When Memphis' Stax Records launched its Gospel Truth imprint in 1972, its mission was simple: to "carry the message of today's gospel to the people on the street." The label's Al Bell worked closely with in-house radio guru/producer/songwriter Dave Clark and staffer Mary Peak Paterson to afford Gospel Truth the same level of promotion as Stax's secular releases, and accessibility was the byword. Bell paired traditional gospel talents with young artists well-versed in rock, funk, blues, and soul. Stax creative director Larry Shaw made sure that the imprint's releases bore the same hallmarks of quality in packaging and sound as the company's front-line titles. A 2020 campaign from Stax saw the first-time digital release of Gospel Truth's albums discography as well as a Complete Singles Collection on physical and digital formats. Now, Vinyl Me, Please is bringing six of Gospel Truth's finest albums back into print on vinyl as a new 6-LP box set, Truth Where It's At: The Best of Gospel Truth.
Over the course of over two dozen albums and singles, Gospel Truth cast its net wider than traditional black American gospel, taking in Indian meditative teachings, white roots music, contemporary choral music, psychedelia, and more - a true melting pot of spiritual sounds. Gospel Truth releases often differed from the music on the parent label as many tracks were sourced from various production houses rather than produced at Stax, and then given the gritty yet radio-friendly Stax treatment in the mix stage by the label's engineers. Stax never intended these recordings to be "underground;" they promoted and marketed them as if they would a so-called mainstream soul/R&B release. The connection to pop-soul was evident by Michigan trio The Rance Allen Group's reworkings of hit songs; their self-titled 1972 LP included in the upcoming box features "Just My Salvation," a lyrical reworking of The Temptations' classic "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)." (They also added a gospel twist to Archie Bell and The Drells' "There's Gonna Be a Showdown," while The St. James Gospel Choir turned Wilson Pickett's "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You" into "Don't Let the Devil Fool You.") Gospel Truth was no ordinary gospel imprint.
VMP's collection features the following six, long-unavailable albums, all originally released in 1972 and 1973:
- The Rance Allen Group, The Rance Allen Group (GTS-2701, 1972);
- Maceo Woods and The Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir, Jesus People (GTS-2704, 1972);
- Louise McCord, A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson (GTS-2711, 1972);
- Clarence Smith, Whatever Happened to Love (GTS-2716, 1973);
- The Gospel Artistics, The Gospel Artistics (GTS-2717, 1973); and
- Blue Aquarius, Blue Aquarius (GTS-2725, 1973).
Truth Where It's At: The Best of Gospel Truth is limited to 1,000 foil-stamped and numbered units. Each title has been pressed on 180-gram vinyl, with AAA lacquers cut by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. A 20-page Listening Notes booklet has been written by Memphis journalist Jared "Jay B." Boyd. The collection is expected to arrive in mid-May, and members of VMP's record club will receive a discount on the price. Visit Vinyl Me, Please for more information on this rousing new collection.
Leave a Reply