All the duets - from various labels - all on one great CD!
Steven I. Ramm | Phila, PA USA | 11/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love the BBs of Alabama and have for years. Time and age has changed the membership of the group since it was formed in 1939 but they always sing as a cohesive unit - and individual members names are rarely listed on their albums. I have many of their CDS (and DVDs) but most of the tracks - though all but four are previously issued - are new to me. Why? Because the Executive Producers Charles Driebe and Chris Goldsmith took these tracks from albums which featured the Boys as "guests". There's a diverse group from Country's Randy Travis to kids' music icon Dane Zanes. So you don't need to go buy whole albums just to hear the Boys do their thing.
Add to this the four "new to CD" tracks with Toots of the Maytals, blues master John Hammond and - least likely partner of all, Lou Reed! The Bonnie Raitt (issued) track comes from 1994 but the other are all post 2001.
The sound is "heavenly" (pun intended here) and the sequencing just perfect. If the "name acts" included here introduced new folks to the Blind Boys recordings, that'll just be the icing on the cake!
Gospel soul harmonies matched to pop, rock, blues and more
hyperbolium | Earth, USA | 11/11/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Blind Boys of Alabama formed as a quartet in 1939 at what was then called the Alabama School for the Negro Deaf & Blind. All four members - three primary vocalists and a drummer - were blind. Of the four founders, two have passed, one has retired, and Clarence Fountain continues to tour with the group as his health allows. Like the Staple Singers, the Blind Boys of Alabama sing traditional material and bring their gospel harmonies to pop music. This collection pulls together fourteen collaborations in which the group backs up or sings alongside folk, rock, pop, country, blues, soul and reggae artists.
All but four of these tracks were previously released, but anthologizing them in a single place provides an amplified view of how the group's gospel meshes into a variety of musical contexts, and how effortlessly the group pulls other artists into their embrace. Ben Harper's soulful singing is a natural fit, as are Toots Hibbert's and Solomon Burke's. Randy Travis' old-timey religion gives the group a jaunty rhythm, and the twangy guitar, solid backbeat and spoken blues of Charlie Musselwhite's "I Had Trouble" is backed with Jordanaires-styled harmonies.
The acoustic "Welcome Table" provides Dan Zanes and the group a terrific arena for vocal interplay, even dropping in an a cappella verse. The spare blues of John Hammond's "One Kind of Favor" finds the group harmonizing in a low hum, and the swing stylings of Asleep at the Wheel's "The Devil Ain't Lazy" offer a playful way to put across the song's message. Perhaps most surprising is the pairing with Lou Reed on the Velvet Underground's "Jesus." Here the group's harmonies shed the light of salvation upon Reed's spent and broken monotone.
Timothy B. Schmit's "Secular Praise" is the album's newest track, and the cuts by Toots Hibbert, Lou Reed and John Hammond are each previously unreleased. All four are fine additions to the material that was drawn from ten different original artist's albums. The group's live and recorded work has received numerous accolades over the years, including film and TV placements and five Grammy awards, but their greatest compliments may just be these invitations to make music with their peers. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]"
The Blind Boys' commendation
Michael Dalton | Eureka, CA United States | 01/17/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If The Blind Boys of Alabama ever needed commendation, which they don't, Duets provides it by being a showcase for the wide variety of artists with whom they have collaborated. Also telling are the many songs on this release that come from Grammy-nominated or Grammy-winning albums.
Appropriately, the CD opens with "Take My Hand" by Ben Harper from the Grammy-winning There Will Be a Light (2004). It was through that award that The Blind Boys came to my attention and perhaps the attention of many others.
What is it about The Blind Boys that causes so many artists to want them on their albums? Being in the music business, it must have something to do with their sound, which for me hearkens to the Negro spirituals sung by world-weary voices that knew hardship. It's an authentic gospel sound that enhances songs that resonate with The Blind Boys.
Two of the most powerful tracks are back to back blues excursions: "I Had Trouble," by Charlie Musselwhite and "When the Spell is Broken," by Bonnie Raitt. The latter song features The Blind Boys on a great-sounding refrain toward the end: "Can't cry if you don't know how." Their voices fit well with the blues, but among the wide range of styles that you find are country, black gospel, Americana, reggae and something that sounds a little alternative.
In regards to the latter, I'm thinking of "Jesus" by Lou Reed, one of three previously unreleased recordings. I found this track mesmerizing from the first time that I heard it. Sparse instrumentation and short, simple lyrics given with a vulnerable delivery perfectly complement this song of brokenness. It's a plea from one who has fallen from grace and now seeks to find their place. This song also caught the attention of the legendary Glen Campbell, who recorded it on Meet Glen Campbell.
On the contemplative and intriguing side is "Secular Praise," by Timothy B. Schmidt, a member of the Eagles. As he reminisces about his life he adds, "Don't go to church but I feel the weight." Could this be the weight of glory that people feel when the catch sight of an Almighty God? It's not clear who he is referring to when he sings, "Still I hope to shake the hand of fate before I die."
Another interesting collaboration with someone not as well known is Susan Tedeschi on "Magnificent Sanctuary Band," a gospel song produced by the well-respected Joe Henry, who produces another song on this recording, "None of Us Are Free," by Solomon Burke. Tedeschi is known as a blues guitarist and the wife of Derek Trucks, one of two guitarists for The Allman Brothers Band.
I can't help thinking that The Blind Boys are an obvious bridge between the gospel and the world of music. Their lives and voices are an influence for good. This CD serves as a fascinating introduction to their music, which thankfully has intersected mainstream music in such a rewarding way.