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Good God!:A Gospel Funk Hymnal
Artists: Various
Label: The Numero Group

That soul gospel nowadays incorporates most every form of R&B and hip-hop to be heard in the secular world is no great revelation. And
Candi Staton, The Mighty Clouds of Joy and others can tell you about purposefully adopting disco for African-American sacred music. That
kind of fusion has yielded some fine artistry, but historically, many saved and savvy hipsters have been there and done that.

The relationship between funk--the soul music derivative wherein every instrument's percussive quality is exploited and groove and
texture become tantamount to vocal athletics and melody--and gospel has been less acknowledged. _Good God!: A Gospel Funk Hymnal_ goes a long way in documenting the history of, as George Clinton might say, keeping the beat on the one and singing of the One.

This collection of eigthteen indie singles sides and album tracks released between 1968 and 1981 makes a strong case for just how appropriate
the churning, sometimes ominous persistence of funk is to traditional soul gospel vocal style and lyrics of salvation. At its most Spartan,
it's just a wildly flailing drummer backing the minor key imprecations of Detroit choir Voices of Conquest on "O Yes, My Lord." Trevor Dandy's "Is There Any Love" recalls Timmy Thomas's keyboard-laden classic "Why Can't We Live Together," but here with interwoven congas and drum-kit with a subtler touch to the keys.

More sumptuously, Preacher & the Saints' "Jesus Rhapsody Part 1" sports the  strings and harp glissandi of a Holland-Dozier-Holland
production for The Temptations. A throwback to the R&B of a few years earlier, the Mighty Voices of Wonder kind of convert a Sam and Dave
hit into "I Thank the Lord."

Seeing as how funk's commercial primacy paralleled the Black Power movement and other powerful gusts of social conscience, it's
understandable that similar concerns would find their way in the gospel music of the time. The Triumphs, a vocal group signed at one
time to to VeeJay Records but ignored in light of what the label was doing with their Beatles catalogue, make out like The Delfonics gone
politicized and sanctified on "We Don't Love Enough." The Modulations echo the fire-and-brimstone preaching of decades past in describing
their own 1977 times and lay down righteous danceability on "This Old World Is Going Down."

Acts who aspire for the slickness of contemporaneous black radio hit fodder but don't quite have the budget nor facilities make for some
compelling listening. Cliff Gober's take on the hoary "A Poor Wayfaring Stranger" takes the strings and horns from what could be
any soul or disco record of the mid-'70s, but with an appealing roughness. The co-ed Apostles of Music's "Look Where He Brought Us
From" aspires to James Brown at his most rhythmically inventive, but not every back-up band can be The JB's. It's still a jam.

A couple of Good God'_'s more arresting offerings come from, of all places, original cast albums. The Soul of Jesus Christ Superstar
worked as a response to the similarly-titled rock opera, and Sam Taylor's rendition of "Heaven On Their Minds": from it stands as one
of the more polished offerings here. Stranger still, "Thoughs Were The Days" [sic] from the obscurer Two Sisters From Baghdad,
produced by a large African Methodist Episcopal church in Detroit, gives LaVice (Hendricks) & Company a chance to voice Satan's
complaint of how his domain used to be a much more swinging place before a massive revival.

Truthfully, every track here cooks. If this is the beginning of a wave of such musical archeology, it has begun with a most fruitful
first dig.

Jamie Lee Rake 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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