Friday, February 09, 2007

Sister Lucille Pope - Do You Know What Time It Is (Nashboro 1039)

Do You Know What Time It Is

Back in the eighties, I bought this LP from my friend Laura on the streets of Manhattan. It's one of those records that literally changed my life. Up till then I really didn't understand the raw power and soulful simplicity that Gospel Music had to offer. Sister Lucille Pope and The Pearly Gates changed all that. It became one of my favorite albums, in any 'genre', and I played it to death (still do). Titled Our Silver Anniversary In Gospel Music, it was released in 1974.

If you do the math, that means they'd been out there testifying since 1949. Sister Lucille grew up the youngest child in a large family down in Concord, Georgia. By the time she was in her teens, she was fronting The Pearly Gates, an all-male harmony group that included two of her brothers. Before long, they landed a regular spot on dee-jay Ed Sheahan's popular Gospel program on WGRI, where they reportedly influenced a young Otis Redding. Sheahan recorded them for his own Eddo label, and their lone 45 "Almighty God" was picked up for national distribution by Vee-Jay (#943) in 1964. Once Vee-Jay went under, they were signed by Chess, an arrangement that produced only one single, "Jesus Tore My Heart To Pieces" (Checker 5004) the following year.

Their next recordings were with Nashboro nine years later for the 25th Anniversary album mentioned above. Recorded in Nashville at Woodland Sound Studios, it was produced by Shannon Williams, who ran A&R at Nashboro, and eventually became a vice-president of the company. Williams wisely included both sides of their Eddo single, and great new songs like "99 1/2 Won't Do" and "Somebody's Gone" helped make the album a big hit down South. It's a record that continues to astound me every time I play it.

With all of that said, you can understand how cool it was to find today's selection floating around on eBay a while back. Is it great, or what? I'm not sure why the Pearly Gates aren't given any label credit here (or on the 1976 LP it's taken from, Holding On), but it sure sounds like them singing the background vocals. Written by Sister Lucille, and produced by Williams, I just love it, man. Check out that bass player!

Sister Lucille would make two more albums for Nashboro, Jesus Is On My Side and In Touch, both of which were produced by Williams as well. The label would also release a Greatest Hits package in 1979. There is apparently a CD of some of her Nashboro material still in print... more on that in a minute.

When Nashboro went belly up, Sister Lucille and The Gates signed with Atlanta International Records (AIR) in 1982. Some of that material is still only available on cassette, while some is actually listed on iTunes (go figure). There's also a live album called Real Christians Stand Up out there that was apparently released in 1999.

In the 2005 edition of Uncloudy Days, Sister Lucille had this to say about those Nashboro re-issue CDs, which are apparently made up of demo tapes:
"A lot of people would have sued them... They put it out and refused to let us fix it. Shannon Williams laid back in his chair and said, 'Sue Me.' I said, 'God got it now,' but I'll go to my grave and the world won't know it... They don't believe in God, because otherwise they would know God's going to get them. Vengeance is His!"

Do You Know What Time It Is?