God Is

  1. God Is Walt Whitman & The Soul Children of Chicago 6:45


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“God Is” was written by Dr. Robert Fryson and was first recorded in 1979 by Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir.

This recording by The Soul Children of Chicago is wonderful because of the power of the performance; these “kids” make a BIG sound.  I also chose this version because I have a soft spot in my heart for youth choirs; getting children involved with gospel music can only help make a firm foundation for them for the rest of their lives.

Bread of Heaven

  1. Bread Of Heaven Rev. James Moore 5:51


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James Moore “Live” With The Mississippi Mass Choir, 1995

Reverend James Moore Sr. (February 1, 1956 – June 7, 2000), born in Detroit, Michigan, was a gospel artist well known throughout the gospel recording industry for his powerful vocal abilities. Moore had a genuine love for the traditional sounds of the church, but came to appreciate the uprising contemporary form of gospel music as well. He died in 2000, aged 44.

In his earlier days, Moore received much of his tutelage and artistic craft by gospel music legends and personal friends such as the late Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, Rev. James Cleveland, and Richard “Mr. Clean” White, among many others. He also gave much acclaim to the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) for the molding of his gospel music career.

After many chart-topping gospel hits and much noted success in the 1980s and early ’90s, Moore soon became a household name among many gospel music listeners. In the mid-’90s Moore was diagnosed with colon cancer, and his health began to suffer. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with diabetes, which left him bound to a wheelchair, blind and placed on dialysis. Determined to disallow any disease from hindering him to sing and minister, Moore continued singing, ministering, and recording. Moore’s last recording, entitled “Family and Friends, Live in Detroit” was recorded in the summer of 1999 in his hometown of Detroit, with some of his dearest industry friends and gospel notables, such as Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Rudolph Stanfield, and Darius Twyman. The album was released in early 2000, shortly before his death at the age of 44.

It’s a Highway to Heaven (Walking Down the King’s Highway)

  1. Highway To Heaven First Church of Deliverance Choir 5:40


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“It’s a Highway to Heaven (Walking Down the King’s Highway)” was written by Thomas A. Dorsey, “The Father of Black Gospel Music”, and Mary Gardner in 1954.

This recording not only has wonderful vocals, but features a classic Hammond B3 organ.  The Hammond B3 was introduced in 1955 and among the early customers of the B3 were African-American churches, whose limited finances compelled them to accept what might be seen as a second-rate substitute for a “real” organ. Fortunately, creativity escaped the limitations of technology. The sounds of the B3 were unique, powerful, and captivating, and the instrument began to be appreciated on its own terms. Gospel music recordings of the 1950s and 1960s began to accentuate the Hammond, giving the music a special sound. By about 1970, the B3s (and similar Hammond models) were embraced by all sorts of popular musicians, including rock, R&B, and jazz groups.

Chicago’s historic First Church of Deliverance Choir certainly has something to sing about. Under its founding pastor, the late Rev. Clarence H Cobbs, the First Church of Deliverance was one of the earliest African American churches to broadcast its services on the radio, beginning in 1934. It was through the weekly radio broadcasts featuring the 200-voice choir that the church became widely known as a center for Gospel music. The First Church of Deliverance “big choir” sound has been emulated by choirs across the United States and abroad.

In 2006 The First Church of Deliverance Choir made a triumphant return to the recording scene after a 16-year hiatus with God Can – Live, a 10-track set showcasing the choir’s rich traditional sound plus a few contemporary offerings.




Jesus When Troubles Burden Me Down

  1. Jesus When Troubles Burden Me Down Rev. Timothy Wright 5:08


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Reverend Timothy Wright started on piano at age 12, and sang and composed for his church choir as a teenager at the St. John’s Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God in Brooklyn. He played piano for Bishop F. D. Washington and Isaac Douglas in the 1960s and 1970s, including on recordings, and he formed his own gospel ensemble in the mid-1970s, the Timothy Wright Concert Choir. He eventually became pastor of the Pentecostal Grace Tabernacle Christian Center Church of God in Christ located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and issued albums regularly from 1990.

Wright’s 1994 album Come Thou Almighty King, with the New York Fellowship Mass Choir, made Billboard’s Top 20 chart for gospel albums and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album, as was his 1999 release Been There Done That.

