I meant to get this up yesterday, but various irl stuff interfered (how dare it??), plus there's "something" going around, and of course I have it. I've been through bronchitis twice this summer, and I really don't want a third round. I mean, thanks, germs, but go bug someone else. (Ha, ha! Bug someone else!) But I hope to get this up and going in a jiffy. Or a skippy. (Dated peanut butter references, there....) And always avoid dated peanut butter. Won't kill you, but it has little flavor.
Send the Fire, the seventeenth track on today's playlist, was a happy find, as I had the music in a 1940 songbook, but no recording. I was delighted to get it on vinyl. Unfortunately, singer Paul McNutt renders the number in a manner that can only be described as overly overwrought. But, besides being a cool tune, it has historical importance, since its 1894 words are by no less than the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, and its tune was provided Frederick Booth-Tucker (or, Frederick St. George de Lautour Booth-Tucker, thank you), the son-in-law of William. As someone with no middle name and a single-syllable given name, I kind of envy Fred. Or maybe not. Anyway, great to have a version of this tune (see sheet music above--also hard to find, in my experience), and you certainly can't fault it for lack of enthusiasm.
Two -athons today: four versions of Charles H. Gabriel's monster 1900 hit (said to have sold around 20 million copies in print--and I believe it) O That Will Be Glory, and another four-pack (also by Gabriel), 1922's Jesus, Rose of Sharon, with lyrics by Ida A. Guirey. My favorite Sharon is the Bill Carle version, with its superb arrangement that brings out the genius of the melody, but tenor Russell Newport is the best singer of the bunch. As for Glory, it shows up on LP and 78 labels as O, That Will Be Glory; Oh, That Will Be Glory for Me; That Will Be Glory; or The Glory Song. I'm not aware of any Halloween parody titled That Will Be Gory, but you never know. Hard to pick a favorite version, though I might go with the Haydn Quartet's 1906 take, since it's the closest to the year of the original, and because it showed up in Goodwill years back with an overlapping crack. (Accidental rhyme, there.) "No way I can save this," I said to myself. Wrong--I saved it. The memory of rescuing this precious disc makes it an especially precious version. Or whatever I just typed.
Jerome Hines, the Metropolitan Opera bass who made religious LPs for Word and London, did the all-time, this-is-how-you-do-it version of the gospel classic How Great Thou Art, whose history is too complicated to even go into. Ages back, I was thrift-searching for a version of How Great Thou Art and found Hine's 1965 Great Moments of Sacred Music at Salvation Army. It had the track, and I remember thinking, "I wonder if this guy's any good?" Had no idea who he was, and I guess I didn't read the back jacket. Took it home, cleaned it, put the needle on the record, then picked myself up off the floor. Yeah, the man could sing. Dear God.
It is the version of How Great Thou Art. George Beverly Shea had much to do with popularizing the number, and all praise to George, but Jerome owned it. By the way, it was an unforgivable insult to the born-again Hines, who gave free Salvation Army concerts in NYC (my foster mother Bev saw him at one), to have little to nothing about his faith mentioned in the press when he passed in 2003. "Secularism" was all the rage at the time, and so journalistic integrity went down the gutter--with one major exception, and I wish I remembered the name of the magazine or paper--it was a beautiful piece by a close friend of Hines. Look, I don't care if, as a rule, journalists are seculars, Fundies, none of the above, members of the diners club, or closet ping-pong enthusiasts--when you write an artist's OBIT, you don't omit a major aspect of someone's life. Period. The Fourth Estate likes to demand respect. I remind the Fourth Estate that respect is something earned.
Back to topic, Reapers Are Needed and Awakening Chorus are two more Charles Gabriel goodies (he's all over my favorite-gospel posts--you'd think I was fond of him) I've featured before, but they're worth a repeat, and then some. I love the way the choir speeds through the latter anthem, which is meant to be more stately, but am I complaining? The faster tempo works terrifically. Finding a decent recording of the Chorus has proven about impossible--two substandard choir versions (one all-female, the other all-male), and some organist who sounds like he had four lessons and slept through three of them (on the Word label, where the quality is usually way higher than that). This race-through version is by far the best I've found.
