The New Compilations from Sony Legacy
There’s not a soul in Gospel that doesn’t owe a debt to Mahalia Jackson. Hardly needing an introduction, this pioneer of pioneers is still one of Gospel’s most recognizable figures even today, some 30 years after her death.—
reviewed by Stan North —
Jackson experienced much of her astounding popular success under contract to Columbia Records. With access to the masters of her recorded treasure, Sony Legacy has just released (in June, 2001) a trio of albums under their respected Gospel Spirit imprint that are devoted to her always astounding quality and volume of work.
Yes, there is an abundance of ‘best of’ collections out there from the legendary New Orleans-born contralto, but this set is something special, and certainly essential. Among the total 40 tracks, a full 13 of them have until now been unreleased.
There’s a great combo of hits and hidden gems, many of them recorded live before evidently stunned audiences in Europe, where her music continues to have an incredible appeal to this day.
Here’s a rundown of all three new compilations:
Mahalia Jackson Recorded in Europe
During Her Latest Concert Tour
Much of this album was recorded in 1961 (and released on Columbia in 1962), on the Swedish leg of Jackson’s 2-month concert tour overseas, which included a stop in Israel. Remastered by Mark Wilder, the first nine tracks range from the tried and true (“Down By The Riverside”, “How I Got Over”, “There Is A Balm in Gilead”) to the Dorsey classic, “It Don’t Cost Very Much”, to Jackson’s own composition, “Tell The World About This” and her cover of the popular inspirational showtune, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Jackson’s loyal accompanist, Mildred Falls, supports on piano throughout.
The bonus gems are the two unreleased cuts at the end of the album, taken from Jackson’s tour continuation in France: “Didn’t It Rain” and the energetic crowd pleaser, “When The Saints Go Marching In”. Noted Gospel historian Horace Clarence Boyer contributes new liner notes for this must-have CD.
Mahalia Jackson in Concert Easter Sunday
Longtime Mahalia Jackson producer, Irving Townsend, recorded the singer’s premiere at the Philharmonic Hall of Lincoln Center in New York in March 1967, over the Easter weekend. Battling chronic heart problems, Jackson overcomes to deliver a wonderful set of eleven songs accompanied by rousing drums, piano, organ and guitar. “An Evening Prayer” and “In My Home Over There” are included in a group of songs that also features some classic Easter tunes: “Calvary”, “Were You There?”, “Thy Will Be Done” are among them. These were released on LP by Columbia in the same year.
There are four previously unreleased cuts on this album: “If I Can Help Somebody” and “Lord, Don’t Let Me Fall”, plus two of Jackson’s most well-loved numbers: “It Don’t Cost Very Much” and “Elijah Rock”.
Sunday Morning Prayer Meeting with Mahalia Jackson
Combo live and studio, this is a brand new compilation of Mahalia Jackson material, complete with new liner commentary from j. poet. Seven songs are pulled from several of her great albums on Columbia; an equal number of never-released cuts see the light of day.
Spanning recordings in the 50’s as well as the 60’s and featuring Jackson backed by a diverse range of accompanists in several settings, several favorites are strung together: “Down By The Riverside” (1956), “Just Over The Hill” (1962) and “How I Got Over” (1968).
Seeing the light of day for the first time are some of Jacksons’ early mono recordings. “I’m Grateful” from 1955 impacts with backing from longtime Jackson pianist Mildred Falls, plus bass and drum work from Walter Page and Gordon Powell respectively. Her cover of “Trouble In My Way” the Dixie Hummingbirds hit is alone worth the price of purchase. Also worthy is the newly issued “Nobody But You Lord” from 1961, and “I Don’t Know About Tomorrow” from 1965.
The archives offer up some great live tracks from Jackson’s 1961 European tour. “I Found the Answer” and “Jericho Fit The Battle of Jericho” wowed a concert crowd in France, forty years later the wowing continues.
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