Academic journal article ARSC Journal

This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African-American Gospel on 45 RPM 1957-1982

Academic journal article ARSC Journal

This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African-American Gospel on 45 RPM 1957-1982

Article excerpt

This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African-American Gospel on 45 RPM 1957-1982. Tompkins Square TSO2271 (3 CDs).

This strange looking compilation by Mike McGonigal is difficult to describe--four hours' worth of restored dubs of very obscure 45-rpm records encompassing a wide variety of musical styles, with the common thread (and maybe the only common thread) being that they all have some religious context, often a rather tenuous one, performed by unknown black artists. We are told that they are culled from thousands of such black gospel records, released on small independent labels and many self-produced by churches. On its face, this set looks like an exploration of a very dusty corner of musical esoterica (such that two potential reviewers to whom it was offered passed on it), and by appearance one has no idea what to expect from it.

In fact, upon first listening one happily discovers that the various musical styles and genres presented here are utterly familiar--almost every type of black or black-derived pop music from the 1960s and 1970s is well represented here, from blues, to doo-wop, to rock-n-roll (especially), to jazz, you name it. It is easy to imagine any number of these songs hitting the Top-40, back in their time, if refitted with new lyrics. Some of this is so familiar that a friend was able to hear two top-40 pop songs that would seem to have their roots here, whether coincidental or not, apart from the one unmistakable pop song that did "hit" in a white cover version, "Put Your Hand in the Hand" here performed by R. Jenkins and the Dayton Harmonaires from 1977. The "hit" was by Canadian band Ocean, but the song was widely covered and performed by the likes of Anne Murray, Elvis Presley, Randy Stonehill, Frankie Laine, Donny Hathaway, Joan Baez, Garner Ted Armstrong, Lynn Anderson and Loretta Lynn. In short, this song was everywhere, but you have never really heard it until you have heard this fantastic, bass-propelled version, which easily eclipses all other versions I have heard. Make no mistake, while there is a religious overlay, there is no whiff of any traditional notion of liturgical music, and this music is overwhelmingly secular in spirit the religious sentiments on most tracks are nothing more than simply expressed statements of joy. …

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