Candi Staton

The Ultimate Gospel Collection

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Many gospel singers have made the transition to secular fare as their careers have expanded, with singers like Sam Cooke, Al Green, and Aretha Franklin coming immediately to mind, but former R&B and disco singer and songwriter Candi Staton ran the trail in the opposite direction, turning away from her secular success altogether in 1982 and embracing gospel. This two-disc retrospective divides her gospel work into two distinct approaches, with the first disc featuring songs performed in fairly standard traditional Southern gospel settings while the second disc offers material recorded with a more contemporary urban approach. As such, the two discs are remarkably different, and while the second disc has technically nothing secular on it, it wouldn't sound at all out of place at a wild Saturday night dance party. This combination of strong urban dance rhythms and Southern gospel ends up sounding more like modified disco than anything else, and Staton herself has termed it "gospco." It really is a fascinating hybrid, and when Staton applies the approach to classics like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?," the possibilities seem endless. The more traditional-sounding first disc also yields some pleasant surprises, including Staton's own "The First Face I Want to See," the near-reggae feel of "I Will Praise You," and the street corner doo wop tone of "Too Late," so the traditional tag in Staton's hands ends up being a fairly relative term. Her commitment to gospel and praise songs is firm, and her vision for updating the sound so it can bang note for note with secular songs on the dancefloor has proven to be a visionary move. It's clear, really, that Staton didn't so much leave disco for gospel as much as she ended up dragging gospel kicking and fighting to the disco floor. It was a bold statement when she did it in the mid-'80s. It seems much less radical now, which is a testament to Staton's musical vision.

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