Craft Recordings is pleased to honor the music of Gospel Truth Records, a subsidiary of Stax Records, with the first-ever digital release of 25 albums from the label’s catalog. Beginning 3/13 with The Rance Allen Group’s 1972 self-titled debut, the titles will be released every week in chronological order, leading up to September’s Gospel Heritage Month. In addition to the digital reissues, the campaign will include a singles compilation, set to drop September 4th on vinyl, CD and digital formats, plus several playlists and new video content.
From the divine gospel of Rev. T.L. Barrett and Rev. Maceo Woods to the cutting-edge message music of Louise McCord and marquee artist Rance Allen, the Gospel Truth catalog exemplifies the dynamic heritage of Stax’s influence. Reaching beyond the realms of the black American gospel tradition, the ’70s label showcased a diverse collection of talent—including the Indian meditative teachings of Blue Aquarius, the white roots music of the Commanders and Rev. Jesse Jackson’s People’s Choir of Operation PUSH, who chronicle the Civil Rights struggle.
Established in 1972, Gospel Truth was conceived of by Stax executive Al Bell, who enlisted the help of radio promotions pioneer and songwriter Dave Clark and label staffer Mary Peak Patterson to oversee the formation of the imprint. With a focus on moving the good word out of the pulpit and into the hands of the masses, Gospel Truth was intended to “carry the message of today’s gospel to the people on the street,” as promotional material for the label’s launch touted. But what separated Gospel Truth from other labels in the genre was that it made its music accessible to everyone. With his sharp eye for talent, Clark paired down-home, traditional gospel musicians with raw, revolutionary artists that adopted the conventions of rock, funk and soul, creating a sound that resonated with a hip, ’70s audience.
Clark and Peak also gave Gospel Truth’s artists the same high-level promotional considerations that were given to any of the secular stars at Stax: from outfits and photoshoots to bookings. This also included special attention from Stax’s creative director Larry Shaw, who conceived of a cohesive design language for Gospel Truth—making each record have a conversation with the intended audience. That visual dialogue was a signal that the music could be enjoyed in all settings—sacred or secular.
Kicking off the digital rollout of albums is The Rance Allen Group’s 1972 self-titled debut. The Michigan-based trio of brothers turned the popular local stylings of Motown upside-down—offering a subversive and defiant take on seminal Detroit soul, and juxtaposing their spiritual foundation with secular influences. Another highlight in the catalog is Louise McCord’s A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson, released in response to the 1972 passing of the gospel titan. Breaking away from the conventions of Jackson’s more traditional sound, McCord instead opted to charge toward a deeper, funkier path—as heard on single “Better Get a Move On,” penned by Stax staff writer Bettye Crutcher. McCord also went on to give an electrifying performance at the Wattstax concert later that year.
Taking a more traditional route is Reverend Bernard Avant & the St. James Gospel Choir. Directed by the Southern California–based minister and radio show host Rev. Willie Bernard Avant, Jr., the St. James Gospel Choir’s sound isn’t far removed from that of Southern gospel music—likely a holdover from Avant’s upbringing in Georgia. Similarly, God’s Newspaper, from Reverend J.D. Montgomery & the Mt. Carmel Choir in Detroit, drops the listener right into the excitement of a Sunday service. Recorded in the church’s sanctuary, the album includes a sermon by Rev. Montgomery, as well as powerful selections by the Greater Mt. Carmel Choir.
In celebration of Gospel Heritage Month, Craft will also produce a compilation from the imprint’s catalog. Stay tuned for full details about the compilation, which will be coming to vinyl, CD and digital formats on September 4th. In the meantime, fans can look forward to the release of new lyric videos, plus two special playlists, titled “Gospel Truth” (out May 24th) and “Gospel Easter” (out April 12th), throughout the course of the campaign.
The music, sermons and other recordings included in the Gospel Truth canon, while left for several decades as either a distant memory for many involved or a relic for collectors to behold, holds up today as a collection of enduring importance. In the age of social media, the pursuit of “truth” and the importance of the “gospel” has yet to diminish. In an effort to present both concepts to a new generation of seekers, learners and doers, this collection of releases will serve to provide context for contemporary listeners. As Stax put it in the initial press materials for the imprint, “After all, it doesn’t matter if you listen to gospel quietly…snap your fingers…sing along…or to dance to it, as long as you get the message.”
Gospel Truth Digital Album Releases:
March 13: The Rance Allen Group – The Rance Allen Group
March 20: Reverend Lee Jackson – At Calvary
March 27: Reverend Maceo Woods and the Christian Tabernacle Choir – In Concert
April 3: Maceo Woods and the Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir – Jesus People
April 10: Reverend J.D. Montgomery & The Mt. Carmel Choir – God’s Newspaper
April 17: Reverend Maceo Woods and the Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir – God Save Your People
April 24: The Howard Lemon Singers – Message For Today
May 1: The Rance Allen Group – Truth Is Where It’s At
May 8: Reverend Bernard Avant & The St. James Gospel Choir – Reverend Bernard Avant & The St. James Gospel Choir
May 15: Louise McCord – A Tribute To Mahalia Jackson
May 22: The Commanders – Walk With Me
May 29: The Marion Gaines Singers – This Too Is Gospel
June 5: Charles May & Annette May Thomas – Songs Our Father Used To Sing
June 12: Clarence Smith – Whatever Happened To Love
June 19: The Gospel Artistics – The Gospel Artistics
June 26: Rev. T.L. Barrett & The Youth For Christ Choir – I Found The Answer
July 3: The Henry Jackson Company – The Henry Jackson Company
July 10: The People’s Choir Of Operation PUSH – The People’s Choir Of Operation PUSH
July 17: Reverend Maceo Woods and the Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir – A New Dawning
July 24: Blue Aquarius – Blue Aquarius
July 31: Bob Hemphill & The Commanders – Everybody Will Be Happy
August 7: The Rance Allen Group – Brothers
August 14: The Howard Lemon Singers – I Am Determined
August 21: The Marion Gaines Singers – Leaning On The Everlasting Arms
August 28: Reverend Maceo Woods and the Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir – Goodbye Loneliness, Hello Happiness
One of the most popular Soul labels of all time, Stax has become synonymous with its gritty, Southern Rhythm & Blues sounds. Originally known as Satellite Records, the Memphis imprint was founded in 1957 by Jim Stewart. Over the course of two decades, Stax released more than 800 singles and nearly 300 LPs, picking up eight GRAMMYS® and an Academy Award along the way. In all, Stax placed more than 167 hit songs in the Top 100 pop charts, and a staggering 243 hits in the Top 100 R&B charts.
Craft Recordings is home to one of the largest and most prestigious collections of master recordings and compositions in the world. Its rich and storied repertoire includes legendary artists such as Joan Baez, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Vince Guaraldi, John Lee Hooker, Little Richard, Nine Inch Nails, Thelonious Monk, Otis Redding, R.E.M. and Traveling Wilburys, to name just a few. Renowned imprints with catalogs issued under the Craft banner include Concord, Fania, Fantasy, Milestone, Musart, Nitro, Prestige, Riverside, Rounder, Specialty, Stax, Sugar Hill, Vanguard and Vee-Jay Records, among many others. Craft creates thoughtfully curated packages, with a meticulous devotion to quality and a commitment to preservation-ensuring that these recordings endure for new generations to discover. Craft Recordings is the catalog label team for Concord Music.