A Meeting in the Air--or, The Meeting.... A or The, it's the same song, and the choirs here are top-notch, with the Wilds (I thought maybe that was a family name) actually a Christian camp for young folks. The LP notes aren't clear on exactly who's doing the singing--staff members are mentioned but so are camp members. Dunno. I just know they're very, very good, and the stereo sound is very natural and pleasing--no gimmickry. Meeting works surprisingly well with Beyond the Sunset. I'm almost sure the arrangement is by the talented Frank Garlock, who also did the fine arrangement of Higher Ground (Gabriel, who else?) for the Southside Baptist Church Choir of Greenville SC. The stirring Wonderful Grace of Jesus, performed by the you-just-know-they're-all-top-studio-pros Revivaltime Choir, is a 1918 gem which, like Meeting, was not by Charles Gabriel. Just to note that I don't focus fully on Chuck.
Back to Gabriel, we have the superb Old Fashioned Revival Hour Quartet's incomparable recording of Chuck's sophisticated and eloquent (he did the words, too) I Will Not Forget Thee, composed in 1889, a year before Gabriel hit the big time in a big way with Send the Light. Gabriel was sometimes a near-match for the greatest popular hymnist, Fanny Crosby--dig these: "When at the golden portals I am standing, All my tribulations, all my sorrows past; How sweet to hear the blessed proclamation, 'Enter, faithful servant, welcome home at last.'" Do we get exceptionally distinguished gospel lyrics like this today? Not too often, it doesn't seem.
Tramp on the Street uses less elegant language, but it's message is complex and powerful--I remember the first time I heard this, and the emotional wallop of the tramp on the street becoming Jesus Christ. I used to know more about this song's history, and I have an early version of it in print. From the 1880s, I believe, and originally titled Only a Tramp. For people who don't think country/bluegrass gospel ever gets deep.
I could have summed up my essay more simply: Fabulous songs put across by highly gifted musicians.
DOWNLOAD: Favorite gospel tracks, Part 4
How Great Thou Art--Jerome Hines, Arr, and Cond. by Kurt Kaiser, 1965
Palms of Victory (Matthias)--The Blue Ridge Quartet, 1966
Life's Railway to Heaven (Abbey-Tillman)--Blackwood Brothers, 1959
Glory Song (Oh, That Will Be Glory for Me--Gabriel)--Criterion Quartet (Victor 35014; 1908)
Glory Song (O, That Will Be Glory)-Haydn Quartet (Victor 3498; 1906)
O That Will Be Glory--The Rice Family Singers, 1969
That Will Be Glory--Marshall Vaughn
A Meeting in the Air/Beyond the Sunset--The Wilds, Dir. by Frank Garlock
The Meeting in the Air (Isaiah G. Martin)--Christian Choristers
Reapers Are Needed (Gabriel)--A.T. Humphries and Lee College Choir
Awakening Chorus (Gabriel)--Same
Shall We Meet Beyond the River (Hastings-Rice)--Harry Macdonough-Percy Hemus (Victor 17356; 1913)
I Will Not Forget Thee (Gabriel)--Old Fashioned Revival Hour Quartet, 1968
Wonderful Grace of Jesus (Lillenas)--Revivaltime Choir, 1969
Higher Ground (Oatman, Jr.-Gabriel)--The Southside Baptist Church Choir (Greenville SC)
Only a Beam of Sunshine (Fanny Crosby-John Sweney)--Macdonough and Bieling (Victor 16288; 1908)
Send the Fire! (William Booth-Frederick Booth-Tucker)--Paul McNutt
Tramp on the Street--Sego Bros. and Naomi, 1966
Tell It To-Day (Chas. H. Gabriel, Jr.)--Homer Rodeheaver (Victor 18373; 1917)
More Like the Master (Gabriel)--Unknown choir on Word Records
Jesus, Rose of Sharon (Guirey-Gabriel)--Russell Newport, Tenor, 1965
Same--Bill Carle, w. Kurt Kaiser Orch., 1960
Same--Family Altar Quartet (Tops R1003X45-49; 1954)
Same--Homer Rodeheaver, w. pipe organ (Victor 20087; 1925)
The Way of the Cross Leads Home (Gabriel)--Unknown choir on Word Records