The Fantastic Violinaires- A Message to My Friends

This was one dollar. It has been awhile since I posted a gospel record on this site and that is probably why I bought this.  

The Fantastic Violinaires were a gospel vocal group formed in Detroit in 1952. In the early sixties, they were joined by Robert Blair, who became their leader until his death of a heart attack in 2001 at age 70.  Before he turned to secular music, Wilson Pickett sung with this group.  I believe a version is still active today.’

Webpage for the Group

This album, released on Jewel Records from Shreveport, LA in 1976, could have been their 10th or so album. Pretty decent.  Good vocals.  Uplifting songs.  Gospel but not too overly gospel in some areas.

For a sample, I went with “Sunshine”.

Satisfactory record.  Did not feel much like writing today.

Syl Johnson- Take Me To The River 45

pictureI normally do not post on Sunday.  It is my day of rest for this site.  However, I have been taken aback by the amount of new traffic that has been flooding my site in the last three days. I am not sure why the UK would take interest in a record blog that features albums under $5 as well as brief social commentary from a Canadian living in America, but you have. Thank you whoever you are and feel free to comment or like us on Facebook.  There should be a box in the left hand menu.  Anyway, as a way of saying thanks, I decided to roll out this post that I had in the can for a while.  This was another one of the 20 cent singles I got.  I really have not looked at singles since.  They take a lot of time to go through and are usually pretty beat.  Then again, for 20 cents what can you expect? Anyway, I was familiar with this song, most notably the Talking Heads’ version.syl-johnson

Syl Johnson, born in Holly Springs, Miss in 1936, is an American singer and guitarist.  Moving to Chicago in 1950, he planted himself within that city’s Blues scene where he was next door neighbors with Magic Sam.  Johnson played with Sam as well as Howling Wolf, Junior Wells, and Jimmy Reed. His sound would evolve into a more RnB/Soul path.  He released more than a dozen albums and more than twice as many singles.  Apart from a 2013 album, and being sampled by various Hip Hop artists, I am unsure what Johnson is doing today.

This single came out in 1975.  It was a cover of a track written by Al Green the year prior.  The label did not release the song as a single for Green.  Instead they opted it to Johnson who added a harmonica and a grittier vocal part.  The song reached #7 on the Billboard RnB chart and #48 on the overall chart. The B-side was “Could I Be Falling In Love”.030315-music-syl-johnson

From this single, here is the A Side.

6/6/97 Blues great Syl Johnson performs at the Petrillo Bandshell in Gran Park for the 14th Annual Blues Fest. (Photo by Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times) neg#97-06-135

Mich more writing than I would like to do on a Sunday but here you go.  I good gospel flavored RnB track for the day. To all the new viewers, I am not sure what you are looking for on this site, but thanks again. And please do not expect many more Sunday posts in the future.

Soeur Sourire- The Singing Nun

DSCN4630 (800x794)This was $3.00.  I had seen it in the used racks for some time before I finally bit. Not sure why the day I bought it was that day.  I also did not know the back story.deckers singing_nun

The Singing Nun, aka Soeur Sourire or Sister Smile, aka Sister Luc-Gabrielle, aka. Jeanne Deckers was born in Brussels in 1933. At a young age, she showed an interest in both music and being a nun.  She would join the   Missionary Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Fichermont in 1959.  During her time in the convent, she would write, arrange, and perform her own songs which were well received by her fellow sisters as well as visitors.  she was encouraged by her superiors to record an album, which she did for Phillips in 1961.  This is that album.  The single, “Dominique” became a Top Ten hit all over the world, hitting #1 on the US Billboard charts. The album would sell nearly $2 million copies and her life was made into a movie, The Singing Nun starring Debbie Reynolds, although Decker would call the film complete fiction .  953932

