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Mahalia Jackson

  • Moving On Up a Little Higher [Spirit Feel, 2016] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Moving On Up a Little Higher [Spirit Feel, 2016]
In part because deciding that Jesus wasn't my savior was the toughest intellectual work of my life, I'm not much of a gospel fan, and that goes double for the kind of stately midtempo message singers I avoid in every genre--I don't even really get Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace, hailed as her very peak by many nonbelievers with their fingers crossed. Nonetheless, this is Mahalia Jackson, and I've tried, Lord, I've tried--particularly by buying her early stuff, from before Columbia turned her into what the indefatigable gospel scholar Anthony Heilbut once called "a black Kate Smith." But this career-spanning, Heilbut-compiled selection of live rarities reached me as my earlier tries hadn't, so with other Mahalia versions of half its songs already in my iTunes, I compared and contrasted. Heilbut's finds won every time. At their very best--"Keep Your Hand on the Plow," "Didn't It Rain," the storytelling "Jesus Met the Woman at the Well"--they rock and roll with such grace I shout about it. Often they remind me that the piano is a percussion instrument. And at the very least they're more relaxed. Yet in the end, there's still a bunch of stately message singing here. B+