Selected Albums — 2
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An anthology of the male gospel stars, defiantly not quartet singers, who performed in a style identified with the great gospel women. It includes James Cleveland’s first recordings, as well as treasures by Brother Joe May, Professor J. Earle Hines, Norsalus McKissick, J. Robert Bradley, Robert Anderson, Alex Bradford, and Eugene Smith (James Cleveland’s inspiration). Robert Anderson is the man who trained quartet leads like Sam Cooke, Johnnie Taylor, and Lou Rawls so they could move from church to club.
 

   

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The high priestess of gospel, accompanied by Evelyn Stark Hardy, her former colleague in The Original Gospel Harmonettes. Includes contemporary songs like the ominous If Trouble Don’t Come Today and the witty Hello New Man (Goodbye Old) as well as hair-raising versions of standards like Stand by Me, I Bowed on My Knees and Lord I've Tried. Andrews’ son Richard Gibbs, now Aretha Franklin’s accompanist, plays both organ and bass guitar.
 

   

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Another collection of Williams, including the folkloric Trouble So Hard and Motherless Children, a rousing version of We Shall Overcome, an outrageously bluesy God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, along with Heilbut favorites I’ve Come So Far, What Are They Doing in Heaven Today, and the title song, as well as four songs composed by Williams’ favorite song-writer, Reverend W. Herbert Brewster, O Gabriel, Anywhere in Glory, How Far am I From Canaan, and O Lord How Long.
 
“Perhaps the greatest gospel album ever produced.”
                                       — Michael Jarrett, Pulse Magazine
 

   

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Jeter remained a brilliant stylist well into his seventies. One of the new songs, Who’s Gonna Meet You in the City, would be performed on a David Sanborn special by Jeter, accompanied by The Dixie Hummingbirds! But the real treasures of this collection are the previously unissued performances with The Swan Silvertones. This may have been the best edition of Swans, highlighted by Dewey Young’s leonine, Silas Steele-like shouts and the insidious stylings of Paul Owens, gospel quartet’s unsung hero, the genius who incited the best performances of both Ira Tucker (who idolized him) and Jeter himself; as well as helping train the teen-aged Aretha Franklin. Paul was great with the Birds, but more inspired with the Swans.
 

   

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Heilbut relished the chance to work again with his Chicago idols. Gladys Beamon Gregory’s Leaning and Depending is her most dramatic recording and Delois Barrett Campbell’s When I Was in Trouble is almost as fine. Irma Gwynn’s very soulful Christ is All is followed by Gladys’ boisterous and mightily bluesy I’m Stepping Out Again. Also included are the last recordings of three great male soloists, Eugene Smith, and Heilbut’s particular favorites J. Robert Bradley and Robert Anderson. The anthology includes several early recordings by these singers, young, strong, and sassy. Heilbut’s particular favorite is The Lord Will Make a Way, led by Myrtle Scott, once considered the most soulful singer in Chicago.
 

   

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In order to write uncommercial books and produce uncommercial music, Heilbut spent many years creating anthologies that were mass-marketed on television. Most of these were black gospel, though he also produced anthologies of white gospel, country, jazz, and opera. This opera anthology was an immense hit. Some fans might be appalled by his treating these arias as if they were stand-alone hits. The coup was to choose the best versions — and from Kiri Te Kanawa’s O Mio Bambino Caro to Victoria de los Angeles’ Un bel di vedremo to Maria Callas’ Vissi d’arte to Kirsten Flagstad’s Liebestod, from Nikolai Gedda’s M’appari to Cesare Siepe’s Non piu andrai to Luciano Pavarotti’s Nessun dorma (Heilbut is not a complete dope) to Franco Corelli’s La donne e mobile to the stupendous, 1920s baritone Ricardo Stracciari’s Largo al factotum, this anthology proved to be an impossible combination of high art and low commerce. It also helped buy Heilbut his apartment.
 

   

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Heilbut leapt at the chance to anthologize some of jazz’s classic recordings. Given the directive to use as many vocal performances as possible, he included Bessie Smith’s Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, Billie Holiday’s These Foolish Things with the sublime Teddy Wilson, Helen Humes’
If I Could Be with You, and performances by Sarah Vaughan, accompanied by Clifford Brown and Miles Davis. But he also selected epochal performances by Johnny Hodges (Daydream), Lester Young (Lester Leaps In), Coleman Hawkins (Body and Soul), Dizzy Gillespie (Night in Tunisia), Thelonious Monk (NIght in Tunisia) and Sonny Rollins (The Bridge). Stan Kenton with Stan Getz, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, Dave Brubeck. Ellington, Basie. Jimmy Rushing, Joe Turner. Four selections featuring Louis Armstrong. Altogether, and all immortal. Heilbut’s favorite. Anybody’s favorite.
 

   

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Unlike the two Columbia anthologies, the album Heilbut compiled for his own label focuses exclusively on post-war gospel. There are many gems available nowhere else, Marion Williams’ Dr. Watts moan, Must I Be to Judgment Brought,
R. H. Harris’ first post-Soul Stirrers recording, Let Me Tell You About Jesus Christ (featuring another ex-Stirrer, J. H. Medlock), Silas Steele’s last recording, I’ll Tell It Wherever I Go, the fabulously folkloric Brother and Sister Pugh, aka The Consolers’ “Glory Land,” Professor Charles Taylor, a combination of big-band crooner and storefront preacher, with a devastating New Born Soul, Clara Ward singing double harmony with herself on King Jesus is All I Need, the great basso Dickie Freeman with The Fairfield Four singing Tree of Level [(sic) — they meant Lebanon], and Blessed Assurance by Madame Emily Bram, pride of the Church of God in Christ, and the hugest untrained voice Heilbut has yet heard.
 

   

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Marion Williams’ last album, released shortly after she received the MacArthur Genius Award. Despite her thrice-weekly dialysis treatments, her voice was surprisingly fresh and clear. She was never more soulful than on God’s Amazing Grace, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, Hark the Voice,
I Have a Friend, and the bluesy Press On Like the Bible Said. But there are also rockers, especially the irresistible and endlessly quotable Come Out the Corner (You Can’t Hide). Perhaps because of its historical circumstance, the album evokes a deep melancholy. Not her most virtuosic album,
but perhaps her most touching.
 

   

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Heilbut considers Chicago “the homeland of the soul,” the city with more great singers than any other. It was his dream to record some of the city’s legends. They include celebrities like Delois Barrett Campbell, Eugene Smith, Bessie Folk and Robert Anderson, all former members of The Roberta Martin Singers. But there are many alternative styles, ranging from the bluesy guitar and piano of Reverend Samuel Patterson (who sounds uncannily like B. B. King) to the “cultured voice” and deep soul of Madame Irma Gwynn. The Church of God in Christ’s most famous Chicagoans, The Gay Sisters and Sister Vernon Oliver Price, both recorded for the first time in many years. Also back on records was Jeanette Harris and The Golden Harps, the city’s finest female quartet. Almost as impressive as Jeanette is the lead work by her daughter Cheryl. Particularly outstanding are Lucy Smith Collier and Gladys Beamon Gregory. Both women are comparable to their contemporary Dinah Washington, Collier even sounding like a young Dinah. Lucy’s version of a Dr. Watts hymn deserves comparison with Blind Willie Johnson; and Gladys, the most talented singer Heilbut recorded in Chicago, performs an unforgettable Nobody’s Fault But Mine and I’ve Got a Song, a cunning revision of C. C. Rider.
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