Like many gospel groups at the time, they were a family band: The Browns from Aberdeen, Mississippi. Annie was 11, A.R.C was 12, and Edward was 13 when they got their start, building a reputation by playing school talent shows and front yards in tow.
“We were so strange and we were so young,” says Edward Brown, “and a lot of people didn’t understand that.”
Every weekend, they would pile into their family van and travel across the Bible Belt, performing sometimes as many as three shows in a single day. Back then, the South was desegregated on paper but not always in practice, and the Staples Jr. Singers weren’t always sure what kind of welcome they would receive—whether a new audience would embrace them, whether local restaurants would serve them.
Forty years, three generations, and countless performances later, the original members of the Staples Jr. Singers are still on the circuit, performing almost every weekend at local churches as the Brown Singers and the Caldwell Singers. While they’ve written an entire catalog of gospel music since 1975’s When Do We Get Paid, for the Staples Jr. Singers, the incantatory funk of this music still holds the power to help make a way out of dark and troubled times.
“I can be a witness,” Annie says, “Back then you could feel it. You were basing it on yourself. These are the songs that are really going to take us over.”
1.Get On Board
2. I Know You’re Going To Miss Me
3. I’m Looking For A Man
4. I’m Going To A City
5. Somebody Save Me
6. Trouble Of The World
7. Waiting For The Trumpet To Sound
8. I Feel Good
9. When Do We Get Paid
10. On My Journey Home
11. Too Close
12. Send It On Down
13. I Got A New Home
We met Pastor Champion a few years ago while we were putting together another release, The Time for Peace Is Now: Gospel Music About Us. We found him in a collection of YouTube videos from the 37th Street Baptist Church in Oakland, California, put together by the pastor there, Bishop Dr. W.C. McClinton. There was quite a lot of talent in those videos, and among them was Pastor Champion whom we liked so much that we decided to make a record with him.
Pastor Champion wasn’t like any other pastor you’ve ever met. As an itinerant preacher, a carpenter, and a father of five, he made a name for himself traveling up and down the California coast with his electric guitar. He travelled alone and he played alone, well into his seventies. The easiest way to describe him would be as an outsider gospel artist. Other than these bare facts, we never learned much about him—except that he was also the brother of the well-known soul singer Bettye Swann. In fact, most of what we knew about him we got from his sister’s Wikipedia page.
We decided that because we met Champion through the 37th Street Baptist Church, we would record him there too. We recorded him live on a two-track Nagra reel to reel, as we wanted the album to be analog in the style of traditional gospel recordings. Over the course of two evenings (when the workday was done), Champion taught his band—musicians who had never played together before—a handful of songs, a small selection of the nearly 2,000 fragments of songs and sermons that he regularly performed. We listened in as they all got more familiar with the material and each other over time.
At some point, we mentioned to Champion that he would have to be interviewed by someone to write notes for the album. He wasn’t too pleased with this idea, saying he’d had a hard life and he didn’t want to talk about it. Over the next few months, we kept asking Champion to talk to someone about his life. He told us that he didn’t want to talk about growing up in Louisiana, his mother being accosted by the Klan, or that his father was a gambler. He didn’t want to talk about being jailed for 90 days for using a whites only bathroom, being in gangs or having a street name. We told him that was fine—he could talk about what he wanted to talk about. And he told us that he didn’t want to talk about anything.
You know, there are times when you make a record where it’s already made in your mind before you start. But then in the end, the record you thought you were making is not the record you made. We spent years puzzling over this one, trying to figure out what it was saying, who it was for, and how to get people to pay attention to it.
But Champion knew that this record wasn’t going to be for everyone. He didn’t really care. The important part for him was just getting the message out there in the same way that he always had, travelling alone with his electric guitar. “I want to say what I mean,” he said, “be practical, precise, to the point, and, at the same time, diplomatic.” In other words, he just wanted to be a good man.
God bless Pastor Champion and Mother Champion, peace be with them and their family. Love to all
01 / A1. Intro
02 / A2. I Know That You’ve Been Wounded (Church Hurt)
03 / A3. He’ll Make A Way (Trust In The Lord)
04 / A4. Talk To God
05 / A5. In The Name Of Jesus (everytime)
06 / B1. To Be Used By You (I Want To Be A Good Man)
07 / B2. Who Do Men Say I Am?
