A group of blind black boys originally came together as the Happyland Singers for some 10 years, and then for almost 60 further years became The Bind Boys of Alabama and have been continuously singing spiritual and gospel music ever since. Over the years society has changed from the days of segregated audiences within the USA to where it now embraces everyone, and all over the world. The Blind Boys of Alabama played a number of times in New Orleans but never recorded there until production of this CD in support of hurricane victims.
CD tracks feature a wide repertoire with traditional numbers plus songs associated with famous singers including Mahalia Jackson and Jim Reeves, but with unmistakeable gospel harmony and influences of rhythm & blues - and of course being in New Orleans - of jazz. My favourite tracks include `Across the Bridge', `Down by the Riverside' and `Uncloudy Day' where these are supported by The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Other tracks are backed by a trio of piano, bass and drums alternating with guest Allen Toussaint on piano, or The Hot 8 Brass Band with especially Carl LeBlanc on banjo and Bennie Pete on tuba. From the opening track `Free at Last' using Dr. Martin Luther King's famous speech, to the final number `I'll Fly away' as a form of funeral jazz with The Hot 8 this is a great historical CD. It is testament to the tradition of black music inspired by religion. However advancing years mark performances somewhat rough and rustic leading to 4-star rather than 5-star rating.
Having first come across this group on one the Jools Holland `and friends' albums, I fell in love with their distinctive sound and determined to hear more of their music.
The group have an incredibly long history, stretching back to the late thirties. Because they have so much experience and are so used to working together they are capable of producing simply sublime close harmony gospel with a streak of soul and the roots of rock. You can just feel their faith as they pour their hearts and souls into the songs, to produce some of the most classic gospel ever committed to tape. They have an absolute joy at making music that is totally infectious and will leave you feeling uplifted.
Going right back to the birth of soul and rhythm and blues, this is a classic album from a class act.
At the time of writing Amazon has no track listing, so here it is:
1 - Free at last
2 - Make a better world
3 - How I got over
4 - You got to move
5 - Across the bridge
6 - You better mind
7 - Down by the riverside
8 - If I could help somebody
9 - Uncloudy day
10 - A prayer
11 - I've got a home
12 - I'll fly away
An entertaining gospel album that incorporates elements of restrained Little Feat funk and old New Orleans jazz. Yes it's soulful and throughout there is a gritty intensity in the performances that tell you this group hold their faith dear, so expect to be singing along and tapping your feet whilst this disc in the player, it's that sort of involving listen. Tracks like 'If I Could Help Somebody' and 'I've Got a Home' really hit home in the way that would make Ray Charles proud. The production is first rate, the backing musicians are unobtrusive but when asked to contribute lift this disc further and the singing - if a little gravely and wavering in the upper registers is full of character and commitment. An enjoyable and up-lifting-a disc worthy of a warm recommendation.