In The Attic)
In The Attic’s re-issue mission has unearthed a true gospel-soul classic with
this 1971 release from Chicago’s
Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth For Christ Choir. Barrett was a socially
active/conscious minister at Chicago’s Mount Zion Baptist Church
who had a special interest in keeping Chicago’s
youth off the mean streets and engaged in positive activities. And it doesn’t
get much more positive than this: Like A Ship…is a feel-good album you
can actually feel good about, a musically and thematically sophisticated
collection of eight Barrett originals and adaptations that convey their message
through the swing of the music as much as through the lyrics. Barrett doesn’t
have to preach: the message is embedded in the messenger.
opening, title track was also the lead-off track on the recent Good God!
Born Again Funk collection from The Numero Group
(reviewed here at BLURT), and it’s easy to see why: gospel soul just doesn’t
get any sweeter and more moving than this. An opening, shimmering electric
piano quickly locks into an easy funk groove, soon followed by Barrett and the
chorus raising their voices to the heavens and aiming them straight at the
street simultaneously. While nothing else here quite matches the dive into the
sublime of the title track, “Wonderful” is the kind of gospel blues that Aretha
Franklin can knock out of the park, “Ever Since” is a popping, edgy funk number
and “Nobody Knows” rocks the gospel with the best. But, really everything here
is fine, including numbers sung by choir members Phebe Hines and Loretta Lake.
had some heavyweight help with this, including arranger Gene Barge (listed as
“Supervisor”) who cut hundreds of sides with Chess Records and ace bass players
Phil Upchurch (4 tracks) and Richard Evans, who played the snaking bass on the
title track. Drummers Charles Pittman and Stanley Fox, and then-seventeen year
old piano/organ player Gary (Snake) Riley ably round out the band. Barrett
himself is a fine, rocking gospel piano player with a real feel for how to work
an electric piano. And the Choir – forty strong – sing like angels. Or, maybe
like we think angels might sing; who’s to say, really?
DOWNLOAD: “Like Ship,” “Wonderful,” “Nobody Knows.” CARL