08 / B3. Storm Of Life (Stand By Me)
09 / B4. In The Service Of The Lord
10 / B5. I Just Want To Be A Good Man (To Be Used By You)
Promises is the result of three distinct musical worlds colliding. Pharoah Sanders’ jazz improvisation and Flo Po’s twinkling electronics are layered over the string section of the LSO, bound together by a loose symphonic structure. These are textures that rarely sit together in a single composition, yet somehow they seamlessly knit into a cohesive whole. It’s quite a feat, one that could only be pulled off by artists as accomplished as these.
The entire album revolves around a recurring phrase played by Sam Shepherd on the piano, harpsichord and celesta. This phrase becomes the central pulse around which the other textures float, suspended in the space inbetween. The loose tempo allows for the improvised saxophone passages to flow freely and for Pharaoh to lean into the most tender moments of his performance.
At the beginning of the album the string section gradually emerges like a delicate silver thread before building through a series of sweeping chord progressions and moments of bittersweet dissonance. This leads into the third movement where Sam Shephard’s deft synth arrangement becomes the focal point. And later on we hear a hushed vocal performance from Pharoah. It’s one of the most touching moments of the album, with years of lived experience seeping through every crack and bend of his voice in a captivating way.
Promises is an album of subtle expression which invokes a feeling of boundlessness. It’s a wide open sonic space where each note is allowed to resonate to its full conclusion. There’s a constant feeling of push and pull, of tension and release, though it never really resolves fully. Something is always left hanging in the air - a question, a prayer, an inexplicable feeling. It’s perhaps one of the most surprising and profound releases of the year.
STAFF COMMENTSMatt says: A beautiful orchestral piece that while both resplendent with FP's and PS's wonderful idiosyncrasies; recalls the gorgeous depth of Prefab Sprout's "I Trawl The Megahertz" but without the vocal parts! Epic!
1. Promises (Movement 1) (1:16)
2. Promises (Movement 2) (3:56)
3. Promises (Movement 3) (3:16)
4. Promises (Movement 4) (3:39)
5. Promises (Movement 5) (6:06)
1. Promises (Movement 6) (8:25)
2. Promises (Movement 7) (3:26)
3. Promises (Movement 8) (9:57)
4. Promises (Movement 9) (5:43)
The Time For Peace Is Now
The tracks are a subset of 1970s-era gospel, not directly talking about Jesus or God, but instead tackling how we live with ourselves and each other.
These are undeniably soulful, passionate, and urgent songs from obscure 45s, dug up from a long dormancy in attics, sheds and rated across the American south. Compiled by Gospel guru Greg Belson.
“The Gospel bands heard on The Time For Peace Is Now were comprised of musicians who played both church and secular music. The church borrowed—or rather commandeered—the guitar, bass, drums, and other instruments used to backup Motown, Stax, and other popular labels—to give power to the songs they supported. Musicians who sang at ‘the club’ on Saturday night were often leading solos or singing in the choir on Sunday mornings. Saturday night and Sunday morning music began to interweave, which was especially felt when the church choirs sang Gospel. It was Gospel’s influence that made Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, and many others the voice of the 1960s and 1970s. Gospel was the soul of America. This album is reflective of the dichotomy of the sacred and the secular. The music here is in some sense the same as the music of the club. “Keep Your Faith To The Sky” could have you singing “Keep Your Head To The Sky” by Earth, Wind and Fire. Listening to “It’s Hard To Live In This Old World” and “That’s A Sign Of The Times” imbues the pessimistic/realistic sense of what was happening. Like many Blues songs, the problem must first be named before it can be solved. At the end of The Time For Peace Is Now, hope is still present. The problem is named in the beginning and a possible solution is presented. -Pastor Keith L. Whitney
STAFF COMMENTSPatrick says: Luaka Bop's latest compilation lifts the lid on the peculiar 70s fusion of funk, soul and gospel, with a singular focus on the songs about us - not Him. If you're hankering for some humanist grooves, look no further.
