Sunday, May 31, 2015

Marie Knight - Hallelujah What A Song

Part one of a 10 week series from Unky Cliff...the first 10 volumes of Gospel Friend issues! Gospel Friend is published by the same folks who brought us Route 66 Records, but here the obvious focus is rare Gospel.

Marie Knight (June 1, 1925 – August 30, 2009) was an American gospel and R&B singer.
She was born Marie Roach in Sanford, Florida but grew up in Newark, New Jersey. Her father was a construction worker and the family were members of the Church of God in Christ.  She first toured as a singer in 1939 with Frances Robinson, an evangelist. She married preacher Albert Knight in 1941 but the union ended in divorce.
In 1946, she made her first recordings, for Signature Records, as a member of The Sunset Four.(aka.The Sunset Jubilee Singers) Shortly afterwards, Sister Rosetta Tharpe saw her singing at the Golden Gate Auditorium in Harlem, on a bill with Mahalia Jackson, and invited Knight to join her on tour. Tharpe recognized "something special" in Marie's contralto voice.
She continued to record and perform with Tharpe through the 1940s, sometimes acting out the parts of "the Saint and the Sinner", with Tharpe as the saint and Knight as the sinner. Among their successes were the songs "Beams of Heaven", "Didn't it Rain", and "Up Above My Head", recorded for Decca Records. "Up Above My Head", credited jointly to both singers, reached No. 6 on the US R&B chart at the end of 1948, and Knight's solo version of "Gospel Train" reached No. 9 on the R&B chart in 1949.
She left Tharpe to go solo around 1951, and put together a backing group, The Millionaires (Thomasina Stewart, Eleonore King and Roberta Jones), with whom she recorded the 1956 album Songs of the Gospel. She also began recording secular R&B music in the late 1950s, for various labels including Decca, Mercury, Baton, Okeh, Diamond and Addit. Her duet with Rex Garvin, credited as Marie & Rex, "I Can't Sit Down" released on the Carlton label, reached No. 94 on the pop chart in 1959. In the late 1950s she also toured Britain as a guest of Humphrey Lyttelton.
In 1961 she recorded the single "Come Tomorrow", which was later a hit for Manfred Mann. Knight's version of "Cry Me a River" reached No. 35 on the U.S. Billboard R&B charts in 1965. She toured with Brook Benton, the Drifters, and Clyde McPhatter, and regularly reunited onstage with Rosetta Tharpe. She remained friends with Tharpe, and helped arrange her funeral in 1973. In 1975, having given up performing secular music, she recorded another gospel album, Marie Knight: Today.
In 2002, Knight made a comeback in the gospel world, recording for a tribute album to Tharpe. She also released a full-length album, Let Us Get Together, on her manager's label in 2007. She died in Harlem of complications from pneumonia, on August 30, 2009.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

B.B. King - Let The Good Times Roll & One Kind Favor

A pair of albums that made it clear that B.B.'s creative juices did not desert him with age - the first is a terrifically fun album of Louis Jordan music from 1999 where the King has Earl Palmer, Dr. John, Hank Crawford and David 'Fathead' Newman along for the ride. Turns out that his highness should have played jump blues more often because he is terrific at it!

The second album comes from 2008 and here B.B. is often stripped down to a quartet with Dr. John, Jim Keltner and Nathan East and a well textured horn section that never upstages the star. A precious dozen killer blues songs that King had never previously recorded - this one grows on you.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

James Cleveland with the World's Greatest Choirs (20th and 25th Anniversary editions)

A powerhouse pair of Savoy collections showcasing the Reverand James Cleveland with some of the greatest choirs on the planet. These are very dynamic recordings made in churches around the land, please, please, please TURN IT UP!! Learn the true meaning of 'raisin' the roof' as only a large choir can do! The power of Cleveland's voice in front is astounding....once more - turn it up and back away from the speakers, let's see what your stereo can do!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Lou Pride - Ain't No More Love In This House

Severn Records is proud to release the final recording by late soul-great Lou Pride. Ain't No More Love In This House, which showcases Lou's work in the final years of his life, features 4 originals and 7 covers including Ann Peebles (I Didn't Take Your Woman), Peter Hunnigale's Never, the standard Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast, and a beautiful version of the Simply Red classic, Holding Back the Years. Lou's subtle but powerful vocal style is complemented by strong grooves and elegant production.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

B.B. King Sings Spirituals [1960]

Brother King sings one for us from God's staircase...goodbye old friend, you remain in our thoughts and prayers.

