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Various Artists

Like a Prayer: the Sound of New Gospel

(Music Club)

"Oh Happy Day" is a good example of traditional gospel. A towering gospel tune written by Edwin Hawkins and performed by his choir, the song not only crossed over but ascended to the very top of the pop charts in 1969. The influence of this song spread far and wide at the time. Redone here, the song is recorded live, the organ fades in to the lead-in, and the tambourine drives the beat. This style of recording led to countless pop copiests using the technique in the studio, but even the best of them never could capture the spirit of this song. Traditional gospel can be as exciting, passionate, and apropos to current situations as any really good music.

Traditional gospel often is a big sound, carried by choirs of many voices. Envision singers assembled into mass choirs, making up temple choirs. At the front, sometimes a single singer mightily testifying, as Shirley Caesar does here. She’s a pastor of the Mt. Calvary Word of Faith Holy Church. She also uses her powerfully affecting voice to render consolation, advice, and belief a solution to life’s problems is possible in “Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So.”


Big choirs certainly help make the sound of traditional gospel loud enough to be heard outside the four walls of any church. But traditional gospel can be effectively carried without a full choir. Striding piano and snare drums provide marching orders for the three Barrett Sisters to commence to “Walk and Talk.” This song is a contender for any Baptist R&B crown. This is such a rollicking good song that I imagine the Barretts tearing up every church where they sing it:


“I want to walk and talk with Jesus each and every day
I would like to be an example for him in every way
I want to treat my brothers the way that Jesus wants me to
Because he said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
I want him to shower me with his blessings from up above
And rock me, rock me, rock me in the cradle of his love.”


That’s a nice message to hear, reminding people of a simple golden rule to show kindness to one another, and really walk the talk. These three ladies have been training, teaching, and singing in gospel choirs for many decades. Just their three voices combined come across almost like a full jubilee choir before soaring up into what gospel people call a “high who.”


The Barrett Sisters are so widely recognized in some circles they appeared on a U.S. postage stamp back in 1998. That’s one of the places where we honor our artists like Robinson Jeffers, Mary Cassat, and Louis Armstrong. There is a lot of tremendous music on this record that will prompt people to search out more music by any of these great singers. After hearing this, I’m planning for a few new records, most assuredly including “The Best of the Barrett Sisters.”


Now, if there happens to be a philanthropist or a publishing mogul within the sound of this broadcast, the Barrett Sisters have their autobiography Keep on Singing, all written and ready to be dropped in between the bright and beautiful covers of a book you can widely distribute. So I will point you there and allow things to take their course: http://www.authorlink.com/001054bi.html

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