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Craft Recordings Set to Release 'The Gospel Truth: The Complete Singles Collection'

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Set for a November 13th release date.

Craft Recordings Set to Release 'The Gospel Truth: The Complete Singles Collection'

Craft Recordings announces the release of The Gospel Truth: The Complete Singles Collection, a brand new, comprehensive compilation that spotlights The Gospel Truth Records-an imprint of the legendary soul label, Stax Records. Set for a November 13th release date and available digitally today (9/17), The Gospel Truth: The Complete Singles Collection includes all 17 singles - plus their respective B-sides - issued by the imprint between 1972 and 1974. Physical formats of the title, which can be pre-ordered now, include a two-CD set, as well as a vinyl edition. The three-LP set was pressed at Memphis Record Pressing and comes housed in a handsome triple-gatefold jacket.

The collection also includes in-depth liner notes from Jared Boyd, a Memphis-based journalist and host of NPR's Beale Street Caravan, who captured new interviews with Stax Records executive Al Bell, trailblazing gospel artist Rance Allen, and Mary Peak Patterson, who helped establish The Gospel Truth Records label. In addition, exclusive bundles with a Gospel Truth t-shirt, plus a special gift with purchase (while supplies last), are available at the Stax online store.

Jared Boyd will be participating in an interactive conversation series, titled Sips And Stanzas, hosted by The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM), today (9/17) in celebration of Gospel Music Heritage Month. The virtual discussion will revolve around The Gospel Truth history and current reissues. Join the event today at 4:30 p.m. CST/5:30 EST at NMAAM's Facebook page.

Throughout 2020, Craft Recordings has celebrated the legacy of the pioneering gospel imprint. Beginning in March, 25 albums in The Gospel Truth's catalog were reissued digitally-most for the first time ever. Now, as we celebrate Gospel Music Heritage Month this September, The Complete Singles Collection completes the comprehensive rollout-not only including the label's biggest hits but also unearthing rare, non-album singles and songs from artists who never released full albums on the imprint.

Established in 1972, The Gospel Truth Records was conceived of by Al Bell, who enlisted the help of leading blues and gospel promoter Dave Clark and Stax's Mary Peak Patterson to oversee the formation of the imprint. With a focus on moving the good word out of the pulpit and into the hands of the masses, Gospel Truth was intended to "carry the message of today's gospel to the people on the street," as promotional material for the label's launch touted. But what separated Gospel Truth from other labels in the genre was that it made its music accessible to everyone. With his sharp eye for talent, Clark paired down-home, traditional gospel musicians with raw, revolutionary artists that adopted the conventions of rock, funk, and soul, creating a sound that resonated with a hip, '70s audience.

Clark and Patterson also gave Gospel Truth's artists the same high-level promotional considerations that were given to any of the secular stars at Stax: from outfits and photoshoots to bookings. This also included special attention from Stax's creative director Larry Shaw, who conceived of a cohesive design language for Gospel Truth-making each record have a conversation with the intended audience. That visual dialogue was a signal that the music could be enjoyed in all settings-sacred or secular.

Operating until Stax closed its doors in 1975, Gospel Truth signed a diverse collection of acts. As Jared Boyd recounts in his liner notes, "There were the various uplifting arrangements of Chicago's Reverend Maceo Woods and his Christian Tabernacle Concert Choir. There were the evangelical harmonies of Bob Hemphill's Birmingham-based, all-white quintet, The Commanders. The label even made way for Blue Aquarius, a psychedelic orchestra donning an earnest agenda in support of a 15-year-old Indian guru. (Perhaps, the label's titular 'Gospel' was not intended to be implied as exclusively that of the Christian church.)"

Gospel Truth's roster also included the likes of Rev. Jesse Jackson's People's Choir of Operation Push, who chronicled the Civil Rights struggle; Chicago vocal group 21st Century (who later scored a disco hit, "Tailgate", under the name of 21st Creation); soprano Louise McCord, whose cutting-edge message music was a highlight on the Wattstax Stage; and Operation Push soloist, and future Grammy nominee, Jacqui Verdell. Another signing was Joshie Joe Armstead-a backing singer for the likes of Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, and B.B. King, and an acclaimed songwriter who not only wrote alongside Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson but also penned hits for Aretha Franklin, Ruby Andrews, and Carl Carlton.

However, it all began with Gospel Truth's very first signing: Detroit's Rance Allen, who, along with his brothers, stood out with a unique sound that blended the messages of the gospel with the popular soul, R&B and rock stylings of the day. While this trend would be hugely popular in the following decades, it was nearly unheard of in the early '70s. The Rance Allen Group remained Gospel Truth's marquee act and quickly became breakout stars in the wider Stax orbit.

Interestingly, many of the acts that released music under Gospel Truth had a lucky second chance, thanks to the ingenuity of Clark. As Boyd explains in his notes, "Routinely, Clark leveraged his diverse list of contacts in the gospel industry to seek out soloists, groups, choirs, and pastors whose product had been shelved by other labels....Much of Gospel Truth's unique tapestry of talent is attributed to this tactic, as very few recordings released on the label were proprietary to Stax and its studio." Once acquired, these recordings would then get a sonic boost, thanks to Stax's in-house remix engineers like Tom Nixon, Dave Purple, Josephine Bridges, and William C. Brown, who refreshed the previously-unreleased songs.

The collection of tracks presented in The Gospel Truth: The Complete Singles Collection not only offers a complete compendium of the imprint's diverse output of singles but also exemplifies Gospel Truth's progressive take on the sacred genre in a quickly-evolving era of pop music. Today, the imprint stands as an essential part of Stax's enduring legacy and marks a landmark moment in gospel music history.

Writing the label's original promotional materials, Peak Patterson perhaps summed it up best: "We feel that gospel music is an integral part of our heritage, and The Stax Organization is conscious of its responsibility to bring the new gospel to a larger stage. Our goal is to keep the message strong and pure while adding to its potency, by presenting it within the framework of present-day rock. It then becomes identifiable and important. Afterall, it really doesn't matter if you listen to gospel quietly, snap your fingers, sing along, or dance to it, as long as you get the message."

Click here to pre-order The Gospel Truth: The Complete Singles Collection. Exclusive bundle with a Gospel Truth t-shirt plus a special gift with purchase (while supplies last) available at the Stax online store.

Listen to the collection here:

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