Sparse but compelling gospel recordings from the late 60s and early 70s, brimming with the soul sounds for which Dave Hamilton is renowned.
Detroit guitarist, producer and label-owner Dave Hamilton worked in the city from the mid-40s to the end of the century. He was involved in most fields of black music; gospel was no exception. Although not a particularly religious person, his home was directly opposite Reverend C.L. Franklin’s New Bethel Baptist Church, which his daughters Erma, Aretha and Carolyn would attend and sing. It was a major hub for the Civil Rights movement and Hamilton would have made many contacts through that church. Having an affordable recording studio in the centre of the city, and a reputation as an accomplished guitarist, producer and approachable character, meant he was in business in the right place at the right time.
Hamilton dabbled with gospel recordings throughout his career; in 1969 he registered his Sacred Sounds imprint and entered the gospel field seriously. The label had around 20 single releases and at least one album. The records were sold in the churches where the groups performed, and also got across the USA through plays on radio station WLAC. They must have been pressed in relatively small numbers, judging by the scarcity of the discs today. A few 45s were pressed on one-off labels such as New Creation, Silver Harp and Motor City, and the Reynolds Singers featuring Little Stevie was released on Hamilton’s otherwise secular Demoristic outlet.
The master tapes have been well preserved, so the sound on most tracks is very good. The tape reels include many unissued gospel recordings, including an album’s worth by the Scott Singers, two of which are included here, along with numbers from the Reverend Simon Barbee, blues singer Mr Bo and Hamilton’s main male soul singer, O C Tolbert, whose family group was a major gospel act. With Hamilton’s heavy involvement in black music, the tracks are a superb blend of gospel, soul and even blues; they will appeal to lovers of most related genres. Although recorded mainly 1969-1974, the timeless nature of black church music makes their appeal relevant to fans from any decade.
Detroit music historian Adam Stanfel provides excellent notes featuring interviews with some of the participants and there is a tremendous selection of photos, label scans and some trivia that complements the package. As Kent’s first foray into gospel, Dave Hamilton’s inspired work is a natural starting point.