For the longest time, I’ve been meaning to write a series of posts on gospel soul but for whatever reason, I kept putting it off. Then, a few weeks ago, I was asked to review two new gospel anthologies for NPR:

  • Fire In My Bones
  • Born Again FunkThe review ran yesterday afternoon.

    With it, I figured, damn, I can’t keep putting this off any longer so I’m going to use them as a prompt to finally get my stuff together and knock these posts out.

    Let me start by saying that I’m a completely secular guy so gospel’s appeal to me has nothing to do with theology. However, I’ve long respected gospel’s important, formative influence on R&B (“gospel soul” almost sounds redundant) but more than that, I appreciate the depth of emotion that comes into gospel. You can’t really compose a song meant to praise an entity like God and come half-assed about it. That commitment? That is the essence of soul.

    My favorite song off of Numero Group’s second in the Good God series is what I tried to end my review with but given the length of the piece, they had to cut it off pretty quickly:

    The Inspiration Gospel Singers: The Same Thing It Took
    From Good God!: Born Again Funk (Numero Group, 2010)

    This song is so perfect on every level – the bassline, the lead vocalist, the back-up vocalists, the hook… It kills me that this is also insanely rare (“a handful of known copies” according to the compiler), with many copies having been destroyed in a warehouse fire. All the more reason I’m thankful it got comped here.

    One song that I’m frankly amazed hasn’t made a gospel soul comp is this one:

    Robert Vanderbilt and the Foundations of Soul: A Message Especially From God
    From 7″ (Sensational, 196?)

    It’s an Illinois record (and I just have to think TNG thought about comping this at some point but I don’t really know) and I swear to god it sounds like they’re using the instrumental track from another song but I can’t for the life of me remember which one. Either way, this rolls deep, especially with those guitars and the faint swirl of…(I have no idea what’s creating those swirling notes except for some weird reverb off the bass). It’s a pity that it came out on styrene. I have what looks like a mint stock copy but there’s just the slightest, annoying touch of cue burn on it so I’m borrowing my rip here from a JBX mix. I don’t know anyone who’s ever heard this and not been floored.

    Alright, let this be the first post of several over the next few days (or hours, if I get around to it) to highlight some of my favorite picks out of my small (but hopefully growing) gospel crates.