Various artists: Soul Gospel 2, Various artists: Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal

Various artists
Soul Gospel 2
Soul Jazz

Various artists
Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal
Numero Group

A few years ago, in the now sadly defunct Sound Collector Audio Review, gospel enthusiast Mike McGonigal denoted his own earthly struggles with the genre: "This music is so good I almost don't want to write about it. Seriously, I do not want you dorks in trucker hats crowding me out." Thankfully for us, McGonigal is writing a book about gospel and sanctified blues, having since admitted to being secretly thrilled at a wider audience for this passionate, raw, often overlooked music. Mere mention of Jewish carpenters still sends most twentysomethings (save for Sufjan Stevens fans) running for the hills.

The tastemakers at Soul Jazz are doing their damnedest to bring such salvation to shelves. Their second volume of the oxymoronically titled Soul Gospel continues to explore the divide between the profane and the sacred. Of course, soul wouldn't exist without the church's music; its most profound practitioners—from Sam Cooke to Aretha Franklin—all started singing from their hymnals. Even so, the curators here seem reluctant to do more than dip their toes in the baptismal waters, the results neither as rapturous as the most fiery gospel nor as devastating as the deepest soul. The emphasis is instead on funk and grooves (see the Marion Ganes Singers and Meditation Singers), as well as tepid updates of Bill Withers (by Della Reese) and Stevie Wonder (by Myrna Summers). Of course, the Staple Singers lord over the proceedings: Pops Staples's heavenly tremolo and Mavis's pipes take Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" straight to church.

Similarly, the Numero Group's Good God! is concerned less with who's behind the podium and more with who's seated on the drum throne. A trap-and-conga set pushes Trevor Dandy's "Is There Any Love?" while glissades of harp and searing acid guitar announce Preacher & the Saints' "Jesus Rhapsody Pt. 1." Its funky Superfly break shows their concern with being on both the good foot and the good word. Simply transcendental are the thunderous toms and blinding ride cymbal that power the Voices of Conquest's "O Yes My Lord" heavenward. In each instance, these sets seek Jesus and a divine breakbeat.

 
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