Craft Recordings today (13) begins its rollout of the first-ever digital release of 25 albums from the catalogue of Stax Records subsidiary Gospel Truth Records. It starts with the Rance Allen Group’s self-titled debut album from 1972, after which titles will be released every week in chronological order, building towards to September’s Gospel Heritage Month.
As well as the digital reissues, the campaign will include a singles compilation — due for 4 September release on vinyl, CD and digital formats — plus several playlists and new video content.
The Gospel Truth catalogue ranged from the divine gospel of Rev. T.L. Barrett and Rev. Maceo Woods to the cutting-edge message music of Louise McCord and the label’s marquee act Rance Allen. Its 1970s archives reach beyond the realms of simply the black American gospel tradition and showcased a diverse collection of talent.
The release schedule also embraced the Indian meditative teachings of Blue Aquarius, the white roots music of the Commanders and Rev. Jesse Jackson’s People’s Choir of Operation PUSH, who chronicled America’s Civil Rights struggle of the day.
Gospel Truth was established in 1972 as the brainchild of Stax executive Al Bell. He enlisted the help of radio promotions pioneer and songwriter Dave Clark and Stax label staffer Mary Peak Patterson to oversee the imprint’s formation. Gospel Truth sought to “carry the message of today’s gospel to the people on the street,” as promotional material for the label’s launch announced.
What stood Gospel Truth apart from other gospel labels was the accessibility of its signings. Clark’s keen eye and ear had the knack of combining traditional gospel musicians with raw and revolutionary artists at home in rock, funk and soul, resulting in a sound that resonated with the hip audience of the 1970s.
The artists on Gospel Truth were also given the same high-level promotion afforded Stax’s secular stars, incuding with outfits, photoshoots and bookings. Stax’s creative director Larry Shaw conceived a cohesive design language for Gospel Truth, in a visual dialogue that signalled the music as welcoming to both sacred and secular listeners.
The first digital release, the Rance Allen Group’s eponymous 1972 debut, showcases the way that the three Michigan-based brothers offered a subversive, defiant take on seminal Detroit soul. Another catalogue highlight is Louise McCord’s A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson, released after the 1972 death of the gospel great. Reverend Bernard Avant & the St. James Gospel Choir’s sound was more traditional, and closely related to Southern gospel music; God’s Newspaper, by Reverend J.D. Montgomery & the Mt. Carmel Choir in Detroit, gives the listener a front-row pew in the excitement of a Sunday service.
To mark September’s Gospel Heritage Month, Craft will also produce a compilation from the Gospel Truth catalogue. More details will follow in due course, and the collection will appear on vinyl, CD and digital formats on 4 September. Before then, listeners will be able to enjoy new lyric videos plus two special playlists, Gospel Truth (out on 24 May) and Gospel Easter (12 April).
Stax stated in the initial press materials for the imprint: “After all, it doesn’t matter if you listen to gospel quietly…snap your fingers…sing along…or to dance to it, as long as you get the message.”
Gospel Truth digital album releases:
March 13: The Rance Allen Group – The Rance Allen Group
March 20: Reverend Lee Jackson – At Calvary
March 27: Reverend Maceo Woods and the Christian Tabernacle Choir – In Concert
April 3: Maceo Woods and the Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir – Jesus People
April 10: Reverend J.D. Montgomery & The Mt. Carmel Choir – God’s Newspaper
April 17: Reverend Maceo Woods and the Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir – God Save Your People
April 24: The Howard Lemon Singers – Message For Today
May 1: The Rance Allen Group – Truth Is Where It’s At
May 8: Reverend Bernard Avant & The St. James Gospel Choir – Reverend Bernard Avant & The St. James Gospel Choir
May 15: Louise McCord – A Tribute To Mahalia Jackson
May 22: The Commanders – Walk With Me
May 29: The Marion Gaines Singers – This Too Is Gospel
June 5: Charles May & Annette May Thomas – Songs Our Father Used To Sing
June 12: Clarence Smith – Whatever Happened To Love
June 19: The Gospel Artistics – The Gospel Artistics
June 26: Rev. T.L. Barrett & The Youth For Christ Choir – I Found The Answer
July 3: The Henry Jackson Company – The Henry Jackson Company
July 10: The People’s Choir Of Operation Push – The People’s Choir Of Operation Push
July 17: Reverend Maceo Woods and the Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir – A New Dawning
July 24: Blue Aquarius – Blue Aquarius
July 31: Bob Hemphill & The Commanders – Everybody Will Be Happy
August 7: The Rance Allen Group – Brothers
August 14: The Howard Lemon Singers – I Am Determined
August 21: The Marion Gaines Singers – Leaning On The Everlasting Arms
August 28: Reverend Maceo Woods and the Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir – Goodbye Loneliness, Hello Happiness