Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Alabama Singers

This is one I discovered recently, during a late August trip to Vancouver. I’ve been trying to find some cool gospel, but it’s a tricky genre. I prefer southern Baptist spirituals as opposed to Methodist hymns for example. It can be tough to find a genre that doesn’t really exist in your geographic area (Canada). But, I came across the Alabama Singers record at Vinyl on Hastings, a great store with a huge selection. I’d never heard, heard of or seen anything by the Alabama Singers. But, I recognized some of the song titles and thought I’d give it a shot. The cover is pretty striking too, pictures from a very dark chapter in American history. But it's also where the title "Negro Spiritual Music" and the songs came from.
Turned out to be a fantastic find! It was released in 1969 and has really good production for the time. Doesn’t sound like a lot of late 60’s music, mainly because of the genre. It’s a lot brighter than the sound of pop and rock music from that time. The songs bounce from uppity hand clapping numbers to mid-tempo rollers and sorrowful ballads. The performances are superb and the level of vocal talent is second to none. The lead singers switch between male and female and all are top notch. This record is a great example of the voice as an instrument, with songs like Go Down Moses, Poor Pilgrim Of Sorrow and I Can Do Better Than That. The latter being one of my favourites!
The soul is intense, (He’ll Never Let Go Your Hand, Yes Indeed, Walk Around) and the ballads can bring you to tears. Motherless Child is about as moving as it gets, it’ll literally make you stop what you’re doing. That’s one of the things I really love about gospel, it’s straight from soul. There’s nothing in between the belief and the song.
It’s quick, only 33 minutes and not one song cracks 3:00 (the longest being 2:58, the shortest 1:44). So it has lots of songs (14), which means a good batch of tunes. It doesn’t slow down, even with the ballads, because the songs are so short. That’s another thing I’ve always enjoyed, short albums. You don’t want it too short, like 15 minutes. But between 30 and 45 minutes works perfect. If it’s good, you’ll listen to it again. And I’ve listened to this record a lot!
I haven’t found this album anywhere for download, although I have seen a copy of the vinyl on ebay. There is an album on itunes which looks similar, but it also features the Downtown Sisters and is called, “Gospels and Spirituals”. Only 4 of the songs are the Alabama Singers too.

The true origin of the Alabama Singers has been discovered! New link and update a couple of posts up.

1 comment:

  1. I also just acquired this record, and have been frustrated by the utter lack of information available online regarding the Alabama Singers.

    Several tracks from this record are widely available in digital form, but are mysteriously attributed to "The Mississippi Singers".

    Try to explain this matter.

    Alex King