Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Gospel

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The Rough Guide series of compilations is generally excellent, but every once a while a dud does pop out. While not bad, this is far from everything it could be, given the range and history of gospel music. It captures some, but not all, the big names. And so listeners have vintage Five Blind Boys of Alabama with "Stand By Me," a song they later revisited, but no Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. And while the Soul Stirrers are here, it's not a cut from their heyday with Sam Cooke, and where are the Highway Q.C.'s? Gospel's real golden age, in the '50s, is woefully under-represented, and while the Golden Gate Quartet, whose influence was paramount to so many, is mentioned in the notes, there's nothing by them. Mahalia Jackson justifiably gets two tracks, but no Clara Ward, and you have to wonder about the inclusion of the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir. The new generation of gospel seems to be lacking, with nothing from the critically acclaimed Sacred Steel school. Now, all of this could simply be due to licensing problems; if not, then this needed a lot more work -- and at just over an hour, it's short by the standards the label has established. They can do better than this -- as they've proved time and time again.

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