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Good News - Vintage Negro Spirituals

Good News, the Chariot's Coming

The Fisk University Jubilee Quartette

rec. 1921-45
LIVING ERA CD AJA 5622 [76:55]



Steal Away
Sit Down

Roland Hayes - tenor & Lawrence Brown - piano
It's Me O Lord Standin' in the Need of Prayer
Go Down, Moses

John Payne - baritone & Lawrence Brown - piano
Tone de Bell
I'se been 'buked
Gwina lay down my life

Edna Thomas - mezzo-soprano & Colin M. Campbell - piano
Mary, Don't You Weep

The Utica Jubilee Singers
I ain't a-gonna grieve

Aimee Semple McPherson with choir
Swing low, Sweet Chariot
Joshua fir de Battle ob Jericho
Deep River
Git on Board, l'l Children

Paul Robeson - bass & Lawrence Brown - piano
Spritual Medley -
I Got A Robe - Steal Away - Ev'ry Time I Feel The Spirit - Nobody Knows De Trouble I've Seen

Layton & Johnstone & Turner Layton - piano
Down to de Rivah

John Charles Thomas - baritone & Carroll Hollister - piano
Spritual Medley -
I Will Pray - I Want To Be A Christian - Gwine Ride Up In A Chariot

John Payne - baritone & his Spiritual Choir with mustel organ accompaniment
I'm Gonna Shout All Over God's Heab'n

Forbes Randolph & his Kentucky Jubilee Choir
Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
Lord, I can't Stay Away
Dere's No Hiding Place Down Dere
Were you there?
Ev'ry Time I Feel The Spirit

Marian Anderson - contralto & Kosti Vehanen - piano
De Blind Man Stood On The Road and Cried

The Morris Brown Quartet
The Story of Job
Rock My Soul

The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet
Crucifixion (He Never Said A Mumberlin' Word)

Roland Hayes - tenor
Plenty Good Room
Recessional (Roun' 'Bout De Mountain)

Roland Hayes - tenor & Reginald Boardman - piano
Blow Gabriel Blow

The Fisk University Jubilee Singers
Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen

Paul Robeson (bass)
Lawrence Brown (piano)

Spirituals compilations are not exactly scarce and specialist companies have delved deep into the recorded evidence to produce documentary discs of some importance. So elsewhere – but not on Living Era - we can sample the diverse talents of Jules Bledsoe, Dorothy Maynor and Ellabelle Davis and choirs such as the Tuskegee Institution Singers and the New Orleans University Glee Club – I can recommend Freameux FA168 for a solid two CD selection which includes them all, as well as stars such as Marian Anderson and Roland Hayes.

Nevertheless within the confines of a single disc selection – a round-up of individual and collective talent – this new release has considerable appeal. The discs were recorded between 1921 and 1945 and they are presented in rough chronological order. As the notes make clear some of the most important early discs were made in London by Roland Hayes and by John Payne, both accompanied by the pianist of choice in the genre, the estimable Lawrence Brown. Hayes was signed early by Vocalion and Payne seems to have veered between Columbia and HMV. All were acoustic discs and they sound splendid in these restorations. Hayes was of course the doyen of solo artists recording at the time and his cultivated tenor – he was a classically trained singer of distinction – is profoundly impressive. His later recordings from 1939 are every bit as magnificent as the acoustics. Payne is less cultivated, less the artist, but his rather rougher tone is still effective.

Following rather in Hayes’s steps was Edna Thomas and she exemplifies the fissures opening up between the concert spiritual and the rougher pattern trodden by such as John Payne. She has a well modulated if slightly lightweight mezzo and her approach in her 1928 New York coupling is rather of the polite school. The noted baritone John Charles Thomas is here, as his better-known compatriot Lawrence Tibbett is not, essaying from the vantage of the white concert platform.

The "jubilees" – the small choirs – vary in sonority and approach. That accompanying Aimee Semple-McPherson in her 1926 recording of I Ain’t A-Gonna Grieve, an anonymous group, is decidedly dicey if enthusiastic. But the established leaders in the field, the Kentucky, the Fisk and the Golden Gate prove adept, sonorous ambassadors. Outstanding is the precision and sonority of Forbes Randolph and the Kentucky Jubilee Choir on I'm Gonna Shout All Over God's Heab'n and the athletic vivacity of the Golden Gate in The Story of Job. Note too their instrumental mimicry (rhythmically galvanising basses) in Rock My Soul.

I’ve mentioned neither Paul Robeson nor Marian Anderson both of whom naturally appear. These tracks have been multiply released and most will know them – or know of them. They’re all well transferred.

Rather an anomalous contribution comes from Layton and Johnstone; their variety-style medley is short on substance if an intriguing sidelight on the popularity of the genre in London in the early 1930s.

With good notes and those attractive transfers this is a thoughtful and broad survey of spirituals in a vivid quarter century on disc.

Jonathan Woolf

With good notes and those attractive transfers this is a thoughtful and broad survey of spirituals in a vivid quarter century on disc. ... see Full Review

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