The Deep River Boys - London Harmony

Published Monday 2nd July 2007
The Deep River Boys - London Harmony
The Deep River Boys - London Harmony

STYLE: Gospel
RATING 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 26629-12748
LABEL: Acrobat Music ADMCD5001

Reviewed by Tony Cummings

Sometimes pop music history is stranger than anything you can make up. Back in 1953 when "Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley and The Comets was rising up the American charts and the first excited news about this new phenomenon called rock 'n' roll was spreading across the globe some executives from EMI decided to respond to the new phenomenon in its usual way and quickly recorded a cover version. And here's where it gets weird: the job of a quick cover for the HMV label was given to an American gospel group, regularly featured on British radio and UK variety shows accompanied by a trad jazz band. This bizarre musical curiosity is just one of the tracks on this 42-song 2CD compilation which charts The Deep River Boys' numerous recordings made in London in the 1950s. This is fascinating history and shows the group with their old style jubilee sound to be similar to the Golden Gate Quartet in that when the new quartet-style of gospel began to make inroads in the US a few groups were able to embrace some secular material and find a new lease of life performing in an entertainment-starved Europe. Musically this isn't as interesting as the history of the recordings. What lets it down are some of the appalling songs given to the group to sing. There's only so much one can do with such cornball numbers as "Too-Whit, Too-Whoo", "Down In The Glen" or "A Kiss And A Cuddle Polka". It's only when they got to record a classic number like "September Song" or to do rock 'n' roll covers like "Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On" and "Itchy Twitchy Feelin'" that a spark ignites. Hopefully one day somebody will reissue the group's pioneering 10" albums 'The Deep River Boys Sing Songs Of Jubilee' and 'The Deep River Boys Sing Spirituals' (both released in 1955). Until then we are left with this 2004 compilation. If, as I do, you remember these guys singing regularly on the old BBC Light Programme introducing a mass audience to that old time religion you might want to have a nostalgic listen to this set.

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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