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The Very Best of Sounds of Blackness

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Album Review

Up until the time of The Very Best of Sounds of Blackness' release in late 2001, you headed straight to Evolution of Gospel if you wanted to hear Sounds of Blackness. That album had the group's biggest hits — "Optimistic," "Testify," and "The Pressure" — songs that not only scaled the R&B charts but partly defined an era. And, for many listeners, this was all the Sounds of Blackness they needed. Yet to write off the post-Evolution of Gospel Sounds of Blackness would be a mistake. Granted, the group never did deliver anything that would measure up to "Optimistic." However, they did come close. The group's 1994 follow-up, Africa to America, also featured Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis as producers as Evolution of Gospel did. So, as a result, there's no shortage of great moments on that album, many of which are featured here. In fact, the bulk of this best-of comes from Africa to America. And while Sounds of Blackness' other albums for the Perspective label — The Night Before Christmas and Time for Healing — are ignored for the most part, that's not such a bad thing — they aren't particularly impressive albums and their absence makes more room for selections from Evolution of Gospel and Africa to America. There's also a soundtrack contribution here from the 1992 Mo' Money soundtrack, "Joy," another Jam and Lewis production. It's this emphasis on the group's work with Jam and Lewis that takes center stage on this best-of and rightfully so — Sounds of Blackness never sounded quite as impressive without Janet Jackson's trademark producers behind the boards. So, even if this best-of leans heavily toward the Jam and Lewis productions, you really can't complain.


Formed: 1969 in St. Paul, MN

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Sounds of Blackness, a 40-person choir and ten-piece orchestra led by Gary Hines, combined traditional African music with urban soul to become one of the most distinctive and popular contemporary gospel groups. Over the course of their career, the group won many awards, from organizations as diverse as the Grammies and the NAACP. Russel Knight formed the group that would prove to be the origins of Sounds of Blackness in 1969 at St. Paul, Minnesota's Macalester College. It wasn't until 1971, when...
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The Very Best of Sounds of Blackness, Sounds of Blackness
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