Nuggets of the Golden Age of Gospel

 A Sunday treat! A super foundation set.

This was a request, one of my earliest Gospel posts!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lou Pride - Keep On Believing

Veteran Chicago soul/blues vocalist Lou Pride releases "Keep on Believing," his third album on Severn. Aside from a contemporary take on Bob Marley's classic "Waiting in Vain," Lou lends his voice to 11 new originals and a remake of his 1972 hit on the English Northern Soul scene "I'm Com'un Home in the Morn'un." Fellow Chicagoan Willie Henderson (Tyrone Davis, Chi-Lites) composes horn arrangements that marry the sounds of Chicago and Memphis. "Pride is commandingly on the mark - suave and reserved here, passionate there with a touch of Bobby Blue Bland squalling - simply a dynamite soul-blues vocalist." - Tom Hyslop, Blues Revue.

Friday, May 15, 2015

B.B. King - The Vintage Years

My heart groans, the sky is crying -- another icon of my age has passed. The King is dead--Long Live The King ...NY Times obit

King was born in a small cabin on a cotton plantation outside of Berclair, Mississippi, to Albert King and Nora Ella Farr on September 16, 1925.

In 1930, when King was four years old, his father abandoned the family, and his mother married another man. Because Nora Ella was too poor to raise her son, King was raised by his maternal grandmother Elnora Farr in Kilmichael, Mississippi. Over the years, King has developed one of the world's most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of rock guitarist's vocabulary. His economy and phrasing has been a model for thousands of players, from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jeff Beck. King has mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop, and jump into a unique sound. In King's words, "When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille." King grew up singing in the gospel choir at Elkhorn Baptist Church in Kilmichael. At the age of 12, he purchased his first guitar for $15.00 although another reference indicates he was given his first guitar by his cousin, Bukka White. In 1943, King left Kilmichael to work as a tractor driver and play guitar with the Famous St. John's Quartet of Inverness, Mississippi, performing at area churches and on WGRM in Greenwood, Mississippi.

In 1946, King followed his cousin Bukka White to Memphis, Tennessee. White took him in for the next ten months. However, King shortly returned to Mississippi, where he decided to prepare himself better for the next visit, and returned to West Memphis, Arkansas, two years later in 1948. He performed on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio program on KWEM in West Memphis, where he began to develop a local audience for his sound. King's appearances led to steady engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis and later to a ten-minute spot on the legendary Memphis radio station WDIA. King's Spot became so popular, it was expanded and became the Sepia Swing Club.

Initially he worked at WDIA as a singer and disc jockey, gaining the nickname Beale Street Blues Boy, which was later shortened to Blues Boy and finally to B.B. It was there that he first met T-Bone Walker. "Once I'd heard him for the first time, I knew I'd have to have [an electric guitar] myself. 'Had' to have one, short of stealing!", he said.

In 1949, King began recording songs under contract with Los Angeles-based RPM Records. Many of King's early recordings were produced by Sam Phillips, who later founded Sun Records. Before his RPM contract, King had debuted on Bullet Records by issuing the single "Miss Martha King" (1949), which did not chart well. "My very first recordings [in 1949] were for a company out of Nashville called Bullet, the Bullet Record Transcription company," King recalls. "I had horns that very first session. I had Phineas Newborn on piano; his father played drums, and his brother, Calvin, played guitar with me. I had Tuff Green on bass, Ben Branch on tenor sax, his brother, Thomas Branch, on trumpet, and a lady trombone player. The Newborn family were the house band at the famous Plantation Inn in West Memphis."

