Monday, April 04, 2005

In 1960 John Hammond supervised and recorded the Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir under the direction of Alex Bradford. The recording would become Shakin' The Rafters, an album Tony Bennett has called "the greatest rock 'n' roll record ever recorded," and one Tom Waits claims "puts you in the choir with them. Astonishing, awesome."

I finally got the album (after a couple of months of searching for it, then finally ordering it from and it is a an exceptional recording. The album sounds like it was recorded back to back over a 65 minute period, and maybe it was. As the songs seem to have mutterings and movement between tracks, to maintain that live in the studio feel, it's hard to say if they just added that on the album to give it the live off the floor feel. However, on the song "Said I wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody" it's clear that the choir and lead vocalists Calvin White and Margaret Simpson are so caught up in the excitement and energy of the group (and a 120 person choir generates extreme voltage) that when teh song ends, there is a spontaneous reprise that continues on for a couple of minutes. The excitement and astonishment is felt at the end of the tape, and the following song, "He Stays in My Room" maintains the exuberance built in the previous song, and when the choir is asked to raise their hands, the listener knows that 240 hands stretched upwards, praising the powers created by the voices, the words and God.
The album is brilliant, and the sheer excitement created by these voices is enough to rival the greatest rock records ever made. This is an album you experience.
posted by Jonathan


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