Gospel Music – various artists
Hyena Records 9346
Gospel Music, the latest from Hyena Records, was produced by Joel Dorn and Lee Friedlander.
In his heyday (which never really ended, I suppose), Dorn produced records by Roland Kirk and John Coltrane, and scored Grammys for Roberta Flack. Recently, he came out of retirement to produce Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s latest, also for Hyena (which, of course, is Dorn’s label).
Friedlander, Dorn’s partner-in-crime on Gospel Music, is responsible for photos that, in all likelihood, are in your home, or your friend’s home. He shot the covers for Coltrane’s Giant Steps, and Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way. And a ton of other albums. And he’s photographed every major jazz artist, from Count Basie to Yusef Lateef. And his son is frequent John Zorn-collaborator Erik Friedlander (and Dorn’s son is Adam Dorn, a.k.a. Mocean Worker).
Anyway, these cats (and their sons, it seems) are serious dudes. And anything they touch should be pretty dope; one might have already deduced, for instance, that this compilation of gospel music, featuring artists like Mahalia Jackson and The Staple Singers, was going to be something special.
I did not deduce that, however. I just popped the comp in my discman (yes, I am still iPod-less) and took a walk, having forgotten to sift through the skimpy liner notes (Dorn says this CD needs no “words of explanation”) that would have let me known this was going to be good.
So imagine my surprise once the disc started spinning. I had not been full of high hopes; I mean, compilations aren’t usually that good, you know? How do you reduce an artist, or a genre for that matter, to fifteen or twenty songs?
But this stuff was great. Granted, my knowledge of gospel music is limited but I know soul when I hear it, and some of these tunes were so soulful that I had to sit down. Seriously. Dorothy Love Coates’ rendition of “Strange Man” is about as powerful as it gets; I’m fairly sure I nearly died the first time I heard that cut.
And while I can’t tell you that every track on here is a near-death experience (that would be too much anyway, wouldn’t it?), each and every tune is a near-trip to the church (or as near as a white Jew from New York can get). Especially “Go Where I Send Thee,” by The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet, and “The Last Mile Of The Way,” by The Soul Stirrers, where the lead singer really gets his Sam Cooke on (mostly because he is Sam Cooke).
Go out and get this disc. Please. Especially if you’re not overly-familiar with gospel music. Because you will fall in love with the genre after hearing this CD. When’s the next comp comin’ out, Joel?