Music in this post:
Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth For Christ Choir— Like A Ship… (Without A Sail) [youtube, spotify]
I discovered this incredible album at, of all places, a beach house in the San Francisco Bay Area which mysteriously happened to have a vinyl collection rumored to belong to the founder of Amoeba Music. How’s that for an origin story? It gets better (statement by album reissuer):
To many on Chicago’s South Side, Barrett has been known for more than four decades as an activist and pastor (…). To record collectors, he’s known for recording the classic, much-sought gospel record Like A Ship…(Without A Sail). To the Illinois legal system, he’s the man who fronted a series of pyramid schemes that defrauded thousands of people (for which Barrett was ordered to pay restitution to avoid a prison sentence).
This album is a super hot fuego banger. Review after the jump.
I loved researching this album on the internet, because others also discovered it in their own unlikely way; for example, one reviewer first heard it as interlude music at a Phish concert, which I took as further evidence of its magnetic appeal. Furthering this, a 1989 Chicago Tribune article that sheds some light on the pyramid schemes perpetrated by Barrett quotes,
“The pyramids appear to involve every segment of the population of the metropolitan Chicago area,“ Ware said in a five-page report. “No segment of the population was excluded.
“Claims have been filed by blacks, whites, Hispanics, minors, senior citizens and handicapped individuals,“ the report said.
“There were high school students, college students, clerical people, sales people, professional people, (and) city, county, state and federal employees,“ the report said.
Moving past the personal history behind the album, musically it’s expansive and jazzy. If you just listened to track 8, Blessed Quietness, you might be surprised to discover it was part of a gospel album and not piano jazz. The bass pops out from the get go as a fluid and expressive rhythmic underpinning. The album has more of a jazz tradition of prominently emphasizing bass in recordings, rather than a lot of rock music where sometimes the bass is peripheral. The children’s chorus is surprisingly rich and defined—the right amount of dissonance, and possibly not too many members so that individual voices really punch through. The first and title track is as great a place to start as any, and one of my favorites.
I love this album, and recommend a listen. Super hot fuego.