Friday, November 19, 2010

South Carolina Gospel

The Original Golden Stars of Greenwood, SC/
Reverend Norris Turner
South Carolina Gospel
Gospel Friend (2010)

Jonas Bernholm and Per Notini’s Stockholm-based Gospel Friend label has been an invaluable resource to the gospel music community.

It’s inexplicable that Golden Age stars such as J. Earle Hines and the St. Paul Baptist Church Choir of Los Angeles, Wings over Jordan and Georgia Peach lacked a decent reissue for years, but thanks to Gospel Friend, their music and story live on.

On Gospel Friend's latest compilation, South Carolina Gospel, producer and historian Notini turns his attention to Rev. Norris Turner and the Original Golden Stars of Greenwood, South Carolina. The CD essentially serves as a retrospective of the first twenty one years of Turner’s recording career (1958-79). The first half of the album contains Turner and the Golden Stars’ work for Hoyt Sullivan’s eponymously-titled label and Waymon Jones’ Pitch Records. The second half focuses on additional Turner collaborations.

The Golden Stars’ high, tight harmonies, propelled by insistent electric guitar work, are especially notable on “Jesus’ Blood” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” These recordings are excellent examples of how gospel quartet’s influence on pop music boomeranged in the late 50s and early 1960s to bestow its parent with the street-corner rawness of rock and soul. All the while, Turner yodels with the elasticity of Sam Cooke (whom he knew personally) and the rawness of Spencer Taylor.
The 26-track compilation includes two tracks from Turner’s brief stint as a member of the Selah Singers.  On the group's bluesy arrangement of the hymn, "Softly and Tenderly," Turner enters Claude Jeter territory with rocket-like launches of falsetto. Several examples of Turner’s late 1960s and early 1970s collaboration with the Mt. Moriah Gospel Church Choir close out the album. What the 1970s tracks demonstrate, more than anything, is that Turner’s voice remained amazingly vibrant after more than three decades on the gospel highway.

Notini’s liner notes are fascinating and informative, assisted greatly by personal reminiscences he collected while visiting Turner and other members of the Original Golden Stars, such as Alphonso and Rev. George Devlin.  Alphonso's hard-shouting lead is featured on several of the tracks, including a gorgeously-rendered version of "There is a God Somewhere."

South Carolina Gospel is a musically rich journey along the blue highways of traditional gospel singing. 

Five of Five Stars

Picks: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Stop, Get Religion,” “Softly and Tenderly.”

Reviewed by Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.


Riverangel42 said...

Hey Bob
RiverAngel42 from long time no talk to. Just coming by to say hello and to pick your brain. What do you think the top Christmas Album will be this year. Brooklyn Tabernacles is nice from what I have heard from it. In addition Take 6 has one, but not all gospel. Wondering who else to look out for.

Be Blessed

Bob Marovich said...

Hi, RiverAngel42 -- thanks for stopping by! Jury is still out on the top Christmas album this year. Haven't yet heard them all. Look for Patrice Wilson's Christmas project, too!

RiverAngel42 said...

Since I asked the question, thought you might enjoy this, or think "something" of. It is certainly...well I'll let you decide. Talk to you soon Bob!
Thanks for the suggestions!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you guys can help me with my musical conundrum. I just picked up a copy of Norris Turner & The Mt. Muriah Gospel Chorus' HSH 356 45. It was the first time I came into contact with Norris Turner's music. Most excellent. I was hoping you could tell me the specific year the record was released. Thanks very much & Happy Holidays

Bob Marovich said...

Hi, according to the liner notes of South Carolina Gospel, HSH 356 was recorded in 1968.