Customer Reviews: Spirit of the Century
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on July 21, 2001
Glory, Glory! The Blind Boys of Alabama are kickin' on "Spirit of the Century"! The music world has never known Gospel any better. With a real bluesy kinda feel, this cd earned it's permanant spot in my 25-disc cd player. My Pioneer's are rockin! The Boys have been harmonizing since 1936, in which they met at the Talladega Institue for the Blind. This cd just did something for my spirit....ya know what I mean. Probably the better known song on this one is Amazing Grace, but this is no Amazing Grace like you've ever heard before. To the tune of House of the Rising Sun, there is something special about this song. It mesmerized me. It's just beautiful! I first heard this particular song on Dave Letterman.....yep, that's right, Dave. I knew I had to get it! Essentialy, these are old Spirituals kicked up a few notches! The Blind Boys of Alabama are Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter, George Scott and Joey Williams. Joining them on this cd is Michael Jerome on Drums, David Lindley on Oud & Electric & Slide Guitars, Danny Thompson on Double Bass, Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, and John Hammond on Dobro & Electric Guitar. The only accapella song on the cd is fittingly the last song, "The Last Time." I have a few other cd's of the The Blind Boys, but I believe this is my favorite. They have spent most of thier lives, traveling, singing and sharing Jesus through their music. They've often been highlighted at several House of Blues and drawn many to their music and their message. If you're looking for some good Gospel, your search has ended. Two words: COOL TUNES! Get it!
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VINE VOICEon October 17, 2001
I bought this CD after hearing a couple of cuts while shopping for music. Gospel music never much interested me before, but the music and the vocal harmonies on Spirit of the Century made me listen with a different attitude.
I had heard the Blind Boys of Alabama before on a couple of cuts of a Charlie Musselwhite CD, but I never thought they could be this good. There are some powerful tunes here! My favorites are the Tom Waits compositions Jesus Gonna Be Here and Way Down In The Hole, the traditional classic Motherless Child, and a blistering rendition of the traditional Soldier. The highlight of the CD is Amazing Grace sung to the tune of House of the Rising Sun.
Its ironic that the presence of Amazing Grace, which is kind of an obligatory country/gospel song, almost kept me from buying the CD. I am not fond of the traditional tune but the BBofA give it a memorable arrangement. Its simply tremendous.
Blues greats John Hammond and Charlie Musselwhite accompany the Blind Boys here, giving the music extra thrust. Even if you are not a spiritual person, you can't help but have the spirit move you when you hear this CD which is rockin' gospel at its best.
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on April 24, 2001
I was surprised by this Blind Boys of Alabama CD. It features Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter, George Scott and Joey Williams with John Hammon, David Lindley, Charlie Musselwhite, Danny Thompson And Michael Jerome blind men who met at Talledege Institute for the Blind in 1939. Now in their seventies use blues to liven up classic gospel arrangements. Their clever version of Amazing grace to the tune of The House of the Rising Sun, will haunt you while it drags you along your wretched past. Produced by Realworld released today April 24, 2001.
I am not a music critic nor do I know much about gospel music but I know what I like. Using their voices and drums they create a clean and simple but powerful reaction from the listener. Other instruments are used sparingly I liked the heavy voice with the bass and running drums in Run for a Long Time.
The traditional call and response style used in Good Religion is done very well. The strong version is held up by the bare bones of the style.
The Last Time the final cut on the CD is very strong and sad. Is this the last time they will work together. It just may be the last time to sing or write a review who knows what the future holds?
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This is a superb gospel/blues album with the great vocals and the 4-part harmonies of the Blind Boys of Alabama. This album shares some of the personnel on John Hammond's (and Tom Wait's) incredible "Wicked Grin," with John Hammond playing a growly, punchy Dobro, and Charlie Musselwhite, tearing it with his gut-wrenchingly beautiful harp. (There's even one song written by Tom Waits).
The opening track is one of the best. Starting with a big double bass (Danny Thompson), Clarence Fountain's smooth vocals are laid over Hammond's insistent Dobro and David Lindley's soulful slide guitar, followed by a sinewy harp solo. Add Michael Johnson on drums you have a savory concoction. Lean and mean, it ain't nothing but the gospel played blue.