A1. Time For Peace - The Little Shadows
A2. It’s Hard To Live In This Old World - Rev. Harvey Gates
A3. That’s A Sign Of The Times - The Floyd Family Singers
A4. Keep Your Faith To The Sky - Willie Scott & The Birmingham Spirituals
A5. We We Are In Need - James Bynum
A6. Condition The World Is In - The Religious Souls
B1. We Don’t Love Enough - The Triumphs
B2. Peace In The Land - The Gospel I.Q.’s
B3. I’m Trying To Be Your Friend - The Soul Stirrers
B4. We Got A Race To Run - Staples Jr. Singers
B5. Let Your Light Shine - Willie Dale
B6. Price Of Love - Rev. Harvey Gates
B7. Sunshine After Every Rain - The Mighty Reverlaires
B8. Don’t Give Up - The William Singers
30 year anniversary box seT of David byrne’s legendary brazil Classics series. This is one of the first compilations of pop music from Brazil, and one of the most important compilations of music from anywhere. It became the beginning of a shift to music in other languages and from places other than where you are now. And, it was the beginning of Luaka Bop, which we are pretty happy about. New sleeve notes from David Byrne!
Among the crate-digging few that knew of him, he is considered a complete myth. While he has never performed live and almost never given interviews, his fantastical biography is scattered and has to this day not been verified. And, though he is still alive, he refuses to speak about anything regarding the past.
According to various rumors, he left home following the Biafran War and went to study cinematography in the Soviet Union, returning in the mid-70s to start his own film company and record label, Wilfilms. He then self-released eight remarkable records from 1978-1985. He wrote and produced everything on his own, and possibly played every instrument himself. Then, at some point of his life, he became born again and denounced his earlier music, deciding it is something he would never speak about.
A2. Why Go To War
B1. Love Me Now
B2. Fantastic Man
B3. Try And Try
Through its World Psychedelic Classics series, Luaka Bop has succeeded at introducing long-forgotten artists including Os Mutantes, Shuggie Otis and Tim Maia to the world at large. William Onyeabor is as obscure as these other artists were before their Luaka Bop releases, although his recordings from the 70s and 80s are beloved by die-hard record collectors and artists such as Damon Albarn, Devendra Banhart, Four Tet and Caribou, to name a few. The music ranges from synth-heavy electronic dance music to Afrosoul with saxophones and female backup singers, to psychedelic funk with wah-wah guitar and fuzzy keyboards - and often combines all of these elements.
'Who Is William Onyeabor?' may be the most complicated, if also one of the richest, undertakings in Luaka Bop's (rarely straightforward) 25-year history. Following the eight albums Onyeabor self-released between 1978 and 1985, he became a Born-Again Christian, refusing ever to speak about himself or his music again. Various biographies can be found online. Some say he studied cinematography in the Soviet Union and returned to Nigeria in the mid-70s to start his own film company, Wilfilms. Some say he was a lawyer with a degree from a university in Great Britain. Others portray him as a businessman who for years worked on government contracts in Enugu, Nigeria.
By attempting to speak with Onyeabor himself, and by talking to people who seem to have firsthand knowledge, Luaka Bop has been trying to construct an accurate biography of him for the past 18 months...without success.
One thing that's undisputable is that Onyeabor's music is utterly unique and ahead of its time.
The vinyl release comprises 13 tracks spanning Onyeabor's body of work and will include artwork by John Akomfrah, Njideka Akunyili, Harrison Haynes, Dave Muller, Odili Donald Odita and Xaviera Simmons.
"The world might just be better off not hearing [Onyeabor's "Atomic Bomb"], which will burrow and propagate its seed exponentially by the second, into the hearts and souls of all humanity. It's the catchiest song I've ever heard; when it gets in my brain, I can't sleep...He's a mythical character from Nigeria." - Devendra Banhart in Uncut
"Anyone out there who is making music at the moment...will be quite excited by this..." - Damon Albarn on BBC Radio One
"LCD Soundsystem sounds like an American William Onyeabor." - Peaking Lights
"Talked to Luaka Bop about details of the William Onyeabor comp they are working on... Gonna blow minds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" - Four Tet
"People are really going to freak out!" - Caribou
1. Body And Soul
2. Atomic Bomb
3. Good Name
4. Something You Will Never Forget
5. Why Go To Ware
6. Love Is Blind
7. Heaven And Hell
8. Let’s Fall In Love
9. Fantastic Man
LP EXCLUSIVES – NOT AVAILABLE ON CD OR DIGITALLY:
10. When The Going Is Smooth & Good
11. The Way To Win Your Love
12. Jungle Gods
13. Love Me Now
9 NEW ITEMS
197 NEW ITEMS
Mon 27th - 3:04
Mon 27th - 2:49
Sun 26th - 11:32