Looking for some real, “proper” soul music? Well here it is … 41 tracks of archive gospel music that will stir your soul and entangle your emotions. Genuine soul fans have always acknowledged the beauty of gospel music and as modern soul becomes blander and more predictable more and more are finding their soul fix in gospel music – both new and archive. To meet the call the indie labels in particular are back tracking to assemble compilations of great gospel music that sadly, when originally issued, meant little outside the immediate gospel community. Here Harmless dip into the remarkable Jewel catalogue. Jewel Records was set up in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1963 by Stan “The Record Man” Lewis. He originally operated from his humble record store, Stan’s Record Shop, but his little empire gradually grew and new labels like Paula, Ronn and Soul Power were soon added to his roster. His and his labels’ reputation grew in the southern soul heartlands and artist like Ted Taylor, Little Johnny Taylor, Bobby Charles, Bobby Powell and veterans Lowell Fulson and Lightning Hopkins added to the label’s credibility. Lewis also recorded numerous gospel artists and here gospel specialists David Hill and Greg Belson have collected some of their best Jewel material.
Biggest names amongst the featured artists are Dorothy Norwood and an incarnation of the Soul Stirrers, but most of the rest are local performers and preachers but that doesn’t make their music any less uplifting and inspirational. People like Ernest Franklin (‘Trying Times’), The Armstrong Brothers (‘Far Away From God’) and Rev. Oris Mays (‘Nobody Can Turn Me Round’) have the ability to turn right minded non-believers into righteous brethren. The album boasts two stirring cover versions – the Meditation Singers’ spine-tingling version of ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ and The Brooklyn All Stars sombre reading of ‘In The Ghetto’. That same group also offer one of those special soul/gospel hybrids – where the artist tackles a soul classic and gives it a gospel twist. Here it’s ‘If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’ Want To Be Right’ – which becomes ‘If Loving God Is Wrong I Don’t Want To Be Right’. The set is rounded off with a genuine rarity – Stanley Winston’s ‘No More Ghettos In America’. It’s a desperately sad and soulful cut which the great John Peel (not known as a soul collector per se) listed amongst his personal favourites. The passion makes it easy to hear why. ‘Holy Spirit’ is subtitled ‘Spiritual Soul and Gospel Funk’ – a perfect description of the music.