Ray Charles performs ‘I Believe to my Soul’ at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival

On the 27th November, History of Soul Records release an 8CD compilation exploring the transition from the 1920s onwards from sacred music to the soul music of the late 50s and 60s. Kid Vinyl had the chance to listen to a 28-track sampler of the album, taking in predominantly 50s and 60s tracks. Sam Cooke, before he started to make secular music, is represented by 1955’s Be With Me Jesus and The Staple Singers by 1954’s Since He Lightened My Heavy Load. Early transitions into secular subjects are heard in the gospel themes of Ray Charles’s 1959 track I Believe to My Soul, and legends such as Ike & Tina Turner, James Brown and Sister Rosetta Tharpe are represented. The real treasure here though are songs by artists who have largely faded from wider consciousness. 1949’s Heaven Bound Train by the Jackson Gospel Singers is a compelling gospel number that features an onomatopoeic vocal style such as later used by the backing singers on Sam Cooke’s early secular hit Chain Gang. 1962’s No Headstone on My Grave by Esther Phillips, a rerecording of a Charlie Rich number, is lyrically reminiscent of blues, but delivered in a gospel style with honky tonk piano and horns; and Little Miss Cornshucks’s (1951) version of Try A Little Tenderness is both powerful and beautiful. Overall, this is an important exploration of a musical archive and a trajectory that lead to some of the most important music of the twentieth century.

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