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Blind Boys Of Alabama - Spirit Of The Century / Higher Ground (Bonus Tracks) (2016)

2-06-2016, 22:30
Music | Blues

Title: Spirit Of The Century / Higher Ground (Bonus Tracks)
Year Of Release: 2016
Label: Omnivore Recordings
Genre: Blues Gospel
Quality: FLAC | MP3
Total Time: 72:08
Total Size: 915 MB | 340 MB

Spirit Of The Century (Bonus tracks):)
1. Jesus Gonna Be Here (4:56)
2. No More (4:45)
3. Run On For A Long Time (3:21)
4. Good Religion (2:56)
5. Give A Man A Home (3:37)
6. Amazing Grace (4:21)
7. Soldier (5:07)
8. Nobody's Fault But Mine (2:55)
9. Way Down In The Hole (3:18)
10. Motherless Child (4:20)
11. Just Wanna See His Face (4:17)
12. The Last Time (2:54)
13. Good Religion (Live At The Bottom Line) (3:10)
14. Way Down In The Hole (Live At The Bottom Line) (3:27)
15. Give A Man A Home (Live At The Bottom Line) (4:03)
16. Motherless Child (Live At The Bottom Line) (4:29)
17. No More (Live At The Bottom Line) (4:25)
18. Nobody's Fault But Mine (Live At The Bottom Line) (3:06)
19. The Last Time (Live At The Bottom Line) (3:32)

From start to finish this album defies categorical classification. It employs the best of R&B, Afro-beat, folk, and blues while remaining true to the Blind Boys' gospel roots. And with a tasteful selection of material by Tom Waits, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and Ben Harper, in addition to their usual array of traditional gospel hymns and folk tunes, it will appeal to generations of listeners. Though varied in its stylings, the album works as a whole due to the high-quality production, arrangements, and musicianship throughout. The traditional "No More," in a slow and soulful arrangement, starts off with a plaintive slide guitar sampling of "Amazing Grace" and sits comfortably beside "Run for a Long Time," which features George Scott rapping over a percussive, groove-filled (à la Danny Thompson on double bass) and harmony- laden reworking of this classic. And the Stones' "Just Wanna See His Face," which is given a jubilee-like treatment that rivals the original, follows up a somber "Motherless Child" with grace and acuity. Other guests include Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, John Hammond on guitar and Dobro, and David Lindley on oud and electric slide. [Spirit of the Century received a deluxe reissue in 2016 by Omnivore Records. The expanded edition included seven previously unreleased live tracks recorded at a 2001 show at New York's famed Greenwich Village folk club The Bottom Line.] ~by Travis Drageset

Higher Ground (Bonus Tracks):
1. People Get Ready (3:21)
2. Spirit In The Dark (3:14)
3. Wade In The Water (3:32)
4. Stand By Me (3:00)
5. The Cross (2:46)
6. Many Rivers To Cross (3:55)
7. Higher Ground (6:12)
8. Freedom Road (3:35)
9. I May Not Can See (3:35)
10. You And Your Folks 23rd Psalm (5:41)
11. I Shall Not Walk Alone (5:26)
12. Precious Lord (3:50)
13. Run On For A Long Time (Live On Morning Becomes Eclectic) (3:07)
14. My Lord What A Morning (Live On Morning Becomes Eclectic) (3:53)
15. Freedom Road (Live On Morning Becomes Eclectic) (3:04)
16. Higher Ground (Live On Morning Becomes Eclectic) (4:15)
17. People Get Ready (Live On Morning Becomes Eclectic) (3:34)
18. Wade In The Water (Live On Morning Becomes Eclectic) (2:54)
19. Amazing Grace (Live On Morning Becomes Eclectic) (3:05)

The temptation to take on the misguided academic purists in this review is almost overwhelming. Believe it or not, there are those who feel that a group of the stature and vision of the Blind Boys of Alabama -- co-founded over 60 years ago by members Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter, and George Scott, and filled out by Joey Williams, Ricky McKinnie, and Bobby Butler -- shouldn't, in essence, engage, let alone record, music from genres other than gospel and spirituals, i.e., pop music. Suffice to say: who better? Give up the nonsense, come to the front of the house, and open not only your mind, but your heart. On their follow-up to the wildly successful Spirit of the Century, the Blind Boys enlist the phenomenally gifted visionary Robert Randolph and the Family Band, the great young lions of the Sacred Steel tradition as their backing unit, as well as longtime fan, über-guitarist, and songwriter Ben Harper on a few choice cuts for good measure. The material is stunning, even more so than on Spirit of the Century. It was chosen for its ability to be molded into the vocal image of the Blind Boys, for its ability to split seams between sacred and secular worlds, but also between genres and cultural and societal terrains. In the voices of the Blind Boys, the song is the vehicle to transcend the burdens of human existence or to celebrate its preciousness.

