorinda and Karen Clark found relative success from the mid-'70s onwards whilst on the roster of their native Detroit's Sound Of Gospel label. Tracks from the sibling act's studio output from their time at SOG have been lovingly compiled by the label's parent company Westbound with selections from 1976's 'Unworthy' right through their Sound Of Gospel 1981 swansong 'You Brought The Sunshine' with the exception of anything from the Christmas and live albums. Understandably, the folks at Westbound have chosen to play their strongest card first by opening this collection with the single version of the title track of that final SOG album - itself a pivotal merging of the worlds of gospel, disco and reggae - but the fact that the tracks on offer here are not presented in chronological fashion denies the listener the chance to sample how the group's sound evolved during its tenure at Sound Of Gospel. However, rearrange the tracks into release order and it's clear that the Clarks were on a musical journey beginning with relatively straightforward trad gospel numbers like "Keep On Looking Up" right through to the group's trademark gospel/disco hybrid sound found on the 1979 'He Gave Me Nothing To Lose' album and onwards. Throughout the group's existence, lead singer Elbernita (or "Twinkie" as she was affectionately nicknamed) was always the centre of attention and four tracks from both of her solo SOG releases are featured here whilst sister Dorinda gets the chance to shine on the likes of "No Other Name" from 1978's 'Count It All Joy' album. Looking back, the work of the Clark Sisters sounds very dated now but there's no doubting the girls' visionary approach as they embraced the emerging mainstream sounds of the time without ever watering down the Christian message. This period piece of a compilation succeeds in highlighting the importance of a group who were standing at the very crossroads of gospel music at a time when the genre had to modernise to survive - something which came at a cost for mother Mattie whose church banned her from performing with her girls again due to her daughters' so-called secular musical leanings. A fascinating essay by British compiler Dean Rudland rounds off this worthwhile and important retrospective release.

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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