Yup, all these reviews are right. This is a tour de force of gospel goodness. These boys play and sing with a confidence and an integrity that is irresistable. Add to this an awesome backing band, and you have all the makings of a legendary album. (Reviewers have mentioned Ben Harper, but I don't think he actually plays on this album).
The solo bass playing at the start of the album is entrancing. Listen to the slide guitar in Good Religion. Oh yes. I AM glad. How about the harmonica in Give a Man a Home? SO nice. The lead guitar on Amazing Grace is stunning. The distorted harmonica in Way Down in the Hole will haunt your dreams...
The arrangements are creative and fresh. Each song is given its own distinct instrumentation and sound palate, and it's own style. Check out the oud in Soldier. Rockin. Or the sensational acoustic palate of Aint Nobody's Fault, with resonator guitar and harmonica duets throughout. Styles range from traditional gospel to blues to soul. The songs tend to end early, leaving you wishing they went longer.
What about the songs themselves? The worst of them is great. There's no low point on this album. Some songs will appeal to some listeners more than others. Run On for a Long Time is not a favourite of mine. But the BBoA infuse it with so much heart and character, that you can't help but be won over. Ditto Amazing Grace. The best songs here are off the scale: Good Religion, Jesus Gonna be Here, Way Down in the Hole, The Last Time - you'll want to listen to these again and again. And each song is a different style from the one before. Each comes as a refreshing change.
The voices are good. But the thing that stands out is no so much awesome tonal qualities of the voices (though they do reach moments of sonic greatness): rather it's the musicality, the style, the cool of the singing that stays with you. The singing is legendary.
Basically these guys are the masters, totally on their home turf and showing the rest of us how it's done.
I am listening to the album now through my high end hifi system, and the sound is great. What a fine recording. Deep bass, crisp snares, full bodied vocals.
I like Higher Ground. But this is better. Six stars.
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.
My personal favourite here has to be their rendition of Amazing Grace. To the tune of House of the Rising Sun rather than the traditional setting, it works unbelievably well and brings fresh depth and meaning to what would otherwise be a tired old warhorse.
After hearing the Blind Boys version of Tom Waits ' Way Down In The Hole ' I decided that it was about time that I got around to searching them out some more.This album is a spendid introduction and only confirmed my view to how good they sound.I remember hearing the track ' Run On For A Long Time ' on many occasions without realising it was actually them,so many thanks for this release and enlightening me even further and just wish he hadn't taken me so long.
The first thing that hammers you about "Spirit Of The Century" is the truly fabulous sound quality - 'so' extraordinarily good (released in 2001 on Real World CDRW95 – 47:14 minutes). Second - your stroked by the ancient black voices - gravelled and wise like Mount Rushmore. Next are the fabulous accompanying musicians classing up every single tune with Bluesy Harmonica (Charlie Musselwhite), Double Bass (Danny Thompson), live Drums (Michael Jerome), Electric and Slide Guitar (David Lindley) and tightly strung Dobro (John Hammond). And then there's the song choices - Tom Waits, Ben Harper and The Rolling Stones sit easy alongside Gospel songs that go back centuries (never mind this one). The effect is immediate, spirit lifting and effortless cool all at the same time. Not bad for a bunch of visually impaired Octogenarians...
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 7. Soldier 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..