In the spring of 1943, an a cappella male gospel quartet called the Kings of Harmony cut the first of many sides for the new King Solomon Records, a subsidiary of Savoy Records, itself a newcomer specializing in the emerging sounds of bebop. Unbeknownst to the quartet or to Savoy at the time, they were kick starting what would become one of the most important catalogues of recorded gospel music ever amassed under one roof.
This eight disc, 100-track collection from the Malaco Music Group takes you on an aural journey through the past eight decades of African American gospel music. Each disc contains some of the most beloved gospel recordings ever made, rendered by the singers, duos, groups, quartets, and choirs who popularized them. From Mahalia Jackson and Roberta Martin to the Jackson Southernaires, the Mississippi Mass Choir, and Maurette Brown Clark—no other package offers so much variety. That’s because only the Malaco Music Group has access to so much gospel variety.
This box set is also one of the first, if not the first, to explore in depth the mass choir phenomenon that not only dominated gospel radio from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s but produced many of today’s top-selling songwriters, soloists, and musicians. Naturally, a collection of such scope can’t help but showcase the many stylistic changes that took place in gospel music during the past 75 years. But the 100 selections also demonstrate what hasn’t changed: gospel’s unwavering commitment to cultural relevance and its focus on remaining resilient in this mean old world in which we live. And when in doubt or trouble-laden, Calvin Bridges writes, you can go to God in prayer. Whether you are a lifelong gospel music enthusiast or taking your first deep dive into the music of hope and inspiration, this collection is for you. As the Reverend Clay Evans would say, may it bless you real good!