LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Omnivore Recordings continues its Blind Boys of Alabama reissue initiative with the legendary gospel group’s Go Tell It on the Mountain and Atom Bomb albums, both slated for November 4, 2016 release in expanded editions —in time for the holidays.
It’s hard to believe that in their multi-decade history, the Blind Boys hadn’t issued a Christmas album until 2003 — but, when it arrived, it was greater than anyone would have imagined.
Go Tell It on the Mountain featured The Blind Boys’ signature vocals, matched with a bevy of special guest vocalists including Solomon Burke, Tom Waits, Chrissie Hynde, Mavis Staples, George Clinton, Les McCann, as well as musical contributions from organist John Medeski and blues guitar master Duke Robillard.
The mix of hymns and traditional holiday favorites was greeted with enthusiasm, and garnered the group its third Grammy Award in as many years and as many releases. (They won in 2001 for Spirit of the Century, and in 2002 for Higher Ground, both reissued by Omnivore this past May.)
While the release was expanded in 2004 to include an extra track, this version of Go Tell It on the Mountain goes two better, with live tracks recorded at the Beacon Theatre in New York. Also included is an insightful new essay from writer Davin Seay (co-author of memoirs from Al Green, Dion, and Snoop Dogg).
Just as a new generation of listeners was introduced to The Blind Boys of Alabama at the turn of the century, it’s time for their classic Christmas album to continue the tradition today.
Following a trio of acclaimed, Grammy-winning releases beginning in 2001, The Blind Boys of Alabama showed no signs of moving away from gospel music when they dropped Atom Bomb in 2005. Working with the same producer as their previous albums, the group continued to evolve and push the genre into unheard dimensions.
Atom Bomb is an eclectic mix of gospel standards and contemporary songs like Norman’s Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and Blind Faith’s “Presence of the Lord.” The musicianship was, as usual, impeccable, with guests including Charlie Musselwhite, The Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, and the legendary Billy Preston (in one of his last recorded performances).
While it is the tremendous sound of The Blind Boys’ voices that draw the listener in, the musicianship is key, as well. The new edition of Atom Bomb features seven previously unissued instrumental versions of key tracks from the album that allow listeners the opportunity to revel in the backing of the ultra-talented guest musicians.
With a new and revealing essay from Seay, Atom Bomb shows how the band was not only re-invented and reintroduced to the world, but how that incredible four album stretch came full circle.
According to Seay’s liner notes: “With a career that stretches over seven decades and more than 60 albums, the group shines as forerunners and patriarchs of the entire gospel music canon, pioneers of a sound that has had an enduring impact on all that followed it. On Atom Bomb, they have gathered gospel’s wayward children — blues, rock, and R&B — back into the embrace of the mother church. The result is a ten-track selection that brings that epochal musical journey full circle.”
Go Tell It on the Mountain
1. Last Month of the Year
2. I Pray on Christmas (featuring Solomon Burke)
3. Go Tell It on the Mountain (featuring Tom Waits)
4. Little Drummer Boy (featuring Michael Franti)
5. In the Bleak Midwinter (featuring Chrissie Hynde with Richard Thompson)
6. Joy to the World (featuring Aaron Neville)
7. Born in Bethlehem (featuring Mavis Staples)
8. The Christmas Song (featuring Shelby Lynne)
9. Away in a Manger (featuring George Clinton with Robert Randolph)
10. Oh Come All Ye Faithful (featuring Meshell Ndegeocello)
11. White Christmas (featuring Les McCann)
12. Silent Night
13. My Lord What a Morning (a cappella)
14. Go Tell It on the Mountain (live in New York)
15. Amazing Grace (live in New York)
1. (Jesus Hits Like the) Atom Bomb
3. Talk About Suffering
4. I Know I’ve Been Converted
5. Old Blind Barnabas
6. Spirit in the Sky
7. Faith and Grace
8. New Born Soul
9. Presence of the Lord
Previously Unissued Bonus Instrumental Versions:
11. I Know I’ve Been Converted
12. New Born Soul
13. Old Blind Barnabas
14. Presence Of the Lord
15. Spirit in the Sky
16. Talk About Suffering
17. Faith and Grace