Hearing the deep gospel arcana gathered on No Other Love feels a little like receiving a transmission from a distant star. But the raw humanity in every second of this lovingly curated compilation is still vital.
Compilation producer Ramona Stout was a professional crate-digger in Chicago when she uncovered the mega-rare ’60s and ’70s Midwestern gospel singles collected here, and her expertise shows. Mostly self-released micro-pressings, these aren’t the kind of records you can just grab from eBay or Discogs—you’ve got to get your hands dirty. And if you want to gather information about them you’ve got to do some serious detective work—which Stout also did.
For the most part, this isn’t clap-shout, good-time gospel. There’s an almost grim determination that comes through on many of the tracks—the kind that comes from inner-city African-American communities dealing with the struggles of daily life. After all, what’s gospel music about, if not transcending earthly adversity by keeping a divine purpose in mind? Rev. H.H. Harrington’s “Black Pride,” which sounds as much like a DIY post-punk obscurity as a gospel tune, goes so far as to detail the social issues of the place and time; those tribulations are the subtext throughout the record.
The minor-key modes of many tunes add an almost ominous quality, whether it’s the Wondering Gails’ “The Number,” with its haunted organ and New Orleans funeral-stroll pace; The Georgia Brooks Singers’ stark, stern warning to sinners on “You Can’t Make It;” or the downright creepy vibe of Joanne & Sonny’s venture into the great beyond on “Journey.”
Sometimes, the feel is straight-up funky (The Messiahs of Glory’s title track, for example), but frequently it’s lo-fi and ultra-minimal. Christopher King did a magical job remastering these tunes from the original 45s, making beyond-rough source material eminently listenable without sacrificing its unvarnished appeal. And when those testifying voices cry out, baked in half-century-old reverb, that gloriously ghostly quality becomes all the more palpable.