Sweet Honey in the Rock

Selections 1976-1988

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This is a 34-track double-CD compilation drawn from Sweet Honey in the Rock's first eight albums, covering their 13-year, seven-album tenure at Flying Fish Records, plus one album recorded for Redwood Records. The song choices and non-chronological sequencing highlight the group's consistently impressive vocal interaction during a time when nine different singers made up a quartet or quintet (not counting sign language interpreter Shirley Childress Johnson, who joined in 1980), the only constant member being founder Bernice Johnson Reagon. Employing influences including folk, R&B, and even reggae, musically Sweet Honey remains primarily a gospel group; in fact, in their impassioned multiple leads, they often sound like a pocket gospel choir. Though founded in the 1970s, Sweet Honey has its roots in the 1960s, specifically Reagon's earlier group, the Freedom Singers, and though they touch on feminist concerns and such topical issues of the '80s as apartheid, the political material grows out of the civil rights movement and the labor movement that preceded it, their imagery drawn equally from Biblical and left-wing terminology. Much of their material is original and much is written by Reagon, but they also include traditional folk songs such as "Wade in the Water" and traditional African songs, and there are lyrics adapted from such sources as the Bible and Kahlil Gibran. The album includes two previously unreleased tracks. While inevitably fans may quibble with some of the omissions from Selections, its two-plus hours provide a comprehensive view of Sweet Honey's early work.

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