The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet was formed in Norfolk, VA in 1934 and underwent several personnel changes before making their first recordings on August 4, 1937 for the Bluebird label in Charlotte, NC. Living Era's sampler of classic early Gates recordings opens with six selections from that first session. "Golden Gate Gospel Train" makes a profound and lasting impression upon the listener. It is the ideal introduction to this dynamic little group. Inspired by the Mills Brothers, the Gates incorporated jazz-like elements into their predominately gospel-based act. The voices are used like horns in a small swing band, with one of the tenors singing into his cupped hands or utilizing his sinuses and nasal cavities to generate tones that suggest an imaginary hybrid instrument somewhere between a trumpet and a kazoo. The "train" sounds are vivid, fascinating and intensely likeable. This and several other dazzling performances were based upon arrangements by bass singer Orlandus Wilson. Other unforgettable highlights include "Gabriel Blows His Horn" (featuring more of that "hand trumpet"); a lively version of Louis Armstrong's "Old Man Mose" and a rousing rendition of "Pick a Bale of Cotton" sung in collaboration with Leadbelly. The Golden Gate Quartet, as they became known after 1940, enjoyed increased popularity with their blend of sacred and secular, gospel and swing. Bible stories were neatly woven into vocal workouts that still resound with vivid harmonies and gutsy delivery. By 1946, the Gates were taking on timely political topics with songs like "No Restricted Signs Up in Heaven" and "Atom and Evil." As had been the case since the beginning, the group's membership underwent changes every time an individual felt the need to follow his own path. Henry Owens, the last original participant, withdrew to become a full-time preacher in 1950. After performing in Europe in 1955, the Golden Gate Quartet gradually began spending more time there; by 1959 they had moved their base of operations to France. The longevity of this group is remarkable; their 70th anniversary album was released in 2004. Living Era's Rock My Soul highlights the first decade of this amazing ensemble's existence; it could easily cause some listeners to begin seeking out the rest of their richly rewarding recordings.
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