Title - 'Joy In My Soul' (ABKCO Records)
Artist - The Soul Stirrers
I have to fully admit that going into this new Soul Stirrers album, appropriately entitled Joy In My Soul: The Complete SAR Recordings I knew next to nothing about the band; other than that they made soul legend, and music pioneer Sam Cooke a star, of course.
Truly stated, this 2-CD collection of 34 tracks is like no other that you most likely have in your collection from that era. Indisputably among the premier gospel groups of the modern era, The Soul Stirrers pioneered the contemporary quartet sound. These Joy In My Soul complete recordings span the years 1959 to 1964 and cover the period when they recorded on his own label and was producing them, up until Cooke's untimely death on December 11th, 1964, at the tender age of just 33.
Interesting enough, legend has it; and yes, I had to do my own research on this band (which was rather refreshing, if truth be told), The Soul Stirrers' origins date back to 1926, where in the town of Trinity, TX, baritone Senior Roy Crain formed a quartet with a number of other teens with whom he attended church. After one of the group's early appearances, a member of the audience approached Crain to tell him how their performance had "stirred his soul," and from this chance compliment the Soul Stirrers were officially born.
A beautiful, and one-hopes, true story of the acorn that flourished into spiritual music, with deeply emotional hard gospel styling so popular among postwar listeners. Indeed, this music is just, plainly put, terrific! It reminds me of being a little girl in Mississippi, on Sunday mornings, my mother is in the kitchen cooking, listening to the good ole southern Gospel music. God I miss my mom, but every time I listen to this music it's like I'm back in Mississippi, she's in the kitchen cooking all over again.
They just don't make them like this anymore. The group's innovative arrangements enabled the band's popularity to continually soar, even on into The Soul Stirrers' third decade. Indeed, it was only in 1956, when Cooke finally crossed over to the pop market, that he was replaced by ex-Highway QC Johnnie Taylor. Sure he never quite lived up to the hype set before him with Cooke, but the band never missed a beat musically, of that be sure.
This 2-CD set contains the classic gospel album, Jesus Be A Fence Around Me as well as their second SAR album, Encore!! With The Soul Stirrers, both produced by Cooke. Stand out tracks on the first album include: 'I'm A Pilgrim,' the title track, 'He's Been A Shelter For Me,' 'I'm Thankful,' 'Wade In The Water,' and both 'God Is Standing By' and 'Since Jesus Came Into My Heart.' The second albums brings us such inspirational tracks as 'His Love,' 'Since I Met The Savior,' 'Amazing Grace,' the compilation title track, 'Oh Mary, Don't You Weep' and both 'All Over The World' and 'When The Gates Swing Open.'
ABKCO Records has gone to great lengths to uncover many treasures in the SAR catalog, and alongside this double CD compilation, they have also just released Lookin' For A Love: The Complete SAR Recordings from The Valentinos; who are notable for being Bobby Womack's first secular group. [Sally Higgins]