The Gospel Edition

“ahhhhhh … children are ya ready? children are ya ready? This train don’t carry no liar, this train don’t carry no liar, no hypocrite and no backslider” – The Golden Nuggets, “Gospel Train1 (1973, Malaco Records)

The Golden Nuggets were a gospel group from Mississippi who recorded “Gospel Train” for Malaco Records. It is a funky, quick tempo call and response song. It, at the time, was a modern version of a spiritual. It was recorded in 1973 and you can hear the influences of rock-n-roll, and yet the deeper, and older, African-American gospel roots are displayed in an almost bare bone fashion. When I hear this song I cannot resist the urge to raise my hands and jump in circles. Most gospel music uplifts; this song bounces you up like a trampoline.

Fast, but clean, guitars are accompanied by a swift high hat that sets the rhythm. A full range of vocals work back and forth to announce the arrival of the “gospel train.” The beat invokes the sound of a train getting close to a station. Mid-point through the song, a guitar replicates a low train whistle. The Golden Nuggets’ lead singer proclaims (gleefully) he has ” …  a ticket.” Exultation and praise brightly emits from this song. I imagine when the Golden Nuggets were in the studio recording this song, the sound mixer and recording engineers were dancing around the booth instead of focusing on their technical work. I love this song, and I can listen to it over and over.2

Disco killed the funky gospel music of the early 1970s. Fortunately, magazines like Oxford American still provides us with access to such great music. They have even provided us with a list of what they call the “The Top 10 Gospel Songs From Mississippi.” Top 10 musical lists are subjective as I have stated before, but this list truly evokes the definition of “top 10.” Contrary to appearances, I am a huge fan of gospel music. I compare the feelings evoked in a metal mosh pit to the feelings, and gyrations, of the church aisle. Music, like sex,3 evokes an almost instinctual feeling of euphoria that we usually express through dancing. I would attend church more often if I got to dance in the pews to songs like these (except number 6):

1. “Before This Time Another Year4 by Reverend Cleophus Robinson (1963). If I went to church, I want to this to be part of the service. I can’t dance, but I would do my damnedest if Rev. Robinson was singing. As the Dee Lites say “groove is in the heart.”

2. “This May Be The Last Time” by the Staple Singers (1954). Soulful, rich, and completely harmonized. This song carries weight and a seriousness that appropriately matches the subject of impending death.

3. “I Gave Up All I Had” by Reverend Charlie Jackson (1973). The year 1973 must have been a year of swampy and funky gospel recordings. I don’t know whether to praise or drink when I hear this song, either way this song moves the listener, especially when Rev. Jackson says “I gave up my home, everything I owned.”

4. “Too Late” by The Jackson Southernaires (1963). This is gospel mixed with soul and R&B. This is a song which has a beat that matches the warning. It is slow (9 minutes long slow) and low.

5. “Our Father (Which Art in Heaven)”5 by Five Blind Boys (1950). This song comes in waves and ebbs over you in a deep and lasting way. The harmonies mix and mingle and lends a heartfelt feeling.

6. “Run On” by Elvis Presley (1966). This is Elvis reaching back to the musical roots of his childhood. He is backed by the Jordanaires in this version. Elvis should have gotten a true Mississippi gospel quartet to back him.This is rock-n-roll attempting to sound spiritual. I am not an Elvis fan and believe this is “Blue Suede Shoes” redone as gospel.

7. “One More River” by The Star Lite Singers (1978).6 Unfortunately, there is no Internet available recording of this song, or at least I couldn’t find it. Instead I have provided a link to another song entitled “New Jerusalem” on the same album. The lead singer sings in a note that almost sounds feminine, yet convincingly melts into the voice of the other members. This is swaying music.

8. “Jesus Is Waiting for Me7 by The Seven Stars of Jackson, Mississippi (1977). Another late 1970s gospel group like The Star Lite Singers that match harmonies and the swaying sound of church music. A piano accompaniment moves this song like a simple stream.

9. “Got to Church on Sunday” by Palm Jubilees of Hattiesburg, Mississippi (1960). Unfortunately, there is no Internet record of this song. However, the group8 is described as an amateur, community gospel group that self-produced their music.

10. “We All Gonna Face the Rising Sun” by the Delta Big Four (1930). The scratches and pops sound like the 1930s, but the Delta Big Four’s vocals can plainly be heard. This is when the voice carries through time with a timeless message.

Mississippi is good for delta mud, swampy trees, and church. These songs have me envisioning hand-waving fans fighting humidity and sin. In the midst of listening to them I find myself craving a strong bourbon and enough room to sway and dance.

1. This is the only link I have been able to find for this song. Seems rare and funky gospel hits from the early 1970s have not found their way to the Internet. Other than buying the complete Malaco Records company catalog or getting access to Oxford American’s2011 Music Edition,” I am unaware of how one can get a copy.

2. The song is 2 minutes and 47 seconds long, I have to hit replay constantly …I am always slightly saddened when it ends.

3. Music and sex have a tight relationship, as evidenced by all the songs about sex or all the songs that make us think about sex.

4. Not Rev. Cleophus Robinson, but Pastor Jerome Jackson, this video says that it is “a classic part of our heritage.”

5. Unfortunately, there isn’t a good full length clip to this song.

6. You have to search through the artists and songs on this website to find the music.

7. Again, search through artists and songs.

8. They are called gospel groups, not gospel bands.

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