Arguably, gospel is the "R" in R&B. From the Five Satins to Teddy Pendergrass to Alicia Keys, and from Ray Charles to Rahsaan Patterson, African-American gospel has long been a major influence on R&B. It's no coincidence that, in the '50s, some of the independent labels that put out doo wop also put out black gospel -- many of the singers who joined doo wop groups had received their vocal training in AME and Baptist congregations. Based in Chicago, United Records was among the labels that released both gospel and secular doo wop in the '50s. This compilation, which was assembled by Delmark in 2002 and spans 1952-1954, focuses on four African-American gospel vocal groups that recorded for United: the Southern Tornadoes, the Spiritualaires, the Veteran Singers, and Joiner's Five Trumpets. When On the Battlefield: Great Gospel Quartets is playing, one can easily hear the parallels between these groups and the doo woppers who emerged in the '50s -- the rich harmonies of African-American gospel had a tremendous impact on doo wop outfits like the Penguins, the Flamingos, and the Platters. All 25 of the tracks on this CD (17 of them previously unreleased) have a Christian outlook, but one doesn't have to practice Christianity to appreciate the richness and passion of these performances; whatever one's religious views, On the Battlefield is downright uplifting. These groups are part of gospel history -- and because of the impact that black gospel had on black secular music, they are part of R&B history as well.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson