Now I don’t mind admitting it, but I’m far from a regular when it comes to churchgoing. I’ve better things to do on a Sunday morning. Maybe things would be different if the music in churches was more like the music on Good God! Apocryphal Hymns which was recently released by Numero Group? Veering between soulful and spiritual, it’s music that’s downright funky. It’s music that’ll make a believer out of you, and have you dancing in the aisles. You’ll give thanks for the nineteen tracks that can be found on Good God! Apocryphal Hymns, the third volume in the Good God compilation series. Uplifting, joyous, soulful and funky, music doesn’t get better than Good God! Apocryphal Hymns, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

The first volume in the Good God compilation series, was compilation series, Eccentric Soul: A Green Red Production, was Good God!-A Gospel Funk Hymnal.  Released back in August 2007, Good God!-A Gospel Funk Hymnalfeatured nineteen tracks. These tracks were a delicious mixture of soul, funk and gospel. Listeners were introduced to the delights of Cliff Gober, 5 Spiritual Tones, Triumphs, Modulation and LaVice and Company. On its release, Good God!-A Gospel Funk Hymnal received rave reviews. There was no doubt, there had to be a followup to Good God!-A Gospel Funk Hymnal.

That came nearly three longs years later in February 2010. Good God!-Born Again Funk featured another nineteen tracks, soul, gospel and jazz sat side-by-side. Listeners enjoyed the music of Ada Richards, Victory Travellers, Golden Echoes, Sacred Four and Jordan Travellers. Released to critical acclaim, it looked like Numero Group had a successful compilation series on their hands. In no rush to release volume three, Good God! Apocryphal Hymns was released over three long years later. Many people who’d bought the first two volumes had almost forgotten about the Good God series. They were about to receive a pleasant surprise when Good God! Apocryphal Hymns was released.

Good God! Apocryphal Hymns was released in July 2013. This is no ordinary compilation though. Straight away, there’s an air of mystery to the compilation. That’s because of Numero Group’s low key approach to marketing. There’s no in-your-face, garish cover. Instead, just a beautiful photo of sunset on the front, with the title in small font on the back. To me, this adds an air of mystery. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of Factory Records. It’s as if nothing is meant to detract from the music. That’s no bad thing.

The same low-key approach continues when you open the box. The booklet is an attempt to replicate the stock jackets of the glory days of vinyl. Intriguingly, the title doesn’t feature on the front cover. Looking through the rest of the booklet, it’s understated, informative and most importantly, accurate. That’s very welcome, and is the perfect antidote to a compilation I came across recently. It featured a boastful introduction overstated the music’s importance. Then there were the worst sleeve-notes I’ve ever come across, which were also riddled with inaccuracies. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. Instead, Good God! Apocryphal Hymns comes across as a lovingly compiled compilation. Scans of the singles and photos are included alongside the lengthy sleeve-notes. Overall, I’m really impressed with Good God! Apocryphal Hymns. Let’s just hope that’s the case when I tell you about the highlights of Good God! Apocryphal Hymns.

My first choice from Good God! Apocryphal Hymns, is Robert Vanderbilt and The Foundation Of Souls’ A Message Especially From God. Released on Sensational Records, it was written and arranged by Robert Vanderbilt. This was his recording debut in what had been, an intriguing musical journey. A gospel prodigy, he’d struggled to make a living. He  tried the chitlin circuit, parked cars and farming. Eventually, on the advice of his uncle Robert headed to Chicago. That’s where The Foundation Of Souls “discovered” Robert. He grasps this opportunity and delivers a heartfelt, soulful vocal on this understated, but beautiful fusion of soul and gospel.

A bluesy harmonica opens Spiritual Harmonizers’ God’s Love, which was released on Radex Recording in 1971. This was the result of a musical adventure that began in 1950, when Bland Childress and his father headed to Sherman, Texas. Soon, Bland was singing with the Bluejay Quartet. After a spell in the military, Bland sang in various gospel acts, including Sons of The Holy Land and The Traveling Four. It was only when he joined the Spiritual Harmonizers and was paired with producer Dexter Witt that Bland’s potential was realised. His ethereal, haunting falsetto soars above urgent harmonies and searing guitars for company. Heartfelt and impassioned, it’s the voice of a mystical angel.

