Various Artists

Gospel Classics, Vol. 3 (1924-1942)

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It is highly unfortunate that Document's Gospel Classics, Vol. 3 has on its cover a photograph of vaudeville blues and jazz singer Josie Miles, for this was clearly not the same individual as Missionary Josephine Miles who cut six sides for Gennett in May of 1928 with pianist Sister Elizabeth Cooper. Whereas Josie delivered bluesy pop lyrics in a style comparable to that of Lena Wilson, Mamie Smith, Lucille Hegamin, or Edna Hicks, Josephine spoke and sang emphatically and enthusiastically, more like Arizona Dranes or Elder Richard Bryant. Note that her spirited "Vacation in Heaven" was later retooled by guitar wizard and hokum bluesman Tampa Red as "When I Take My Vacation in Harlem." It is a bold example of the sacred-to-secular translation that characterizes so much that is exciting and rewarding in African-American music. The other photograph reproduced on the album cover is that of Clara Belle Gholston, who recorded in January 1932 as Clara Hudmon (tracks 23-24) and again in October 1942 as the Georgia Peach (tracks 25-26). Both sessions found her backed by a male vocal quartet, which really kicks up and rocks during "Do Lord Send Me" after the manner of the Mills Brothers or the Golden Gate Quartet.

Like most of Document's multi-artist compilations, Gospel Classics, Vol. 3 is a mixed bag of rarities and ultra-rarities. The first two tracks by vocalist Emma E. Beacham and pianist Edward DeHolland were cut by Columbia in December 1924 but released in a limited edition as Beacham Record 2 (Beacham Record 1 appears to have vanished). "Befo' This Time Another Year" and "When the Train Comes Along" were recorded on September 30, 1926 by Odette Jackson and Ethel Grainger with accompaniment by pianist Porter Grainger. "When the Train Comes Along" would be beautifully interpreted by itinerant Texas folk-blues songster Henry Thomas in October 1927 and issued on the flip side of his Vocalion record "Jonah in the Wilderness." During the autumn of 1926 Jackson and the two Graingers also recorded with Kansas City's Reverend J.C. Burnett, with whom the pianist would still be working in 1945. Porter is also heard backing Albertina and Victoria ("The Two Baptist Sisters") on a pair of tracks recorded on November 11, 1926. Porter Grainger is better known as co-composer of "T'Aint Nobody's Business If I Do" and for his collaborations with great blues singers like Bessie Smith. Whether the two Graingers were related in any way is a question that has yet to be resolved.

Born in 1895, Alma Lillie Hubbard was a celebrated gospel and opera singer who hailed from Louisiana, where she served as director of the New Orleans University Glee Club. She performed in the all-black Broadway musical Green Pastures, and her classical repertoire included works by Meyerbeer, Verdi, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. The two examples of Hubbard's sacred singing heard on this collection were recorded in May 1930, at a time when she was coordinating the spirituals used in the first production of Green Pastures. Later active as an actress on television, she passed away in 1970. Katie Daniels made her one record in Chicago during October of 1927. "God Don't Like It Either (Moonshine)" is believed to be the earliest recording of a temperance tirade, and it shows up in the discographies of Blind Willie McTell, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Elder Anderson Johnson. According to blues historian Chris Smith, Daniels' song about Zachariah was intended as a commentary on the biblical tale of tree-climbing tax collector Zacchaeus. Represented here with four recordings from 1926 and 1929 with backing by organist J. Roy Terry, Homer Quincy Smith is described in the liner notes as a "cultivated" singer with admirable "command of dynamics" and "astonishing vocal range." The bracing "Cavalry" and "Don't Forget the Family Prayer" were recorded at Kansas City in May 1929 by Saintest Anna Grinstead and Sister Ora Miller with accompaniment by Sister Florestine Gibson, who appears to have been among the first generation of pianists actively emulating the keyboard technique of Arizona Dranes.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
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2:47 Spotify
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