"…We’ve Got To Fight For What We Believe In…It’s A Brand New Day…"
This cleverly put together set of 20 tracks is a tribute to one man – Alvertis Isbell – or Al Bell to you and I. Bell joined Stax Records in 1965 straight from two successful Radio shows in Washington and Memphis and would eventually own the label several years later.
He had a passion for Gospel and its message of love and racial integration and saw the fusion of Soul and Gospel Music as an obvious and natural progression. After a few years of aborted attempts with ‘Chalice’ Records, he struck pop and message gold by signing The Staple Singers in the late Sixties. With them in tow and more label successes following, he formed the Stax offshoot label ‘Gospel Truth’ for the Seventies – which is where this CD compilation comes in…
Most of “The Gospel Truth” is culled from that label’s rare and lesser-seen album catalogue issued between 1971 and 1976 (later edited down to just ‘Truth’ Records). There’s a lot of here that’s new to CD, so let’s get to the details first…
UK released 30 August 2010 - “The Gospel Truth” on Ace/Beat Goes Public CDBGP 222 breaks down as follows (78:01 minutes):
1. Son Of The Deacon – THE SONS OF TRUTH (from the 1973 USA LP “A Message From The Ghetto” on Gospel Truth GTS-2714)
2. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child – CLARENCE SMITH (from the 1973 USA LP “Whatever Happened To Love” on Gospel Truth GTS-2716)
3. Do Your Thing – THE MARION GAINES SINGERS (from the 1972 USA LP “This Too Is Gospel” on Gospel Truth GTS-2713)
4. We’re Gonna Have A Good Time – JACQUI VERDELL (1972 USA 7” single on Gospel Truth GTA-1211, A-side)
5. Brand New Day (Theme From The United Artists Motion Picture “The Landlord”) – THE STAPLE SINGERS (1970 USA 7” single on Stax STA-0074, A-Side, written by Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat & Tears)
6. Talk That Talk (Part 1) – THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP (from the 1975 USA LP “A Soulful Experience” on Truth TRS-4207)
7. I Got The Vibes – JOSHIE JO ARMSTEAD (1973 USA 7” single on Gospel Truth GTA-1207, B-side of “Ride Out The Storm”)
8. You Need A Friend Like Mine – ANNETTE THOMAS (1974 USA 7” single on Truth TRA-3208, B-side of “What Good Is A Song”)
9. (There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown – THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP (1972 USA 7” single on Gospel truth GTA-2014, A-Side)
10. Let Me Come Home – THE HOWARD LEMON SINGERS (from the 1973 album catalogued as “I Am Determined” on GTS-2724, Unissued?)
11. It Will Soon Be Over – THE MARION GAINES SINGERS (from the 1972 USA LP “This Too Is Gospel” on Gospel Truth GTS-2713)
12. I Don’t Know Where We’re Headed – THE SONS OF TRUTH (from the 1973 USA LP “A Message From The Ghetto” on Gospel Truth GTS-2714)
13. Better Get A Move On – LOUISE McCORD (from the 1972 USA LP “A Tribute To Mahalia Jackson” on Gospel Truth GTS-2711 – also issued as a USA 7” single on Gospel Truth GTA-1206)
14. When Will We Be Paid For The Work We Did – THE STAPLE SINGERS (1969 USA 7” single on Stax STA-0052, A-Side)
15. If The Shoe Fits, Wear It – THE 21st CENTURY (1973 USA 7” single on Gospel Truth GTA-1209)
16. Keep My Baby Warm – CHARLES MAY & ANNETTE MAY THOMAS (1973 USA 7” single on Gospel Truth GTA-1206, A-Side)
17. I’ll Keep On Trying – CLARENCE SMITH from the 1973 USA LP “Whatever Happened To Love” on Gospel Truth GTS-2716)
18. Stumblin’ Blocks, Steppin’ Stones (What Took Me So Long) – JOSHIE JO ARMSTEAD (1973 USA 7” single on Gospel Truth GTA-1214, A-Side)
19. You Can’t Stop Me Now – THE MARION GAINES SINGERS (from the 1972 USA LP “This Too Is Gospel” on Gospel Truth GTS-2713)
20. Name The Missing Word – THE STAPLE SINGERS (from the 1972 USA LP “Be Altitude: Respect Yourself” on Stax STS-3002)
Compiled and annotated by Soul lover and expert DEAN RUDLAND, the 12-page booklet features full-colour plates of rarely seen album sleeves by Clarence White, The Marion Gaines Singers, The Rance Allen Group, The Howard Lemon Singers and Louise McLoud.
There’s a couple of USA 45s pictured, a trade advert and a Bible on the cover with the BGP and Stax logos on it – nice! Excepting The Staple Singers, very few of these artists are household names, so Rudland’s researched and informative liner notes make for an enlightening read. NICK ROBBINS at Sound Mastering in London has once again done the remastering and a typically great job it is too – full of life and presence. He always seems to get a better sound than I have on other Stax CDs.
The material as you can imagine is as funky as it is righteous – great grooves, positive vibes and all of it imbibed with a feeling of black pride finally breaking through - what heady times they were. Highlights include the fuzzed-up guitar rhythms of the opener “Son Of The Deacon” which is cleverly followed by “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” a Traditional given a radical funky reworking. You’ll also notice from the total playing time that 20 tracks take up 78 minutes – this is because quite a few are over 5 minutes long – feeling like extended workouts (something a lot of listeners love).
A truly fantastic inclusion is the Isaac Hayes cover of “Do Your Thing” by The Marion Gaines Singers – a perfect marriage of soul, funk and gospel (...”better pray on…”). As writers - Gamble & Huff provide a typically Philly sound to Rance Allen’s high-vocal acrobatics on “(There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown”. There’s almost a pre-disco feel to Joshie Jo Armstead’s lovely “I Got The Vibes” (she was a member of The Ikettes) while “You Need A Friend Like Mine” is written by another Stax label stalwart – Frederick Knight. Soul-songwriting heroine Bettye Crutcher (provided hits for William Bell, Carla Thomas, Johnnie Taylor and The Staple Singers among others) penned my favourite on here - “Better Get A Move On” by Louise McCord.
It features irresistible funky guitar licks while her great vocals rap lyrical about a woman ditching a mistreating man in a very Marlena Shaw kind of a way – superlative stuff.
Charles May penned both his own “Keep My Baby Warm” and “If The Shoe Fits, Wear It” for The 21st Century – both are more soul than gospel – and are lovely additions. Not surprisingly The Staples Singers are featured three times – their excellent cover of Al Kooper’s theme to “The Landlord” movie – “Brand New Day” (lyrics above). But as much as I adore the ground any of The Staple Singers walk on – “When Will We Be Paid…” has never been a rave of mine, but the set’s closer is a very clever choice – a gem tucked away on their “Be Altitude: Respect Yourself” album from 1972 called “Name The Missing Word” which is lyrically relevant to the comp’s theme.
To sum up – it’s an embarrassment of riches if you dig this sort of thing – and even if you don’t – there’s so much on here worth taking a chance on.
Ace Records deliver again folks – another job well done. On to Volume 2 please…