Performing with his famous guitar, Lucille King assembled his own band; the B.B. King Review, under the leadership of Millard Lee. The band initially consisted of Calvin Owens and Kenneth Sands (trumpet), Lawrence Burdin (alto saxophone), George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Floyd Newman (baritone saxophone), Millard Lee (piano), George Joyner (bass) and Earl Forest and Ted Curry (drums). Onzie Horne was a trained musician elicited as an arranger to assist King with his compositions. By his own admission, he cannot play chords well and always relies on improvisation. This was followed by tours across the USA with performances in major theaters in cities such as Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and St. Louis, as well as numerous gigs in small clubs and juke joints of the southern US states.

In the winter of 1949, King played at a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. In order to heat the hall, a barrel half-filled with kerosene was lit, a fairly common practice at the time. During a performance, two men began to fight, knocking over the burning barrel and sending burning fuel across the floor. The hall burst into flames, which triggered an evacuation. Once outside, King realized that he had left his guitar inside the burning building. He entered the blaze to retrieve his beloved guitar, a Gibson hollow electric. Two people died in the fire. The next day, King learned that the two men were fighting over a woman named Lucille. King named that first guitar Lucille, as well as every one he owned since that near-fatal experience, as a reminder never again to do something as stupid as run into a burning building or fight over women.

King meanwhile toured the entire "Chitlin' circuit" and 1956 became a record-breaking year, with 342 concerts booked. The same year he founded his own record label, Blues Boys Kingdom, with headquarters at Beale Street in Memphis. There, among other projects, he produced artists such as Millard Lee and Levi Seabury.

In the 1950s, B.B. King became one of the most important names in R&B music, amassing an impressive list of hits including "3 O'Clock Blues", "You Know I Love You," "Woke Up This Morning," "Please Love Me," "When My Heart Beats like a Hammer," "Whole Lotta Love," "You Upset Me Baby," "Every Day I Have the Blues", "Sneakin' Around," "Ten Long Years," "Bad Luck," "Sweet Little Angel", "On My Word of Honor," and "Please Accept My Love." In 1962, King signed to ABC-Paramount Records, which was later absorbed into MCA Records, and this hence into his current label, Geffen Records. In November 1964, King recorded the Live at the Regal album at the Regal Theater in Chicago, Illinois.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lou Pride - Words of Caution 2002

Noted as "one of blues music's best kept secrets," singer Lou Pride presents his debut recording on Severn Records and his most accomplished effort to date, originally released in May 2002. Here's what the critics say about the album:
 "Pride is commandingly on the mark - suave and reserved here, passionate there, simply a dynamite soul-blues vocalist. Words Of Caution is a sure contender for major awards and a contemporary soul must-hear". - Blues Revue. 

"On Words Of Caution, Pride issues a warning...for all the soul-singing pretenders to move out of the way - here comes the real deal!" - Frost Illustrated. 

"Lou Pride's voice could bring a tear to the eye of a lumberjack." - Edmonton News.

Sensational Nightingales 3-pack


A threepack of the Sensational Nightingales from the Julius Cheeks era and beyond - I have left out the additional Cheeks tracks from Pres' post - those are from his collection.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Pilgrim Jubilee Singers - Homecoming

Happy Sunday!  I would like to share with you a favorite gospel disc of mine.

The Pilgrim Jubilee Singers have been one of the premium gospel quartets since the 1950s.  They made quite a number of fine records for Peacock and Nashboro in the 50s and 60s.  Most of these recordings have unfortunately become hard to find in the digital age. 

The Pigrim Jubilees were formed by three brothers, Cleve, Elgie, and Eddie Graham, who grew up singing in the choir of New Zion Baptist Church in Houston, Mississippi.  All three brothers are tenors and alternate leads.  They employ two other singers to sing baritone and bass.

This is by far my favorite item in the Pilgrim Jubilee discography, a dynamite live recording from 1979 recorded at Wendy Phillips High School in Chicago.   While there exist other fine examples of live gospel recordings from golden age quartets, this one has a special place in my heart, an extended example in great sound of a gospel quartet really working the crowd, beginning with a light simmer and gradually turning up the heat to complete frenzy.  Spiritual nourishment is guaranteed.