I Believe

“I know I’ll get my help
From the power in the sky”

This great song deftly skirts the edges of gospel with lyrics as that shown above.  Not hard core religion, just a great message.

This phenomonal 40 member, 10 piece band group known as Sounds of Blackness first arrived on the scene in 1969 in Minnesota, but it wasn’t until 1971 that the group was solidified. Sounds of Blackness was the first real musical group to combine traditional African music with modern day American music, such as R&B and Gospel. In 1994, they came out with the album “Africa to America: The Journey of the Drum”, one of its most successful albums to date. With now-famed singer Ann Nesby-Lee singing the solo to this song, this hip-hop/inspirational song is sure to keep you tapping your feet to the beat.

 

  1. I Believe Sounds of Blackness 4:40

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Soul as Blues as Gospel as Blues as Soul

As I was driving yesterday, Aretha Franklin’s version of “Drown In My Own Tears” came on, and I was amazed about how very, very closely the song sounded for all the world just like a gospel song.  Same great female lead solo, fantastic backup vocals from the choir, chords that are pure gospel, or just one note off, and a killer vamp at the end.  As I listened again this morning, I recalled Beverly Crawford’s version of “(You Must Be) Born Again”, and knew it was just the gospel twin of Aretha’s song. And then I thought of Cream’s song, “Sitting On Top Of The World” and one see’s exactly where Soul, R&B and Gospel intersect with Rock music, so I’m throwing that in too for good measure.

This is a wonderful, simple lesson on the influence of black American blues, gospel, and soul music on the world

  1. Drown In My Own Tears Aretha Franklin 4:05

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  1. Born Again Beverly Crawford 11:14

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  1. Sitting On Top Of The World Cream 4:58

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Let Jesus Fix It For You

Gospel, arguably, has often been the “R” in R&B. A long list of soul icons, from Aretha Franklin to Gladys Knight to Otis Redding to Teddy Pendergrass…they all  have come from gospel roots. In the ’70’s and ’80s, The New York Community Choir was one of the more influential groups of gospel, bringing a more secular R&B sound to gospel music.  This is a terribly over-produced track with schmaltzy strings, but it turns into a good song with a strong lead vocal and a nice soprano showcase at around 4:00.

 

  1. Let Jesus Fix It New York Community Choir 5:54

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The New York Community Choir began in the first 1970s as an offshoot from the Isaac Douglas Performers, initially including some 100 members beneath the direction of Benny Diggs. Certainly a gospel ensemble, NYCC created a method that also offered secular R&B, spirit, and pop tracks a spiritual sizing, bridging Saturday night time and Sunday morning hours. In 1977, NYCC released a self-titled debut record, made by Warren Schatz, including the long lasting dance strike “Express Yourself.” A follow-up record, Make EACH DAY Count, was released in 1978. The band included Paul Shaffer and Richard Tee on keyboards, Jeff Mironov and John Tropea on guitars,

Magnify The Lord

  1. Magnify The Lord Vernard Johnson and the Central California Mass Choir 4:07

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To my knowledge, there have only been a few solo gospel sax players that really got much notoriety; Angella Christie and Kirk Whalum come to mind.

Vernard Johnson can play for sure and over his career that went from 1973-1992 he recorded 11 albums of gospel soul-jazz-funk.  (His accompanist on piano is singing the solo harmony.)

In 1978 he release an album with the awesome title “Soul Metamorphosis: Rare & Unreissued Gospel Funk 1968-1978”

That’s All I Want

  1. That's All I Want The Stan Lee Ensemble 3:13

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I guess this sub-genre of gospel could be called “gospel soul” and Stan Lee and Benny Cummings and others were the first to record these songs in the early ’70s. I believe James Cleveland discovered and promoted the Stand Lee Ensemble and probably had a lot to do with Savoy Records recording them since Cleveland himself  (and his choirs) recorded lots of material on Savoy.