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Complete Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Vol. 2 (1943-1947)

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

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Album Review

With a voice capable of shifting from hushed intimacy to roof-raising power and a guitar style that merged country blues with jazz, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a completely unique performer. Primarily a gospel artist, she recognized no difference between the sacred and the personal, singing spirituals with a blues feeling and attacking the blues with gospel fervor. She was instrumental in moving gospel out of the churches and into the clubs and concert halls in the 1930s and 1940s, single-handedly creating the concept of pop-gospel. She saw less commercial success in the 1950s, however, and as the selections show on this two-disc set spanning 1951 to 1953, she had pretty much boiled things down to a formula by then. There are some high points here, of course, including the bouncy "Royal Telephone" and a fine duet with her longtime singing partner Marie Knight on "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," both from disc one, and "Pressing On" and the bluesy "Tell Him You Saw Me" from the second disc, but much of what is assembled here will be of interest only to hardcore fans and collectors. Over half of the first disc is taken up by Tharpe's 1951 wedding ceremony to her third husband, Russell Morrison, then her road manager and a one-time manager of the Ink Spots. This was quite a public (and profitable) affair, held at Griffith Stadium in Washington, and attended by some 22,000 guests, each of whom paid for entry at the gate. The actual ceremony and some of the musical highlights from the day were subsequently issued as four two-sided 78s (these were eventually also released as a 33 and 1/3 LP), and all are presented here. Also worth noting is Tharpe's version of "Crying in the Chapel," found on the second disc. The song itself was written by country singer Darrell Glenn, and a pop version was a huge hit for June Valli in 1953. Sonny Til & the Orioles stripped the song of its secular aspects, and recorded it as a sort of doo wop spiritual, and it is this version that Tharpe seems to have adapted for her own recording.

Biography

Born: 20 March 1915 in Cotton Plant, AR

Genre: Christian & Gospel

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Alongside Willie Mae Ford Smith, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is widely acclaimed among the greatest Sanctified gospel singers of her generation; a flamboyant performer whose music often flirted with the blues and swing, she was also one of the most controversial talents of her day, shocking purists with her leap into the secular market — by playing nightclubs and theaters, she not only pushed spiritual music into the mainstream, but in the process also helped pioneer the rise of pop-gospel. Tharpe...
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