Vol. 4 in Document's comprehensive history of the Golden Gate Quartet begins with three devotional songs recorded for Victor/Bluebird in late December 1939. Their final Victor session took place in June 1940 when they backed gutsy folksinger Leadbelly on six amazing sides, including "Midnight Special," "Pick a Bale of Cotton," "Rock Island Line," and "Whoa Back, Buck (Whoa God Damn)." Although these gems are not reproduced here, they have been reissued under Leadbelly's name (Leadbelly's four-CD box on JSP is highly recommended). Before the year was out, William Langford, who had been with the group since before its first recording date in 1937, left the organization and formed a unit to be known as the Southern Sons. In December 1940 the Gates backed vocalist Joshua White on a Library of Congress recording session with Clyde Reddick filling the gap left by the departure of Langford. It wasn't until April 1941 that the Gates resumed recording, now for Columbia and its OKeh subsidiary. It was at this point that the word "Jubilee" was permanently dropped, officially abbreviating their name to the Golden Gate Quartet. Tracks four through 15 constitute their entire output from 1941, a year that began auspiciously with their appearance at Franklin D. Roosevelt's inaugural ball, where they made history as the first African-American ensemble ever to sing at Constitution Hall. By the time they recorded "Run On," "Dip Your Fingers in the Water," and "My Time Done Come" in late March 1942, the United States was thoroughly embroiled in the Second World War. This volume closes with the little bit of material the Gates were able to wax during the following year. The wartime offerings "Stalin Wasn't Stallin'" and "Comin' in on a Wing and a Prayer" are followed by four brief performances issued on the Armed Forces V-Disc series. During this period the group appeared in the motion pictures Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) and Hit Parade of 1943. More than any previous volume in Document's Golden Gate Quartet retrospective, this segment of their story reveals a great ensemble in transition.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf