It’s surprising how few soul folk know that the mighty Stax label ran a gospel subsidiary. That imprint, Gospel Truth, was started by Stax exec Al Bell in 1970 and he put a trusted radio promotions man, Dave Clark, in charge. Their idea was to capitalize on the changing yet growing gospel market by exploiting the success that the main label was enjoying with the Staple Singers. Within a short space of time they’d built up an impressive roster that combined new talents with established names. For no particular reason other than gospel is sometimes seen as a tricky topic to market very little Gospel Truth material has ever been reissued in the mainstream. .. till now.
Here, the Ace subsidiary, BGP has dug deep into the Memphis vaults to come up with a big 20 tracker that reflects the very best that Gospel Truth had to offer. Of the established names, the Staple Singers, naturally, take pride of place. They offer three tracks – ‘Name The Missing Word’, ‘Brand New Day’ (which had been used as the theme to a movie called ‘The Landlord’) and ‘When Will Be Paid For The Work We Did’ – one of those special gospel songs that can also work in a secular context. The other previously experienced artists on the set include Joshie Jo Armstead (sometime Ashford- Simpson collaborator) and Jacqui Verdell who was a popular artist on the gospel circuit and who’d previously recorded for (amongst others) Chess. The newer talent is represented here by groups like Detroit’s Howard Lemon Singers, fellow Michigan native Louise McCord, Clarence Smith and Annette Thomas. But Gospel Truth’s biggest discovery – without doubt –was the mighty Rance Allen Group. Discovered by Dave Clark at a Detroit talent show, this album gives them two cuts – both quite different but each showing Rance at his huge, testifying best. We get a lively, almost funky ‘Talk That Talk’ and the stratospheric ‘(There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown’, which, of course, is a perfect example of how Rance took contemporary soul hits and lifted them onto the gospel train heading for salvation. His contributions are the album’s highlights – but real soul folk know they’d shine on any compilation.
Hopefully the Ace/BGP people have some more Rance Allen in their pipeline – failing that, more compilations based around the Gospel Truth set up