Published by music publishing house, Backbeat Books, the over-500-page volume puts the focus squarely on Gospel personalities solo artists, groups and choirs, for the most part, but also including a smattering of influential industry movers, such as radio pioneers, songwriters, producers and notable record label executives over the past 100 years.
Clearly, any work of this magnitude will elicit criticism with respect to inclusiveness who should or shouldn't be in the book, who should have been given more or less space, and who was left out. That's part of the territory of a work like this, and frankly, it's part of what makes it fun, for the book's very existence is generating the sort of discussion and opinion about Gospel music's historical figures that has long been in short supply.
The careers of over 650 artists are presented, with Carpenter having conducted more than 100 artist interviews to glean information. Entries range from one liners (A.C. Oliver, The Sensational Jubilettes) to multiple pages (Bishop TD Jakes, Mahalia Jackson), and span artists from the Carribbean to the United Kingdom and France.
It's hard to escape the fact that among obvious inclusions such as Percy Bady, William Becton, The Gay Sisters and Kitty Parham, are artists such as Mase, Elvis Presley, Prince and Ike and Tina Turner artists that might raise some eyebrows. As Carpenter explained to GOSPElflava.com, "I didn't define anyone as a gospel artist per se. What I did was identify people who have recorded gospel music whether they are Christians or not. I'd still say that 99% of the people in the book are Christians..." (read full interview)
The encyclopedia comes with several invaluable appendices, not the least of which is a summary of the winners of Grammys, Stellars and Dove awards over the years. Also helpful is a list of "recommended listening" for key artists. All of this sets the book up to be an essential companion for anyone serious about the genre.
Also of note is the fact that Artemis Gospel has released a compilation album to serve as an audio add-on for printed work. Uncloudy Days is a set that features a mix of must-hear chestnuts (Edwin Hawkins Singers' underappreciated "Early In The Morning", The Winans' "Tomorrow") together with new material from artists such as former boy wonder Bryan Wilson (who sings the title cut) and Ann McCrary.
— reviewed by Stan North —
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