Jonah Thompson was one of a family of thirteen. Born in Lewiston, North Carolina, Jonah was a taught himself guitar. This progressed to writing song and forming The Harmonizing Kings. Later, he moved to Brooklyn. Drifting between jobs, he played and wrote music part-time. Sadly, every song he wrote, record companies turned down. He recorded I Must Be Strong in 1972 for Friday Records. Then in 1980, Inspiring Records released Get Involved. Featuring a dramatic, emotive backdrop, Jonah’s vocal is soulful and full of sincerity, as he delivers some spiritual lyrics which are among the best on Good God! Apocryphal Hymns.

Dwain Vinyard was born in Chicago and moved to Detroit as a child. He’s a hugely talented vocalist, who could’ve and should’ve, enjoyed a really successful career. Originally, he was a member of The Second Soulful Hounds, who then became The Outcasts. During that time, things went somewhat awry for Dwain. Luckily, in 1979, he got his life back on track. Deciding it was time to record again, he headed to a studio in Michigan and recorded two tracks. One was Searching For The Truth, which has a wistful, languid sound. Rolls of vocal, drums and chiming guitars set the scene for Dwain’s thoughtful vocal. Pensive, he’s seeking answers, “Searching For The Truth,” as he delivers a tender, soulful and melancholy vocal.

A lone chiming guitar winds its melancholy way across the arrangement to Sinner Man, which was released in 1975. It’s a fusion of soul, funk and rock from Religious Soul. Recorded in Jack Casey’s Rome Studios, Sinner Man was then released by the H&M label. Later that year, their debut album Sinner Man was released. The title-track features a soaring, soul-baring falsetto is accompanied by the unmistakable sound of a wailing Hammond organ, pounding drums, chiming guitars and cooing harmonies. A spine-tingling, spiritual combination, it’s a powerful track where the Sinner Man lays bare his soul and sins for all to see.

From the get-go, the Whole Truth’s Can You Lose By Following God has you in its spell. That’s despite the somewhat lo-fi recording. A compelling combination of soul, gospel and blues, it was released on the Memphis label EFE Records. There’s an honesty to the music. Washes of Hammond organ provide a backdrop for chiming guitar and prowling bass line. Veering between power and passion to tenderness is Johnny Frierson’s vocal. Johnny delivers the lyrics as of he’s torn between believing or questioning them. 

Way before Francis Reneau built a career as classical composer, she played organ on Francis Reneau and the Mission Singers’ I Hear You Calling. Francis Cegg takes charge of the vocal. It’s impassioned and sincere, as she gives thanks. Harmonies respond to her call while horns blaze and drums roll. At the heart of the track’s success is the atmospheric organ and Francis’ joyful vocal.

Chester Lewis’ Precious Lord is my final choice from Good God! Apocryphal Hymns. Best described as Hendrix-esque, he’s accompanied by a whooping, hollering audience, hissing hats and drums. He drives the audience into a frenzy, on this track recorded live in Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rocky Mount. Released in 1980 on the Eternal Gold label, it’s a dramatic slice of psychedelia from a true showman.

While I’ve just picked eight of the nineteen tracks on Good God! Apocryphal Hymns, I could’ve just as easy picked any number of other tracks. This includes contributions from the Sensational Saints, Supreme Jubilees, Otis G. Johnson or the Bernard Upshaw Singers. These are just a few of the nineteen tracks which are delivered with passion, emotion and sincerity. Many of the tracks were recorded on low budgets on quite basic equipment. That gives the tracks a lo-fi sound. Adding to the lo-fi sound is that many of the tracks have been recorded directly from vinyl. The odd snap, crackle and pop adds to the music’s charm. It gives the music an honesty, which is a good word to describe the music on Good God! Apocryphal Hymns,. 

Released six years after the release of the first in the Good God series of gospel music compilations, Good God! Apocryphal Hymns, is the third in the series. That’s no bad thing, as there’s a real lack of quality modern gospel compilations. Compilations like Good God! Apocryphal Hymns will rectify this. With its fusion of soul, funk, rock and gospel, Good God! Apocryphal Hymns, will be something of an eyeopener for newcomers to gospel music. The nineteen tracks will show that gospel can be downright funk and always, always, always, is soulful. Even after one listen to Good God! Apocryphal Hymns, newcomers will realize that there’s much more to gospel music than they first thought. Soulful, funky and sometimes psychedelic, this eclectic collection of gospel music is the perfect primer for newcomers to the genre. Surely, Good God! Apocryphal Hymns will make a believer out of you? Standout Tracks: Robert Vanderbilt and The Foundation Of Souls A Message, Dwain Vinyard Searching For The Truth, Religious Soul Sinner Man and Chester Lewis Precious Lord. 


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