This is the part where the cheesey VH1 Behind the Music clichés kick in.  Deckers did not see much gain from her new found fame as Phillips took in a big chunk of the money while her convent got the rest.  A second album did not do as well.  Furthermore, Deckers felt censored by her superiors, only being allowed to write happy songs and the like.  A greater rift between her and the Catholic Church caused her to leave the convent in 1966.  A song she wrote a year later, a pro-contraception song called “Glory Be to God for the Golden Pill” did not help the matter.  Also, the fact that she could not record under her previous monikers hindered what was left of her career.  Deckers_and_Pecher_at_Annie_s_school

There was some bright spots later in life, however.  She enjoyed a brief but successful period in the 70’s.  Also, despite maintaining a simple and mostly chaste existence outside the convent, fell in love and entered a relationship with her roommate, Anne Pecher, who would start a center for autistic children. But just as things seemed to be improving, bad luck struck again.  The Belgium government informed Deckers that she owed $63,000 in back taxes from her first album although she never saw a cent.  The convent denied any responsibility for this debt and as a result, the autism center was forced to close.  Unable to pull herself out of this hole, Decker and Pecher killed themselves by taking an overdose of pills and alcohol in 1985.  As per their wishes, they are buried together in the Cheremont Cemetery in Wavre, Walloon Brabant, where they died.28711907

As stated above, this was Decker’s first and most successful album.  It is  collection of songs accompanied by acoustic guitar. Some songs have a scant female chorus to them. The songs are mostly religious but all are upbeat. The simplicity of the arrangement puts the focus on Decker.  The songs are all song in French.  There are a lot of good moments on this album, including “Dominque”, “Soeur Adele”, a ballad about her guitar, and “Fleur de Cactus”  all stand out.DSCN4632 (800x795)

The album included a illustrated story of Soeur Sourire, a lyric sheet with English translations, and a pouch where watercolors of the convent apparently used to be.DSCN4631 (800x716)

For a sample, I decided to go with the big hit single, “Dominique”.jeanine-deckers_getty-hero-

A simple and satisfactory album.

Connie Smith- Sings Great Sacred Songs

DSCN4623 (800x791)This was 80 cents.  This is the third Connie Smith album I have posted so I am hip to buying any of her early albums.  Use the blog’s search function to check out earlier posts on Smith as I am too lazy to paste links.  As normal with the third blog post that I do for people, I can of exhausted my information on Smith in the previous posts.  connie-smith-400px

This was Smith’s fourth album and her first gospel recording, a trend that would continue into the 70’s. Released in 1966, the album features 12 gospel songs backed by country session musicians.    The result is an excellent album of songs played in a simple old school country style.DSCN4624 (800x789)

For a sample, I really wanted to use “The Wayfaring Pilgrim” but this record has seen much use and the song skipped.  So instead I decided to post “He Set Me Free” which Hank Williams borrowed from with “I Saw The Light”. I was a bit disappointed in Hank about this even though Dylan and Shane McGowan among others have borrowed melodies from existing material.    I also decided to post one of my favorite gospel tunes, “Just A Closer Walk With Thee”.

To me, this is everything that a gospel record should sound like compared to the others I have bought.  This is a top rated album for sure.

Algerd Brazis w/ the Zibuokles Women’s Sextet- Favorite Lithuanian Hymns.

DSCN4546Ah, another busy day of work and hockey tonight which crams whatever home life I have into a short window.  As a result, I will try to breeze thru this post for this album I bought to diversify my blog. It was 80 cents.2722480122_3abd331740_b

This album is a collection of Lithuanian hymns, sung by baritone Algerd Brazis with the Zibuokles Women’s sextet.  Brazis died in 2007 at age 92.  He was recognized in his obituary for his 31 year stint with the Chicago Lithuanian Opera as well as his work with the Met in New York.   The Zimbuokles Women’s Sextet , on the other hand were from New Jersey. Louis Stukas was the director. Also a New Jersey native, he passed in 2005.  The organ, which I wish there were more of, was played by Algerdas Kacanauskas.  I had to translate his information.  He was born in St Petersburg in 1917, fled to Germany in 1944, moved to Brooklyn sometime in the 1950’s, and died in 1977.  Along the way, he became a accomplished international organist in Lithuanian circles. and I thought I was not going to do back stories today.2333684931_41bf1e4e24