On July 4, 2008, Wright was critically injured in a car crash on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania, a crash which killed his wife and grandson as well as the driver of the oncoming car. He died April 24, 2009, as a result of these injuries, at the age of 61.

He’s Real

  1. He's Real Greater Emmanuel Mass Choir 3:40


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DETROIT, MICHIGAN!  The Great Migration bought a plethora of very talented musicians and singers to the city.  It is no surprise then that Detroit is home of lots of great gospel that emanated from the many black churches there ( not to mention that Detroit also fostered the rise of Motown records.)

Greater Emmanuel’s 1994 CD, “The Sun Will Shine Again” peaked at number 30 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums charts and produced the radio hit “Get the Glory”. Of equal importance is the fact that Greater Emmanuel is the spiritual home of Detroit’s leading ladies, The Clark Sisters (Karen Clark Sheard serves as first lady.) [There will be lots of posts about the musical legacy of incredible Clark family in the future.]

Early in the Morning

  1. Early In The Morning Edwin Hawkins Singers 3:11


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From the 1968 “Oh Happy Day” album, ‘Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord’.

Edwin Hawkins was born in Oakland, California in 1943. He grew up in the Ephesian Church of God in Christ in Berkeley, California. He sang in and arranged for the youth choir and played piano. Edwin Hawkins and Betty Watson formed the 50 member Church of God in Christ The Northern California State Youth Choir in 1967. This choir was made up of 46 of the best young singers between 17 and 25 years old in the Bay Area. The choir produced their first album ‘Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord’ in 1968, recorded in the basement of the Ephesians Church of God of Christ in Berkeley.

The album initially had 600 presses and was meant to be a fund-raising effort to finance a trip to sing at a National Youth Congress Convention in Cleveland. A song on this album was a new arrangement of an old hymn, ‘Oh, Happy Day’ featuring Dorothy Morrison on lead. In 1969 a San Francisco rock promoter, John Lingel, found the LP and passed it to a local DJ, Abe ‘Voco’ Kesh at KSAN-FM who loved the song ‘Oh, Happy Day’ and gave it plenty of air play. One of the listeners was Buddah Records promoter, Neil Bogart, who purchased the LP from Abe. Buddah released a single of ‘Oh, Happy Day’ and ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul’ in spring 1969 on the Pavilion label. The single sold 7 million copies, reach number 4 in the US Billboard singles chart on 31 May 1969, won a 1970 Grammy award for Best Soul Gospel Performance and has become the most famous gospel song in history.

The LP ‘Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord’ was also distributed by Buddah and reached number 5 on the R&B LP charts on the 14 June 1969. The soloist on ‘Oh, Happy Day’ was Dorothy Combs Morrison but she left the group in 1969 to pursue a solo career with Elektra and Buddah Records.

The songs on this ground-breaking album were;

Side A:
1. ‘Let Us Go Into the House of The Lord.’
2. ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul.’
3. ‘To My Father’s House.’ Soloist: Elaine Kelly.
4. ‘I’m Going Through.’ Soloist: Margarette Branch.

Side 2::
1. ‘Oh Happy Day.’ Soloist: Dorothy Morrison.
2. ‘I Heard the Voice of Jesus.’ Trio: Trumaine Davis, Rueben Franklin and Donald Cashmere.
3. ‘Early in the Morning.’ Soloist: Betty Watson.
4. ‘Joy, Joy.’ Soloists: Tramaine Davis and Ruth Lyons.
All songs arranged by Edwin R. Hawkins.

In 1970 the Edwin Hawkins Singers supported the US folk singer Melanie Safka on her hit Woodstock single ‘Lay Down (Candle in the Wind)’(not unlike several members of JVOI who backed Melanie up at a performance in Somerville in 2013!!).

The group went on to win four Grammys between 1969 and 1983 despite having seen some of it’s singers depart and new ones join. They received the 1969 and 1970 Grammy Awards for Best Soul Gospel Performance for the songs ‘Oh Happy Day’ and ‘Every Man Wants To Be Free’ respectively.

Edwin Hawkins also instituted the Edwin Hawkins The Music & Arts Seminars from 1982. These conferences have introduced new gospel song-writers, singers and musicians to a wider audience, including through his The Music & Arts Seminar album projects. In 1992 the Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir won a Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album By A Choir Or Chorus for the album ‘Recorded Live In Los Angeles’.