Various artists – The Pitch/Gusman Records Story (Big Legal Mess)
Various artists – Holy Spirit: Spiritual Soul & Gospel Funk From Shrevport’s Jewel Records (Harmless)
Various artists – Christians Catch Hell (Honest Jon’s)
These are glory days for fans of hardcore vintage gospel fans and I’m loving it!
In a future post, I’ll give a rundown of some or all of the releases out and about on the fabulous Gospel Friend label.
They have only – so far – a small catalogue, but they’re all utterly tremendous.
In the meantime, these three anthologies are just as essential.
From the most downhome through to the smoothest grooves …
I thought a triple-disc effort of the obscure Pitch and Gusman labels would be truly getting into anorak territory.
So I was surprised and delighted to find the standard here is very high.
This music was produced by Waymon “Gusman” Jones from the early ’60s through to 1978 in Georgia.
No real famous names here – just mostly excellent small group gospel.
Don’t Let The Devil Ride by the Flying Clouds out of Augusta, Georgia, is a rocking slice of brilliance.
The Gusman/Pitch release shares with the Holy Spirit set a very heavy debt to the Staples Singers, both in the guitar sounds and lyrical content.
Guitar-wise, I’m not sure if that’s because “Pops” Staples was so influential or whether he shared with so many of the artists here profound southern roots.
A bit of both maybe.
As you’d expect, the Jewel double-disc outing is a lot more polished – but not enough for it to cross from downhome to uptown.
The Staples influence is even more present here.
The “spiritual soul” tag in the sub-title tells the story – many of the tunes make no mention of God or JC.
A prime example is the slinky beauty of the BPS Revolution’s Brotherly Love – forget gospel, this is prime southern soul.
There’s several tunes that reference the likes of the Vietnam War, MLK or the Kennedy Brothers.
Best of all are the two tracks by the Armstrong Brothers.
Much as I love my gospel, there’s times when it’s just too intense – times when I want a little more chill.
The Armstrongs do that with Far Away From God and Can You Treat Him Like A Brother?
Low key, slow tempos, bass voices – yep, chilled out, but still so stunning it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
I’ve searched online for more by the Armstrong Brothers to no avail.
How cool is the cover and title of the Christians Catch Hell?
Here, the slick steps up to a whole ‘nother level – no surprise as this stuff comes out of the Gospel Roots label, a subsidiary of TK Records and their Miami Sound.
Nevertheless, the gospel credentials are great.
Such luminaries as the Dixie Hummingbirds’ Ira Tucker and Savoy, King and Chess producer Ralph Bass were involved, so all is good.
So while there is a pronounced funky sheen to everything here, it is all still deep roots gospel.
It took me a while to get with the spirit of this album.
But now I’m a convert.