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Sanctify My Soul - 25 Gospel Greats

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Album Review

It's true that this compilation, for all its generous single-disc, 25-track length, is a fairly fragmented snapshot of a couple junctures in this long-lived group's career. About two-thirds of it's taken from early-'60s Vee Jay recordings; the rest were done quite a bit earlier, in 1948-1951, for the Coleman label. Nor are the cuts sequenced chronologically, instead jumping back and forth between the more rudimentarily produced Coleman material and the obviously more modern, fuller Vee Jay arrangements. If you can put up with those minor considerations, however, it's a very good collection of gospel from a couple of very specific periods of the Blind Boys of Alabama's discography. The Vee Jay sides have wider appeal, with a production influenced by R&B and early soul, complete with full backup band and drummer; "I Just Rose to Tell You" even approaches a rock & roll feel. Despite the inclusion of "You'll Never Walk Alone," however, and the odd arrangement that veers close to early Jerry Butler territory (like "Deep River"), it's certainly not diluted for the pop market. It's definitely gospel, passionately and grittily sung, yet done with a galvanizing swing and more instrumental and melodic variety than many recordings in the style boast. And the more sparsely produced Coleman sides, where strummed guitar is the dominant instrumental accompaniment, are by no means primitive artifacts; "Honey in the Rock" in particular is a classic from that time, with a downright danceable rhythmic drive. Much like some of the earliest work of the Staple Singers, this release can be appreciated both by gospel purists and more soul-pop-oriented listeners.

Biography

Formed: 1937 in Talladega, AL

Genre: Christian & Gospel

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Although the Blind Boys of Alabama have been singing gospel music for more than five decades, it's only recently that the've had the benefit of a major record company behind them. Led by founding member Clarence Fountain, the group has also featured Eric McKinney, George Scott, Caleb Butler, Johnny Fields, Jimmy Carter, Joey Williams, Donald Dillion, and Aubrey Blount. From their inception in the 1930s, when all were boys, the group's members turned their blindness into their chief selling point,...
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