Sunday, 24 August 2014

"Spirit Of The Century" by THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA - A Review Of Their 2001 Album (CD) On Peter Gabriel's Real World Records (with Tom Waits, Hen Harper and John Hammond)...

“…I’m Gonna Leave This Place Better…” 

The first thing that hammers you about “Spirit Of The Century” is the truly fabulous sound quality – ‘so’ extraordinarily good. Second - your stroked by the ancient black voices – graveled and wise like Mount Rushmore. Next are the fabulous accompanying musicians classing up every single tune with Bluesy Harmonica (Charlie Musselwhite), Double Bass (Danny Thompson), live Drums (Michael Jerome), Electric and Slide Guitar (David Lindley) and tightly strung Dobro (John Hammond). And then there’s the song choices – Tom Waits, Ben Harper and The Rolling Stones sit easy alongside Gospel songs that go back centuries (never mind this one). The effect is immediate, spirit lifting and effortless cool all at the same time. Not bad for a bunch of visually impaired Octogenarians…

The Blind Boys Of Alabama of today are Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter, George Scott and Joey Williams (they alternate lead vocals) and “Spirit Of The Century” was their first album for Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records released April 2001 on CDRW95. Of its 12-tracks (47:14 minutes) Tom Waits contributes “Jesus Gonna Be Here” (Clarence sings lead) and his stunning “Way Down In The Hole” (Jimmy Carter sings lead) which of course famously became the theme song to the critically acclaimed TV Series “The Wire”. Ben Harper stumps up the beautiful and moving “Give A Man A Home” (Clarence sings lead) while “Just Wanna See His Face” was on The Rolling Stones 1972 double-album masterpiece “Exile On Main St.”. The other 8 are Traditional Tunes of varying age.

Amongst the oldies are stunning rocking versions of “Soldier” (“I’m a soldier in the army of the Lord…”) and a slinky slow Dobro Blues on “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”. Danny Thompson’s Double Bass and George Scott’s canyon’s deep bass vocal make “Run On For A Long Time” a funky Gospel gem. And it ends on a gorgeous Acapella take on “The Last Time” (“this may be the last time children…I don’t know…”). They went on to make “Higher Ground” in 2002, “Go Tell It To The Mountain” in 2003 (with even more stellar guests like Mavis Staples, Shelby Lynne, Tom Waits, Aaron Neville and Me’Shell NdegeOcello) and “There Will Be A Light” (with Ben Harper) in 2004. But for me this is the best of a great run.

The Blind Boys Of Alabama have been singing Gospel Music since they were formed in the Talladega Institute For The Blind in 1939 (yes 1939). That they should get such a joyful and creative renaissance at the hands of white boys paying rightful homage is icing on a very lovely cake.

Bluesy, Soulful, Righteous – and in 2015 – “Spirit Of The Century” on CD is dirt cheap to buy. Get this gem in your Spiritual armory and right soon…

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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