These hymns were influenced by both Gregorian and Polyphonic singing, although I would argue this album lacks the first part, at least in the sense that makes it interesting.  German chorales and Polish religious hymns also shape this art form which was passed down not from sheet music but rather oral traditions.  If you are looking for rarities here you are out of luck.  These are popular hymns.  They are however not liturgical, which means according to the back of the album, they can be sung at home.DSCN4547

For a sample, I decided to go with “Sveika Marija” or Hail Mary, sung by the baritone, Brazis.VilniusHolyGhostChurch

Meh.  I guess I was expecting a bit deeper organ and a bit more chorus. At least I got this done in twenty minutes.


Billy Preston- I Wrote a Simple Song

DSCN3683This was $4.00 approx.  It looked like a good album not being up to date on Billy Preston’s discography at time of purchase.BillyPreston-020411-0002Billy’s Website

Preston, who first met the Beatles in Hamburg with Little Richard, played on the later albums and is featured in the film “Let It Be”.  He also had a decent solo career.  He was born in Houston, Texas in 1946.  He would die in 2006.beatles billy

This was Preston’s sixth studio album but his first for A&M.  Released in 1971, it got decent chart success and produced a #2 single with “Outa-Space”.  Quincy Jones arranged the strings and horns.  David T. Walker plays the guitars.  George Harrison plays a dobro on the title song.  There are some funky performances and there are some slower gospel numbers. Overall, it is a good album.DSCN3684There are a few good songs to choose from, but somehow today, for Martin Luther King Day, I felt “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee” was a more appropriate choice.billy_preston

Satisfactory record.


VA- Sunday Morning at South Main


This was $1.00 and just down the street from my place.  02, represent.


South Main Baptist Church was founded in 1903 as the Tuam Baptist Church (please note that Tuam is Irish! I get into fights constantly about this).In 1930, the church was moved to its current location at Main and was renamed accordingly.  The church had a significant growth in the 70’s during which point, it was named Church of the Year by Guidepost magazine.  The 80’s were less groovy but equally important to the community.  At a time when people, businesses, and other churches were fleeing downtown, South Main Baptist increased their commitment to the area. As a result, South Main has become the diverse church it is today.

Church Web Page

I tried to get some information about the pipe organ.  According to the website, the organ was installed in 1934 by the Kilgen Organ Company.  Additons were made by John T. Ford in 1987.  However, in 2009, the church decided to replace all components of the organ and enlarge the existing chambers.  A task force was formed in 2014 and after some deliberation, the church decided to go with Nichols and Simpson Organ Builders of Little Rock, Arkansas.  I am assuming the new organ is installed by now.  Below is a link to its specifications:

Organ Specs


This album has a varied selection of various church music from organ music, to choir ensembles, to solo singing, to brass pieces, to guitar.  It was conducted by Thad Roberts, JR, who was the Minister of Music at the time.  I was torn between an organ piece and a choir piece so I split the difference.  For a sample, I went with “Tone Poem on a Spiritual” which is a straight organ piece.  I also submit “And all the Earth Shall Own Him Lord”  which is a choir piece heavily driven by organ.SouthMainBaptist3-L

As far as church recordings go, this one is satisfactory.  Plus, you knows I got to give props to the 02 although I am not sure how this is still in the 02.  I thought it would be 77004 by now. Well, bravo to you, South Main Baptist for keeping it in the 02.


Jimmy Swaggart- Holy


This was 80 cents.50364350

You have to have been living under a rock not to know that Swaggart is a cousin of  Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley. The head of a massive televangelist network until scandal in the late 80’s/ early 90’s, Swaggart has released around 50 or so records.2730-thumb-lg-500x342

This record, released in 1974, is a collection of hymns and gospel tunes, accompanied by other musicians as well as the piano which I assume is played by Swaggart.

