Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Mighty Clouds of Joy

  • It's Time [Dunhill, 1974] A-
  • Kickin' [ABC, 1975] B-
  • The Very Best of the Mighty Clouds of Joy [ABC, 1978] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

It's Time [Dunhill, 1974]
You'd figure the showiest of all gospel groups would sell out with some flair, but the vocal transfigurations--that old Wilson Pickett (and Julius Cheeks) unhh born again--aren't the only reason this is one of the best LPs ever to come out of Philadelphia. For once, the songs--many of them from producer Dave Crawford, whose spirit must have been moved--include virtually no filler, not even (especially not even) the one that takes off from the group's name. Nicest conceit: how hard it is to be soft in a "Stoned World." A-

Kickin' [ABC, 1975]
Dave Crawford, whose debut production with this group explored the spiritual affinities between showbiz gospel and studio soul, here returns to form by exploiting shared commercial asininities. Don't be fooled if they get the great exception, "Mighty High," onto DJ turntables; Joe Ligon singing "You Are So Beautiful" is even more depressing than Billy Preston. B-

The Very Best of the Mighty Clouds of Joy [ABC, 1978]
This two-disc set presents the pre-crossover Peacock-label gospel and the "appeal to Pop/R&B audiences" as a continuum, and while I'm still a fan of the Clouds' first Dave Crawford LP, guess which period sounds better. Is it the formal purity of the Peacock stuff, leaving the excitement to Joe Ligon's falsetto-piercing shouts, that makes their sermonizing seem so unpresumptuous? Or does the music just go with the message, as in the overbearing orchestrations of the more recent "God Is Not Dead" and "Look on the Bright Side"? One thing I know--gospel songs are written by mortals, too, and all the faith in the world isn't going to make a good one out of a bad one. An acceptable one, maybe. B+