New York Community Choir - New York Community Choir (1977/2014) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz
Artist: New York Community Choir
Title: New York Community Choir
Genre: R&B, Gospel, Soul, Disco, Religious
Label: © RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment
Release Date: 1977/2014
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 96kHz/24bit
Recorded at RCA Studios, New York. Remastered at Battery Studios, New York.
Gospel, arguably, has often been the “R” in R&B. A long list of soul icons, from Aretha Franklin to Gladys Knight to Otis Redding to Teddy Pendergrass, were greatly influenced by the African-American Protestant church music they grew up with (Franklin’s father was the late Rev. C.L. Franklin, a well respected Baptist minister and civil rights activist). Sam Cooke and Johnnie Taylor were members of the Soul Stirrers (a major gospel group) before they became R&B stars, and Lou Rawls was a member of the Pilgrim Travelers (another major gospel group) before he made his mark in secular music. Clearly, gospel has a long history of influencing secular R&B. But that has worked both ways, and in the 1970s, R&B-influenced gospel grew in popularity thanks to the New York Community Choir (NYCC) as well as the Edwin Hawkins Singers, Rance Allen and Andraé Crouch, among others. NYCC were highly adventurous during the 1970s, combining the rhythms of soul, funk and disco with the choir vocals and Christian-based lyrics of African-American gospel. And that combination is alive and well on this self-titled album, which was originally released by RCA Records as a vinyl LP back in 1977.
When The New York Community Choir first came out 36 years ago, NYCC were considered both innovative and controversial in the gospel community. Some of the stricter churches had strong reservations about bringing the rhythms, beats and melodies of secular R&B into gospel; as they saw it, gospel was gospel and R&B was R&B—and that was that. But other congregations had a different viewpoint, arguing that if NYCC could get secular R&B fans to listen to gospel, more power to them. And sure enough, a combination of gospel and R&B audiences proved receptive to The New York Community Choir.
Musically, this album clearly reflects the R&B climate of 1977, a year in which Philadelphia International Records was huge, Earth, Wind & Fire and the Commodores were headlining large stadiums, Chic had their first hits and Saturday Night Fever exploded at the box office. 1977 was an exciting year for R&B, and The New York Community Choir illustrates that excitement—at least on a rhythmic and melodic level. This album might sound a lot like the R&B of that era, but lyrically, there is no question that this is very much a gospel album. NYCC combine their gospel message with the energy of 1970s soul on uptempo grooves like “Tell It All” and “Express Yourself” as well as on the ballads “Draw Now Closer” and “Changed.”
Many of the traditional gospel artists of the 1970s were musical isolationists, refusing to work with musicians who had anything to do with secular music. But on this album, NYCC didn’t hesitate to employ session players who had been quite active in secular music, including Leon Pendarvis, Steve Gadd and Richard Tee. Pendarvis, a skillful arranger and keyboardist, had a long list of secular credits on his résumé when NYCC recruited him for this album, including Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Melba Moore, Esther Phillips and the Dynamic Superiors (of “Shoe Shoe Shine” fame).
The influence of late 1970s disco is mistakable on “Reborn,” “Nothing Can Separate Me,” “Since You Came in My Life” and “Have a Good Time,” but the disco influence on those exuberant, danceable selections brings to mind the disco-soul of Trammps, Sylvester, Double Exposure, Gloria Gaynor and Loleatta Holloway rather than the European disco of Silver Convention, Love and Kisses, Cerrone, Giorgio Moroder, Amanda Lear or the Munich Machine. Disco, of course, came out of soul; Motown Records, Barry White, Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff (the producer/songwriters who founded Philadelphia International Records), Isaac Hayes and other masters of orchestral soul all did their part to pave the way for what came to called disco (a term derived from the French word “discothèque,” which is what dance clubs were called in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s). And even on the most club-friendly parts of this album, NYCC don’t forget disco’s soul roots.
In addition to the eight songs that appeared on 1977’s original New York Community Choir LP, this CD reissue contains three bonus tracks: an extended 11-minute dance remix of “Express Yourself,” a nine-minute dance remix of “Have a Good Time” and “Easy to Be Hard” (which is from Disco Spectacular, a 1979 project/compilation that offered unlikely disco-soul arrangements of songs from the musical Hair). Back in 1977, RCA opted to release “Express Yourself” as a 12” single with “Have a Good Time” as its b-side—and that single accomplished something that very few gospel recordings accomplished in the late 1970s: it enjoyed exposure in both secular dance clubs and church gatherings.
Upon seeing the title “Express Yourself,” some R&B historians might wonder if perhaps NYCC’s “Express Yourself” is a remake of the soul-funk classic that was a major hit for Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band in 1970 and was sampled by the influential gangsta rappers N.W.A on one of the singles from their landmark Straight Outta Compton album of 1988 (N.W.A’s single was also titled “Express Yourself”). But in fact, NYCC’s “Express Yourself” and Wright’s “Express Yourself” are two different songs.
The influence of NYCC and other pioneers of R&B-minded gospel continued long after the 1970s. In fact, the R&B-meets-gospel approach became even more prominent in the 1980s with the popularity of the Clark Sisters, the Winans, Yolanda Adams and Tramaine Hawkins (who was briefly a member of the late 1960s/early 1970s female soul group Honey Cone before they achieved stardom with Motown-influenced hits like “Want Ads” and “Stick Up”). And in the 21st Century, R&B/gospel fusion has been bigger than ever with Christian urban contemporary stars such as Kirk Franklin and the female duo Mary Mary. But to understand what’s happening in the present, it’s important to take a close look at the past—and this uplifting reissue leaves no doubt that back in the 1970s, the New York Community Choir played a significant role in the union of gospel and R&B. —Alex Henderson, January 2013
1 Tell It All 5:50
2 Since You Came In My Life 3:41
3 Changed 7:00
4 Reborn 5:21
5 Nothing Can Separate Me 5:22
6 Draw Now Closer 7:21
7 Express Yourself 4:22
8 Have A Good Time 3:36
9 Express Yourself (12") 11:45
10 Have A Good Time (12") 9:30
11 Easy To Be Hard 8:34
The New York Community Choir
Errol Crusher Bennett - Congas
George Devens - Percussion
Benny Diggs - Composer, Vocal Arrangement
Steve Gadd - Drums
Will Lee IV - Bass
L. Leon Pendarvis - Arranger, Clavinet, Fender Rhodes
Richard Tee - Piano
Jerry Friedman, John Tropea - Guitars
You must register before you can view this text. Please register and Login
Would you like to leave your comment? Please Login to your account to leave comments. Don't have an account? You can create a free account now.