If there is one figure in Rock ‘n’ Roll deserving of praise she didn’t get, it’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Truly the matriarch of the sound, no one can claim lineage or heritage without passing under her influence. For this reason we’ve placed her recently reissued “Live In 1960” record in the buy this album crate, here on the front page, vice the re-issue news section.
In recent years the secret’s gotten out. The father of rock ‘n’ roll was a mother. Sister Rosetta’s rocking gospel represents everything rock ‘n’ roll has become. Powerful voice, trademark licks, genre breaking power that refuses to be ignored. From Chuck Berry to Freddie Mercury, Betty Davis to Madonna, there is no artists who does not try to bear resemblance in their swagger, musicality, or lasting impact. Like Thomas Dorsey, Tharpe’s twist on the hymns and traditional gospel standards carried into modern times, mixed with urban blues are the foundation of rock ‘n’ roll.
Recorded while on tour at a small venue in Europe, Tharpe is transcendent here. I don’t believe in God, but I believe Sister Rosetta emphatically when she announces on “Vacation In The Sky” that “it seems, that it’s my lot / to not be like them, oh no / I must toil, through the heat and the cold / singing beautiful, playing beautiful, songs of zion / bringing wonders back to the fold”.
Tharpe is almost a cappella but for the stomp of her foot, the occassional clap or holler from the crowd and her famous guitar work. “Didn’t It Rain”, has the crowd clapping in syncopation to her chords and call and response licks. By “Can’t No Grave” Tharpe is holding notes, wailing on the tremolo bar, and playing deadly accurate blues. The feeding of the multitudes happens twice in the bible, but it’s a small miracle compared to the story Tharpe tells of Jesus feeding 5,000 “Two Little Fishes, Five Loaves Of Bread”, softly strumming her electric (listen closely she’s putting on a technique clinic) and working through whole scales with her voice. The way she sings “If we all but love one another, then we would all be fed, on only two little fishes [and] five loaves of bread” is evidence enough for her canonization.
One of her more famous songs “Gospel Train”, an evangelical blues about the “purtiest train I ever have seen” is an odd blues number. If you want to ride it you have to get redeemed, because this train is a clean train. Tharpe’s blues never wallows, she’s actually challenging liars, pretenders, backbiters and even smokers and tobacco chewers to be better…and That’s just side A
From the press release
This live recording from 1960 had never been on vinyl, until now, a whole 57 years later. The set has plenty of variety, lots of sincere feeling, and high levels of musicianship from the unique performer. Highlights include “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands,” “Didn’t It Rain,” “The Gospel Train” and “Down By the Riverside.” The album was remastered for vinyl at Infrasonic Mastering and pressed at Pallas Group in Germany.