Every since I discovered it, I have been head over heels in love with Gospel music. Some people get turned off by the religious content, but it doesn’t bother me one bit, even though I don’t consider myself to be a religious person. This music is intoxicated with great spirit, reminding you of the power of humanity. Gospel music can be a nice antidote to feeling jaded. The whole function of this music is to feel lifted up & elated in spirit, and I can’t get enough of it.
Like most collectors nowadays, I first discovered Gospel music through all of the absolutely marvelous pre-war 78 music and raw field recordings. These recordings are very powerful, beautiful, and traditional. But Gospel music has always adapted to its surroundings, appropriating the popular music of the day, from Jug Bands to Jazz to Hip-Hop. This is an essential part of its beauty.
I’ve dug pretty deep into Gospel, and my favorite stuff are all the wonderful recordings of the 1960’s & 70’s. This was the era of Soul & Funk, and there was so much talent at the time in the world of Gospel. Soul music pretty much came directly from Gospel, the two are mirror images of each other. And just as there was so much amazing Soul music during this era, there was just as much amazing Gospel music. Labels like Savoy, Nashboro, Hob, Checker, Vee-Jay and J&B produced 100’s of impressive albums, not to mention all the private press releases of this time. Much of this music was highly successful during its time, but isn’t as well known today. Most record collectors today are just looking for drum breaks or the pre-war stuff, and there’s a wealth of fine Gospel music that is going unnoticed by many who enjoy the music.
Troy Ramey & the Soul Searchers is a good example of how these artists lack much appreciation. There’s barely any information about the group available online, and they were an excellent Gospel group, producing 4 albums during the 1970’s and continued into the 80’s. Ramey was working as a painter when his group got discovered and this debut was recorded, simply entitled Soul Searchers. Their sound is deeply rooted in traditional Post-War style Quartet harmonies, yet they are backed by the shuffle & boogie of guitar, bass & drums. This is some top-notch Gospel Soul, with “Serve Him” gettin’ down with some straight-up Funk.
Soul Searchers- s/t (Musicor, 1972) is available at Folk Arts for $20. It’s a little bit conditional but still sounds very nice. This album was later reissued by Nashboro under the title “Great Change” after the group was signed by that wonderful Gospel label. So this is the rare original version. And I’ve got all kinds of gems in my Gospel section that are constantly getting overlooked. I also will pay good money for many Gospel records. This is a type of music that I believe in.