DSCN0884The tunes are a bit slower for my liking but what are you to expect.  For a sample, I picked “Camping in Caanan Land”, which is one of the few up tempo moments. It also has a nice piano line.abc_abc_swaggart_apology_100218_wg

Meh.  I prefer something a bit more up tempo such as the Blind Boys of Alabama or Rev Cleveland in terms of gospel music.



Red and Murphy & Co- Fast Picks and Hot Licks

DSCN0047This was $2.00.  It was autographed by Red and Murphy.

DSCN0048Red and Murphy and Co were a bluegrass band formed by husband and wife Red and Murphy Henry with Murphy’s sisters on rhythm mandolin and bass fiddle.   Murphy, who grew up singing in church and learning piano, picked up the guitar during the folk boom of the sixties (at least I imagine).  Teaching her sisters to play in order to back her up, she played around the University of Georgia.  After playing bass in more established acts, Murphy realized that she would gain more spotlight playing the banjo.  She met Red Henry at a bluegrass festival.  Shortly after, they got married and formed a band.  Based out of Gainesville, Florida, they would perform regularly from the mid 70’s to 1986.  They would be backed up by Murphy’s sisters as well as their children as time progressed.  I believe their daughter , Casey, has become quite accomplished in her own right.R_M1985a

During this time, Murphy taught banjo and after some evolution, the couple started their own instruction method.  With this endeavor, the family band gets together about twice a year and both Red and Murphy play here and there as well.  Murphy also wrote a book recently, Pretty Good for a Girl, documenting the unsung role of women in bluegrass.

Murphy Method Webpage


The album itself, is pretty good bluegrass.  Released in 1978, it is a collection of rolling banjo and mandolin tunes backed up with vocals from the family.  Additionally, Red plays fiddle on a few of the tunes as well.  Some of the highlights include the title track, “The Band Played On”, “Hold Back the Waters” and “Cabin in Caroline”


I really wanted to pick a song that showcased Murphy’s vocals as a sample, but for some reason, I fell in love with the Stamps-Baxter song, “He Will Set Your Fields on Fire”, with Red on lead vocals.  The females do an excellent job on backup vocals and the playing is good as well.  maxresdefault

Satisfactory rating.  If you are a casual bluegrass fan, the genre may get old after awhile, but in terms of both technical prowess and emotional expression, this album accomplishes both.


Rev James Cleveland and the Charles Fold Singers- Vol III


DSCN0993When I saw this in the $1 dollar bin, I nearly wet myself. The Rev. James Cleveland is the King of Gospel Music and the track listing looked awesome. You can imagine then the great disappointment when I got home and pulled out the record to find that it was different. What I actually got was Rev Cleveland and the Charles Fold Singers. Serves me right for not checking this is the store. What are you going to do? I mean I paid a dollar for it and the Metro costs $1.25. I don’t want to be the asshole who tries to return a dollar record.

Besides boasting great songs, the tracks on the album cover were short. In contrast, the album I got are long. And I would say the album focuses more on the Charles Fold Singers than the Reverend. He pokes his voice out on this from time to time but it is mostly the choir doing the majority of the work. From what I can tell, this record was released in 1978 whereas the one I wanted was closer to his prime in the 50’s/ 60’s. Despite two upbeat numbers, the majority of the tracks are slow movers. I feel the original album would have a better mix of tempos. I have listened to a few tracks from what I thought I was getting on You Tube which only confirm these beliefs

Anyway, disappointment aside, I got to walk away with something, so here is “God’s Not Dead” which along with “Tell it to Jesus” is one of the two most up-tempo songs on the album . It should be noted that the Reverend is not prominent on this cut.DSCN0994

I hate to give this a low rating, but again, it was heartbreaking for me to pull this out of the jacket. What I got was not representative of his early great works. I will be on the lookout for the original album and hope to post this someday.