And what songs: the album opens with the one of the few readings of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," that does not fall into maudlin cliché. Instead, with Harper playing guitar and the Family Band building a haunting, nearly processional series of ambiences and textures, Fountain's singing splits the tune wide open toward a spiritual universe where the flesh is not denied, but is merely called upon to fall away after serving its purpose. It is no longer an exhortation but a plea, a whisper of hope for those who will prepare themselves for the next phase of the journey into places unknown but full of unspoken -- and unspeakable -- promise.

Likewise, on Prince's "The Cross" we hear the Blind Boys delving deeply into the composer's intent that to we need not only willingly bear our own suffering, but that of others, too; we all transcend them on one plane or the next while getting there together. This is followed by the loneliest, most prayerful rendition of Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross" since the original was released in the '60s. Robert Randolph's shimmering, in-the-pocket backbeat fills and wanderings over the neck are languid, full of water, tears, in fact; the rhythm section is muted offering a seductively heart-wrenching and syncopated read on the time signature. As the Blind Boys sing to this accompaniment, it becomes evident that this song in particular bring the worlds of gospel, country, and reggae closely together in a seamless, heartbreaking testament to acceptance and the plea for redemption and companionship in the arid and lonely places. Surely the nomads of the world can take this version of the song as their anthem.

But the proceedings are not all solemn. There's the deep dark celebratory funk of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground," with Harper turning in an amazing wah-wah performance in a woven counterpoint to Randolph's edgy, ragged, pedal steel fills. This is followed a couple of tracks later by a sharp and steamy, slinky, rewired read of Funkadelic's "You and Your Folks," which segues across worlds into a gorgeous rendition of the 23rd Psalm.

This is not to say that Higher Ground is made up completely of pop tunes. Hardly. There is perhaps the Blind Boys most authoritative recording of "Wade in the Water," Aretha Franklin's gospel classic "Spirits in the Dark," and Fountain's own strident hymn "Stand by Me." There is the stalwart, inspirational tradition of "Freedom Road" that is imbued with majesty by not only the Blind Boys, but the Family Band, as well. There is also the funky "I May Not Can See," written in the modern gospel vernacular, and Ben Harper's "I Shall Not Walk Alone," where the Blind Boys are accompanied only by John Ginty's piano. These songs are all done with the chilling clarity that only the best gospel music can deliver; one that challenges our doubt. Nowhere is the unshakable evidence of this truer than on the stark, radical, soul-searing read of "Precious Lord" that closes the disc. It is here that the listener is challenged to deny the existence of a spirit so powerful and life-altering that it can address, through song, the desert terrains in the human heart and bring them comfort through the simplicity of song. The Blind Boys are aided only by Randolph's truly sacred steel, the emotion derived from the Gospel's promise is underscored by hope, devotion, and a faith that may waver in times of trial, but reaffirms itself in its humanity and the sheer love with which it calls upon the burning heart of the Divine for both guidance and deliverance.

In the Blind Boys legacy, this is not just another milestone, of which there have been many. On Spirit of the Century, the group opened up gospel music to new forms and sounds in their choice of material. They have extended not only their reach as individual musicians and as a group, but have exponentially pushed the boundaries of their vocation's genre to new and dizzying heights. In the music on Higher Ground, genres melt away, holiness and sanctity are synonymous with the grain of the human voice as it longs for the well of the heart's fulfillment; and genres are transformed into the quest for an expression that belies all artificial constructs and aspires to pure spirit. The union of the Blind Boys and Robert Randolph and the Family Band carries not only gospel, but all popular music that aspires to higher ground, with more grace and beauty than we had any right to expect. [Higher Ground was re-released on CD in 2016, adding five live bonus tracks from Live on Morning Becomes Eclectic.] ~by Thom Jurek

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Spirit Of The Century FLAC
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Spirit Of The Century MP3
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Higher Ground FLAC
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anacondon   User offline   3 June 2016 00:59

I HIGHLY recommend these albums/downloads - have had both (minus the current 'bonus tracks') for years and play them to death. Thanks for the great uploads and for the infuriatingly-rare UPLOADED LINKS!!

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Pike   User offline   5 June 2016 12:59

Thanx a lot!

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