Various Artists

The Kings & Queens of Gospel

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Each of the two albums, Kings of Gospel and Queens of Gospel, that together make up this box set was originally released as a single disc. Featuring hard-driving gospel from the 1960s and 1970s, both sets illustrate how close gospel can come to the energy and wallop of secular soul. Among the sizzling tracks on the Kings disc are the funky "Morning Train" by the Original Five Blind Boys of Alabama, the doo wop-tinged "When the Gates Swing Open" by the immortal Soul Stirrers, and a scalding rendition of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" by Blind Boys of Alabama frontman Clarence Fountain, where Fountain sounds like a charged-up and sanctified James Brown. The Queens disc doesn't lower the praise and voltage one bit, with the incomparable Mahalia Jackson's "Move Up a Little Higher" and Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "The Gospel Train" (featuring Tharpe's sparse and spooky electric guitar) being particular delights. This is a pretty bare-bones package, with absolutely no liner notes or track information, but the music is so fiery and insistent that it hardly matters.

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