Picks and Pans Review: Strong Again
These two releases are a feast for gospel-music fans, one a reissue of classic '40s-'50s material, the second a contemporary recording by one of that era's worthiest stars.
The Gospel Sound of Spirit Feel offers a full spectrum of post-World War II gospel, from the rollicking, blues-drenched "99½" by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Katie Bell Nubin to the jubilee-style formalism of the Fairfield Four's "Tree of Level." The album is filled with an irresistible mix of high drama, sensuality and vocal power.
Marion Williams, whose majestic voice is included twice on this collection, is far from a relic of gospel's golden age. Strong Again, her fourth Spirit Feel album, will only enhance her reputation as a pillar of traditional gospel. While this release lays more emphasis on the stately hymns of Dr. Isaac Watts and Thomas A. Dorsey, such songs as "Prayer List" and "O Happy Day" will satisfy fans of her more rousing, sanctified rockers.
Produced by gospel historian Anthony Heilbut, these albums convey respect for the past without being stodgy. They achieve the kind of joy and transcendence that pop music so often seeks and so rarely finds. (Spirit Feel/Shanachie)