- Audio CD (9 April 2001)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Real World
- ASIN: B000059MEM
- Other Editions: Audio CD | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 36,807 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
Spirit of the Century
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Spirit Of The Century
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The Blind Boys of Alabama are one of the longest-running popular music ensembles on earth--vocalist Clarence Fountain has been leading their exuberant gospel harmonising since 1939. However, Spirit of the Century sounds anything but a museum piece. It is, in fact, as fresh and vital a record as could be imagined. This is partly down to a judicious selection of material--just as Johnny Cash has reaffirmed his worth by turning his hand to material by relative upstarts such as Nick Cave and Will Oldham, so the Blind Boys of Alabama cover Tom Waits ("Jesus Gonna Be Here", "Down in the Hole"), Ben Harper ("Give a Man a Home") and The Rolling Stones ("Just Wanna See His Face"). Splendid though their versions of all of these are, the real strength of Spirit of the Century is the impeccably delivered gospel standards. The venerable antiques "Motherless Child", "Good Religion" and "Amazing Grace"--the latter arranged to fit the guitar riff from "House of the Rising Sun"--all sound as sprightly and vigorous as if they were written yesterday. --Andrew Mueller
Although American gospel music per se doesn't enjoy the widest of popular bases on these shores The Blind Boys Of Alabama have managed to carve out a particular niché with their regular visits and barnstorming performances. They are such an awesome live act that much of their recent recording hasn't quite done them justice. Not so with Spirit Of The Century which in every way is a great album. The Blind Boys (on splendid form) are backed to perfection by an inspired choice of musicians who create a shimmering backdrop to the vocalisation. The mellow sound of Danny Thompson's double bass kicks off the first track, Tom Waits's "Jesus Gonna Be Here", before the recognisable growl of singer Clarence Fountain pitches in with the first verse. Drummer Michael Jerome catches the beat followed by Charlie Musselwhite and John Hammond who lock into a simple riff with harmonica and dobro. As the break arrives David Lindley makes his entrance on electric slide guitar and takes a glistering solo. Clarence returns with the remaining verses before Charlie oozes a harmonica outro. Much of the album utilises these musicians, all who play brilliantly, in basically the same combination, while different tracks feature the lead vocal of either Clarence Fountain or his long time associates Jimmy Carter and George Scott. Whoever is singing lead gets backed by the other two augmented by vocalist Joey Williams. It's the power and precision of the harmonies, honed by the years working together, that is the quality hallmark of The Blind Boys. A wonderful a cappella version of "The Last Time" closes this album. Let's pray Spirit Of The Century, with its energising mix of traditional gospel songs with compositions by Tom Waits, Jagger & Richards and Ben Harper is not the final chapter in the long and glorious career of one of the greatest gospel groups of all time. Formed in 1939 with both Fountain and Scott in the original line-up (Carter used to sing with the rival group the Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi) they made their first record in 1948. Over 50 years later their creative energy is still a mighty force.
© fRoots Magazine all rights reserved -- fRoots, June 2001
Top customer reviews
1. Jesus Gonna Be Here
2. No More
3. Run On For A Long Time
4. Good Religion
5. Give A Man A Home
6. Amazing Grace
8. Nobody’s Fault But Mine
9. Way Down In The Hole
10. Motherless Child
11. Just Wanna See Your Face
12. The Last Time
The Blind Boys Of Alabama of today are Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter, George Scott and Joey Williams (they alternate lead vocals) and "Spirit Of The Century" was their first album for Peter Gabriel's Real World Records released April 2001 on CDRW95. Of its 12-tracks (47:14 minutes) Tom Waits contributes "Jesus Gonna Be Here" (Clarence sings lead) and his stunning "Way Down In The Hole" (Jimmy Carter sings lead) which of course famously became the theme song to the critically acclaimed TV Series "The Wire". Ben Harper stumps up the beautiful and moving "Give A Man A Home" (Clarence sings lead) while "Just Wanna See His Face" was on The Rolling Stones 1972 double-album masterpiece "Exile On Main St.". The other 8 are Traditional Tunes of varying age.
Amongst the oldies are stunning rocking versions of "Soldier" ("I'm a soldier in the army of the Lord...") and a slinky slow Dobro Blues on "Nobody's Fault But Mine". Danny Thompson's Double Bass and George Scott's canyon's deep bass vocal make "Run On For A Long Time" a funky Gospel gem. And it ends on a gorgeous Acapella take on "The Last Time" ("this may be the last time children...I don't know..."). They went on to make "Higher Ground" in 2002, "Go Tell It To The Mountain" in 2003 (with even more stellar guests like Mavis Staples, Shelby Lynne, Tom Waits, Aaron Neville and Me'Shell NdegeOcello) and "There Will Be A Light" (with Ben Harper) in 2004. But for me this is the best of a great run.
The Blind Boys Of Alabama have been singing Gospel Music since they were formed in the Talladega Institute For The Blind in 1939 (yes 1939). That they should get such a joyful and creative renaissance at the hands of white boys paying rightful homage is icing on a very lovely cake.
Bluesy, Soulful, Righteous - and in 2014 - "Spirit Of The Century" on CD is dirt cheap to buy. Get this gem in your Spiritual armoury and right soon..
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would recommend this to anyone listening to the boys for the first time