Sister Rosetta Tharpe was an exciting performer and one of the first singers to bring the power of gospel music into the secular world, predating Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin by quite a few years. Unlike those two, Tharpe's main loyalty remained religious music, although her acoustic guitar playing was jazz-oriented, and she spent 1941-43 being featured regularly with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra before returning to work as a solo performer. This Document CD has Tharpe's first 26 recordings. The first 14 numbers are from her unaccompanied solo dates of 1938-41, and despite the similar message of most of the selections, they do hold one's interest due to her exciting delivery. Highlights include her earliest versions of "Rock Me," "That's All," "The Lonesome Road" and "This Train." Next up are eight songs cut with Millinder's big band: five studio numbers (including "Trouble in Mind," "Rock Daniel," "Shout Sister Shout" and "That's All") and three selections taken from the soundtracks of their filmed "Soundies." The CD wraps up with four solo performances from December 1, 1941, including a spirited "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and "Precious Lord Hold My Hand." This CD and Volume 2 (which finds the singer-guitarist finishing her Millinder period and resuming her solo career during 1943-44) are highly recommended and contain most of the finest work of Sister Rosetta Tharpe's career.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow