Cross Rhythms review of Mighty Day - 25 Gospel Greats
In case you've yet to discover their enormous cache of creative gold, let me say at the outset that Document Records, now based in the UK, is second to none for pre-war and early post-war gospel music. Its vast catalogue, built on the Herculean task of reissuing on CD every blues and gospel 78 it could get its hands on, today offers the serious collector a reservoir of breathtaking music.
This sampler, built around Hollywood's unexpected exposure of the 1928 obscurity "Mighty Day" by Bessemer Sunset Four in the Jim Carrie movie Fun With Dick And Jane is the perfect way to familiarise yourself with Document's jaw-dropping catalogue and indeed begin to delve into the music which pioneered the whole contemporary Christian music field.
There are giants of gospel music here - like the towering composer Thomas A Dorsey, the sassy guitar evangelist Sister Rosetta Tharpe and those acapella maestros the Golden Gate Quartet. But there are others who never saw fame or fortune like the breathtaking slide guitarist Rev Utah Smith, the haunting Cornfield Four or the magnificent Anthony Butler whose 1955 recording "Judgment's Coming" is a clear pointer of the rap music which was to come decades later. As the excellent sleeve note indicates, you can also hear proto-hip-hop on the stunning "I'm A Witness For The Lord" by the Reverend Kelsey while it won't take an expert ethnomusicologist to hear the stylistic foundation stone of James Brown, Otis Reading or Wilson Pickett in many of the vocalists here or find a parallel with today's urban vocal groups in the dazzling work of the Heavenly Gospel Singers from 1935 or the Wright Brothers Gospel Singers from 1941. An album which can be recommended unreservedly.
Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Click here to buy Mighty Day
Click here to visit Cross Rhythms