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Beginnings: A Jesus Music Concert
Length: 180 minutes
American gospel music has had its dips and turns. From the beginning of recorded American music, the gospel message and music has been there. It has always run parallel to the spiritual revival of the time. It has varied in style, crossed racial, and cultural and age boundaries. From the Carter Family to Thomas Dorsey, Blind Willie Johnson and George Beverly Shea, there has always been a musical result of these significant moments in church history. The excellent DVD/CD package, The Beginnings Concert:The Jesus Music Reunion does not necessarily represent a gospel music beginning as much as it touches the traditional southern gospel transformation alongside the conversion of folk, rock and pop resulting from The Jesus Movement.
At first glance, its hard to see why Barry McGuire, Chuck Girard, and Don Francisco are on the bill along with Reba Rambo-McGuire, Donnie McGuire, and Dallas Holm. With one listen it becomes clear from the uniform excellence and charisma of the performers, the chemistry is there and provides us a historical perspective; while the southern gospel artists were bringing black-gospel soul and rhythm & blues into their traditional styles, converted singer songwriters and counter-culture hippies were bringing folk, rock and pop and transforming them into their own brand of gospel later tagged Contemporary Christian Music.
The potential for this combined DVD/CD release would be to have these artists at odds against each other-a lack of focus and disjointed concert. This doesn't happen. These veteran artists show no wear and tear with the age and the years of neglect from the mainstream church that is out of touch with these roots. It's as if a time machine has arrived and its 1975 again. Reba Ramgo sings her heart out and still can shatter glass with her high notes on the imaginative song, "Land of Oohhs and Ahhs." Dallas Holms voice soothes and comforts on "Heaven." David Meece gives his finest praise in the soulful "Raise These Hands." Jeannie Grein's "Covenant Woman" sings with southern soul reminiscent of Dusty Springfield.
The folk-rock-soul artists prove themselves still passionate and committed to their spiritual journey. Barry McGuire can still spin out a story that can bring laughter and tears. The quality and emotion of his voice has, if anything grown more passionate with age. "Not My Will" challenges us to trust God and to joy, no matter our circumstance. His classic "Cosmic Cowboy," paints an uncommon and imaginative portrait of Jesus and the experience of re-generation. Chuck Girard sings to the baby boom generation on "Little Pilgrim" and it rings with more truth today than it did thirty years ago. Leon Patillo reminds us there's been a place for funk in Christian music for the last 40 years. Its a funk he helped to found. Don Francsico could easily walk off with the show on "Gotta Tell Somebody" because of his sense of narrative drama, worship, and urgency.
But no one steals this show except for the uniform excellence of all of these artists and the quality, professionalism and love put into this entire production. The continuity of this gathering is not just the performances, but the amazing musicianship of the band, the quality and direction of the filmed concert and the underlying, unpretentious joy that runs like a golden thread through this historic concert.
The music of this generation was not the beginning of changes in gospel and Christian music. However, it was a founding for this generation of baby boomers who survived the excesses of the '60's to find their own spiritual journey and to bring their stories of transformation and worship alive to a new generation.
This package is recommended for those who want to reminisce and see these how vital these artists remain today, and most important, to new generations to discover these great, passionate singers. They are still with us, but not visible in the now corporate run world of Christian music. So spread the word. Its time to celebrate.