Review

Raw African-American Gospel on 45 rpm, 1962-1980

by Michael Enzor

B

eing a white kid from the suburbs my exposure to black gospel music was limited to stumbling across a scratchy sounding AM station at the far end of the dial late at night. A sermon with a guy screaming at the top of his lungs as the congregation chimes in randomly with affirming yelps and gleeful shrieks, followed by music equally unhinged. It sounded as though it was coming from another planet, but it was probably a few miles up the road.

In it’s most primal form, gospel is the basis of most modern American music. Be it country, folk, soul, blues, jazz or rock, gospel was first. Yet to most of us it’s not an easy listen.

Perfect Like The Angels – Raw African-American Gospel on 45rpm, 1962-1980 compiles 14 tracks lifted from private press 7”s collected and curated by Mike McGonigal on his Social Music label. I read about it on Permanent Records’ newsletter which included a link to Prophet G. Lusk singing, “The Devil’s Trying to Steal My Joy,” on YouTube. I was sold.

“Raw” being the key word here, these are records made with minimal funds and with sheer passion as the main motivation. The performers were not in it for the money, hardly. Nor the fame. To capture the moment and share it with anyone who owned a phonograph (which was everyone back then) and maybe earn a little cash for the church was plenty of incentive.

Sure, there were a ton of schlocky gospel records made during this era, so collecting these 45s couldn’t have been an easy task, but McGonigal is just the man for the job. When he first started collecting records of this genre, he had a bit of an ironic take on them, but then the music got through to him on it’s own merits. Although the obvious thread that runs through all of the music is Jesus, the sheer passion and earnestness of the performances is what grabs the listener and does not let go. Combine that with a slightly lo-fi DIY sound, and I’ve got everything I need. Highly recommended if you can find it.