More slide guitar follows on "No More," where we get our first taste of all four singers. "Run On for a Long Time" features richly textured vocals and spirited drums-this is a head-shaking, toe-tapping take on the traditional song. Clarence Fountain, George Scott, Jimmy Carter, and Joey Williams generate a subdued excitement, the result of their sincerity and precise-but never precious -harmonies, lead cuts, and hearty gospel inflections. There's a gentle power here.
While this is a spiritual album, it's also fun and slightly irreverent. "Good Religion" includes a few Little Richard type howls (showing L.R.'s gospel roots), and, of course, "Amazing Grace" set to the riffs of "House of the Rising Sun" gives a smile of joy and surprise. It's an instant classic. The group also does the Jagger/Richards "Just Wanna See His Face," with great bass by Thompson and some wailing background vocals.

Still, it's the basic liturgical sound of the blues mixed with the anguish and hope of spirituals that fuel the listener's emotional response. Whether on Ben Harper's poignant, powerful, "Give a Man a Home," (reminiscent of the Chambers Brothers) or the jubilant, slightly defiant "Soldier (with absolutely kick-it guitar by Hammond, and a funky oud by Lindley)," or on the sole a cappella number, "The Last Time," the Blind Boys provide tremendous emotional and musical satisfaction.
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on May 2, 2001
I heard a piece on National Public Radio about the group and this album that included sound bits of some of the cuts. Given the talent of the artists, the material (including traditional gospel tunes and two songs penned by Tom Waits) and the back-up artists (including John Hammond), this is definitely a must-have CD. Check out "Amazing Grace" (to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun") and "Soldier." This may be the best music purchase I've made in two or three years. Highly recommended for both gospel and blues fans. If you like the music of Mighty Sam McLain and the Holmes Brothers, you'll love these guys. You'll also enjoy this if you liked the movie "The Apostle."
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on August 2, 2001
I bought this CD after hearing about it on NPR, and am absolutely blown away. The harmonies, textures and musicianship on this CD are truely inspiring. As a non-Christian, Gospel music has never impressed me on a visceral level, but one can really sense the deep faith of the Blind boys when listening. Also the fact that the music sounds like it could have been recorded 6 months ago or 50 years ago really lends to the overall impact of the cd. It is timeless and in a word "Haunting". I try to expose myself to as much indigenous music from cultures throughout the world as I can, and this is a great example of traditional American music. And it is a seemless blend of the music of the damned (blues - See Robert Johnson) and the saved (gospel). One of the most talked about cuts, Amazing grace, to the tune of House of the Rising sun, is thick with irony that must have slipped by many listeners. The lyrics are about one saved by the grace of god, and the music is from a song about a woman ruined by her life in a whorehouse. This song clearly shows the contrast between the music of the saved and the music of the damned and how there is a fine line between damnation and salvation. Buy this album.
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on May 15, 2001
Wow! I just finished listening to this album for the first time, and it's even better than my already-high expectations. A blending of first-rate gospel singing, fantastic song selection, and excellent blues muscicianship. David Lindley's electric slide guitar (which I've always really liked) and Charlie Musselwhite's harmonica are perfect accompaniment for these wonderful rich voices.
Even if you've never bought a gospel ablum, get this one!
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on January 20, 2003
The one rendition of Amazing Grace sung to the tune "House of the Rising Sun" is so powerful that this song alone is worth buying the cd. These guys were introduced to me by a friend, and I'm hooked. Blues and spirituality -- that's the real thing.
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on November 14, 2004
I saw the Blind Boys of Alabama for the first time on Austin City Limits, singing "Amazing Grace." I remember being completely drawn in at the harmony and the rendition, as it sounded almost like a chain gang. The beginning cadence sounds a bit like "The House of the Rising Sun," but you forget about that once the vocals start in. The rest of the CD is equally moving. I've read other reviews claiming goosebumbs, tears, etc. -- my sentiments exactly. Bravo.

I heard a new song of their's (equally fabulous) on the radio a few days ago but suppose the CD has not yet been released -- I'm waiting!
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on July 4, 2001
Get down! What vitamins are these boys on? Technically a gospel group, the Blind Boys of Alabama, with a little help from their overly talented friends, have just produced the blues CD of the new millennium. I mean, this is it, the cat's pajamas, baby!
Although into their 70's, the Boys sing with a spine tingling raw power that will lift your spirits on high. Enriched by the likes of Charlie Musslewhite and John Hammond, Spirit of the Century will have you moving and goving, body and soul throughout. There's no downtime on this puppy. None.
From first note to last, this really is the spirit of the century of the blues.
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