We recently received “Classic Moments In Jubilee Showcase,” a DVD offering up some of the more prestigious segments on what was the long standing Jubilee Showcase, a Chicago-area television show that primarily focused on filming some of the hottest gospel acts performing live on stage. The show played amazing gospel for a full 21 years.
The first musical set featured Pops Staples playing electric, with daughter Mavis growling in her powerful trademark sound, even as a young woman. Seeing a young Mavis perform in her family setting is an incredible treat.
The timeless Soul Stirrers make an early impression, with James Phelps, (who passed away just days over a year ago last October), leading the great gospel standard Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone. At this time, Phelps had only recently taken over the reigns of the Soul stirrers from arguably the greatest singer on the planet, Sam Cooke, who had left to pursue what would soon be a wildly successful secular career. Phelps has an infectious and striking voice which is crystal clear on the DVD, and from his four minute appearance, it was exceptionally obvious why Chess Records would soon pursue Phelps in the hopes of having the next big music superstar. The man could sing.
While the first 20 minutes of the DVD is in black in white (it was, after all, largely the 60s,) which might turn off some viewers, it shouldn’t. The music stands on it’s own two feet and exudes energy, power, and reverence from a multitude of people who could easily have been hugely successful in any musical genre — and many were. The Gospel music on the DVD drips with raw power, and it’s not surprising to see why people are often judged on their “blues singer” abilities based on how they can sing gospel. After all, one begat the other.
Because the footage is presented in chronological order over the 20+ year span of the Jubilee, it is fascinating to be a fly on the wall of the 20 year evolution of the genre compacted into 80-someodd minutes. A particularly poignant note in this evolution is the Soul Stirrers, which the first half of the footage leans relatively heavily on. During the course of about ten years, (the footage disappointingly doesn’t give dates), the Stirrers went through two different leads ont he show, and an almost entirely rotated cast of band members. The first musical numbers the Stirrers did, the announcer had mentioned the recent departure of then-gospel star Sam Cooke. The last number — the same announcer, noticeably older, mentions Cooke’s tragically early passing.
Overall, gospel is some of the most powerful music in American history, and the “Classic Moments in Jubilee Showcase” spotlights the cream of the crop. From the stirring Roebuck “Pops” Staples to the overtly powerful Jessy Dixon, the music will raise the hair on the backs of necks and lift spirits. Fans of gospel will cherish this DVD.