Looking for that last-minute stocking stuffer. We've got just the thing for you – but you might need an oversized stocking for this one. Uncloudy Days is a 14-track album featuring a smorgasbord of gospel artists, old and new. The CD features Mavis Staples, Cissy Houston, Jessy Dixon and newcomer Bryan Wilson. And why the oversized stocking? Uncloudy Days is actually a companion piece to a book, a 515-page gospel music encyclopedia of the same name compiled by Bil Carpenter, a former newspaper journalist who's now a public relations agent. The book includes notes on the great and not-so-great in gospel, from writer Doris Akers to the Zion Travelers. By Selwyn Crawford.
This gospel music history archive includes a glossary of gospel terms, gospel trivia questions, a listing of the best-selling gospel recordings of all time, gospel songs that crossed over to the Billboard R&B chart and gospel Grammy, Dove and Stellar award winners. It is America's first true black gospel music encyclopedia and a welcome exploration into the roots of rock and roll and rhythm and blues music. Uncloudy Days is of interest to history buffs, black studies enthusiasts, as well as, devout and eclectic music lovers alike. By Al Hunter Jr
Left to right: Tata Vega, Sandra Crouch, Andrae Crouch, Bryan Wilson and Mavis Staples
Billed as a companion piece to the new, concurrently released book, "Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia," this 14-song collection of both new and classic material from a formidable cast of gospel notables stands as a strong work entirely on its own. Mavis Staples is mesmerizing on "God Is Not Sleeping." Cissy Houston turns Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved by You" into a rousing, Sunday morning workout, and Jessy Dixon does patriarch James Cleveland proud on "It's All Right Now." But of greatest note is the book in whose formidable shadow this album is cast. As the first truly comprehensive, credible compendium of gospel music and the people who created it, it is an invaluable and long overdue gem; and its "accompanying" CD is a sweet sampling of the vast riches of a truly seminal, priceless American art form. By Gordon Ely.
Oh Happy Day - gospel music gets its first good book.
Given how influential African-American church music has been in relation to several significant forms of popular music, it's amazing that so little has been written about it in book form. Remedying that situation at last is author, Bil Carpenter, a well-respected US publicist and journalist, who brings an insider's knowledge of the gospel sphere to bear on what is an absorbing account of the idiom's practitioners and history.
Though ostensibly conceived, perhaps, as a reference tool for sacred music devotees, ultimately, Uncloudy Days proves to be much more than that. Engagingly written so as to be both informative and entertaining, it's a far cry from the arid, pseudo-academic tomes usually aimed at anoraks. Also, unlike the majority of reference books out there, Carpenter doesn't rely on reheated second-hand information but utilises over a 100 interviews with gospel performers to bring his subject to life. Significantly, many of the musicians'
stories are being told for the very first time.
But it's not just Carpenter's work ethic and erudition that's impressive - there's pathos and indeed, humour, in the stories he relates. The obscure singer, Gloria Spencer, provides one such example. She didn't sell many records but primarily made a name for herself because of her colossal size - she weighed 615 lbs and when she died it took 17 men to haul her coffin. Besides the great and obscure, there are also some surprising entries, like Daniel Bedingfield, Elvis and even Prince.
As far as gospel reference books go, this is undoubtedly The Bible. By Charles Waring.
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