Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Various Artists - Church: Songs of Soul & Inspiration (2003)


Well this certainly is a pleasant surprise. I got this CD set in a large lot of discs a couple of years ago, glanced at the title, ignorantly figured it for a compilation of hymns or monks chanting or some such, and set it aside. It ain't that at all:

Billboard, May 24, 2003, p. 19

And it is scratching me right where I itch.

I am on record as believing that you can't have gospel music without gospel lyrics, but this stuff exists in a grey area between genres that makes me question such thoughts. But belief cannot exist in the absence of doubt, and since R&B evolved by taking gospel tunes and changing every occurrence of "Jesus" in the lyrics to "baby," I guess it can go the other way, too.

As church sermons I hear seem to be devolving into either prosperity gospel or confirmation bias statements of "God hates the same people I do," it's nice to be reminded about God's mercy, grace, and love, even if it's through Bee Gees lyrics.

Rolling Stone, May 29, 2003, p. 66

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #157
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #41
Peak on Billboard's Top Gospel Albums chart: #1

Tracks:

Sweet mama! A gospel take on Stevie Wonder's As? Please and thank you very much. Other standouts include Way Up There (Patti LaBelle) and You Gotta Be (Patti Austin).

I could listen to the late Dr. Maya Angelou read a take-out menu, but when she's reading her own writing, it's top shelf.

The only thing missing is a fast-paced shout piece by an authentic gospel chorus, complete with upbeat clapping and Mrs. Sneed singing too loudly. All the cuts are slow to mid-tempo affairs.

Also included is a second disc allegedly containing performance footage and artist interviews, but this 2003 CD-ROM is not compatible with my current operating system and I'm too lazy to chase down a work-around.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Yeah, I'm a preacher's kid, but this music bears little resemblance to the reformed, traditional hymnody I was raised on. Better late than never?

I'm also reminded of a college classmate, George, who grew up in this tradition and could play a mean gospel piano. I would sit in a practice room with George and just listen to him play. Once, I asked him how he learned to play that way - the chromaticism, the chord substitutions and inversions, etc - he shrugged and said he just picked it up.

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