This double-CD set serves a useful overview of the time and cross-genre fusion it surveys.

Various Artists
Overdose Of The Holy Ghost:The Sound Of The Disco And Boogie Eras
(Z Records, UK)

I offer apologies to you readers and DJ/post-producer/Z Records U.K. chief Joey Negro for the delay in getting this review written. My getting of it occurred around the time some of my screen time was spent watching all the online documentaries about the development of disco culture and music to be found on YootOob. Exactly how to contextualize the symbiotic relationship between Afrimerican club music and church music-and keeping it succinct-became a conundrum.  

But the gist of the first half of that last sentence well summarizes the spirit (heh heh?) of Overdose Of The Holy Ghost. At least since Thomas Dorsey's jump from jubilee singing to the soul gospel he innovated, based in part on the blues in which he got his professional musical start and would occasionally return after his Christan conversion, the sounds sung from pews and danced to in nightspots have shuffled influence among each other. This aesthetic exchange takes place in parallel manners sartorially (depending on the congregation and occasion, dressing to impress can still be common on Sunday morning as it is Saturday night) and sexually (right or wrong, black gays and lesbians have found solace and acceptance in the church, often significantly contributing to its music, long before New York City's 1969 Stonewall riots led to the sociological conditions that led multi-cultural homosexuals to find alternative "worship" experiences in discotheques).  

So, it should be no surprise that soul gospel would draw from disco and the more down tempo, groove-intensive boogie R&B that followed in the '80s. Though the musical relationship on record goes far back as the mid-'70s when the same producers helming albums by R&B acts on ABC Records also going into the studio with soul gospel acts on  the Word label it owned at the time, most notably The Mighty Clouds Of Holy and The Beautiful Zion Choir, Overdose's purview runs from 1977-84. Friends for the rarefied niche in which this compilation trades, few though we may be, may wish for a start date some time in the second Nixon administration, but this double-CD set serves a useful overview of the time and cross-genre fusion it surveys.  

Its titular tune comes from the only act here to merit more than one tune, The Clark Sisters. The ladies' "You Brought The Sunshine" made a slightly reggae-ish club and R&B radio splash in '82-'83, but "Overdose..." from the same album as that hit offers a more stutteringly funky offering that acts as a lesson in the baptism of-you guessed, yes?- the Holy Spirit.  "Ha Ya (Eternal Life)" ups the beats per minute for a hearty  piano-heavy Hebraic chant featuring their mom and Church Of God In Christ national choir director Mattie Moss Clark. Negro's own edit of  the gals' "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" beans with four-on-the-floor disco oomph not dissimilar to the '93 remix of The Doobie Brothers' "Long Train' Runnin'" that hit the U.K. pop Top 10. Keeping it further in the fam', Elbertina "Twinkie" Clark's "Awake O Zion" brings a more urgent, nigh breathless sort of mantra over a musical framework that redolent of '70s Philadelphia International Records' house band, MFSB (with drummer Earl Young, the skins man reputed to have "invented" disco with his beat on Harold Melvin & The blue Notes' "The Love I Lost").  

Other acts with bits of general market success made the licensing cut as well. Six years after his late '70s top 20 entry "Love Brought Me Back," D.J. Rogers was more overtly Christocentic in his vocal tack and recording the stomping "All I Gave Him Was My Heart." And a few years before their retrospectively strange late '80s-mid-'90s run of urban radio successes at Capitol and Sparrow, BeBe & CeCe Winans were PTL Club regulars, recording slickness like "I Really Love You" (quoting Johnny Bistol's "Hang On In There" in the process)  on their one long-player for Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker's own label; the one presented here is an edit by Overdose compiler/noted English club DJ David Hill.    

More roundabout crossing over comes from Rahni Harris & Family Love, whose "He's My Friend" is one of the most  straightforwardly gospel songs here, but its bubbly  instrumental version b-side, retitled "Six Million Steps," would strike a note with England's nascent jazz funk scene; Harris would later change his last name to Song, and the 1977 album whence "Friend" comes would lead to a career shifting between the urban gospel of bands such as Kingdom to singing with funk band Dayton and playing keyboards on George Clinton's '83 funk colossus "Atomic Dog."    

Best known of the remaining acts over the set's 24 tracks would have to be Shirley Caesar, whose "Heavenly Father" dates from her late '70s tenure with United Artists' Roadshow imprint, where fitting the former Caravans singer into a variety of styles was thought to be a road to broader general market appeal. Nothing from that era of hers worked well as her semi-spoken word Mother's Day chestnut, "No Charge," but "Father" works up a hearty funked-up disco'ness to abet  her praises. "Message For For The People" from the same era simmers like the soundtrack music for a driving scene in a lost blaxploitation movie as she offers eqial helpings of encouragement and foreboding.   Another female singer, Linda Evans (no relation to the Dynasty actress), put her spin on a track from the first album by  Earth Wind & Fire's Phillip Bailey's for the cCm and gospel markets, "I Am Gold"; eschewing the more famous tenor's slow intro'  she gets the affirmation of the Lord's trying a believer by fire straight to the dance floor.    

Lesser known, but often even more collectable, names don't disappoint, either. Some, such as Kristle's "I'll Go" succeed at an established template like the dancey, Godly female vocalist; Norman Weeks & The Revelations' "Hold On" may have been a jazz funkster holy grail, with what's probably one of the few recorded examples of gospel scat singing. The Fannie Clark Singers (related to the other Clarks here? can't say, but they share a former record company in Sound Of Gospel) bring fulsome mid tempo, low down stomp to "Lord, Use Me," as do Rosalyn & Charles on their entirely too brief "Was Not Intended." James Moore concludes the santicifed shebang by finding a bumping compromise between jazziness and Earth Wind & Fire's sunny side and a near-skewing toward '70s Staple Singers' "message music" over outright gospel on "As A Nation." But the entire collection merits exploration.  

Licensing issues, the possibility that tracks may be too commonly heard within the compilers' immediate circles of fandom and other matters may have limited Overdose's chronological and stylistic scope, so here's hoping this isn't Z's only double-disc  dip into this pool of danceable inspiration.

Jamie Lee Rake

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