Religious / Spiritual LPs: Music of Faith and Inspiration


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Back in the 1950s and 1960s, such content themed LPs were relatively commonplace and all majors routinely had notable offerings. Here are my A-team CDs and LPs.


Johnny Cash (1958/Columbia). As I read the story many years ago, in 1957 Johnny Cash left Sun records for Columbia (a handshake deal in a parking lot, according to Cash) principally because Sun records would not allow him to record Christian themed LPs. Cash wasted no time: his first LP recording session contained songs issued on his first gospel LP, which was his 2nd LP at Columbia. As Cash was a troubadour, his religious LPs were yet another example of the theme-driven, musical storytelling LPs that he liked. For standard pop releases, on the other hand, one could expect a gospel or religious-themed offering here and there as well.

Jimmy Durante (1967/Warner Bros.). Jimmy has an incredible singing voice which was at its peak in his final recording years (beyond age 70). I would prefer this album stripped of all the orchestrations, but as Jimmy stated in the liner "everyone wants to get into the act". This was Durante’s final LP.

Grant Green (1963/Blue Note). This one came out of right field at BlueNote. Herbie Hancock’s presence lifts the session a notch. It’s quite good and notably different for Grant. Highly recommended.

Johnny Mathis (1963/Columba). This LP is reverent, sublime and touching. Given the size of the Mathis catalogue, am actually surprised Columbia re-issued this one — but one listen to the proceedings indicates why. If the subject matter is of little interest, one can simply bypass on the words (most people to anyway...) and immerse yourself in the otherwise immaculate proceedings.

Buck Owens (1966/Capitol). Although '50s and '60s c/w artists regularly cut gospel LPs, apparently Buck only delivered this single album and to listen to the LP, it’s evident there are only two differences between this LP and every other 1960s Buck Owens LP: the solemn cover photo and the lyrics. The music, interestingly, is by and large consistent with his then-current "Tiger-by-the-tail" stylings. According to Buck,"...what I did (to prepare for the album) was find this basic concept, and all I did was change the lyrics…My songs, if you listen to them, you’ll find they’re quite a lot alike, like Chuck Berry. Chuck found a sound and just kept changin’ the lyrics". (Buck was an "outsider" relative to the Nashville-centric world of country music — further cemented given he was never a member of the Grand Old Opry.)

Tony Scott (1964, 1968/Verve). Like Yusef Lateef, Paul Horn and Paul Winter, Scott was actively seeking and embracing non-Western culture and music. Both albums here were designed for solace excursions and can also be recognized as a musical bridge to those 1970s LPs of natural ambient Earth sounds...


Tennessee Ernie Ford (1956, 1957, 1964/Capitol). Ford’s immediately recognizable deep baritone is mesmerizing. The two 1950 LPs, Hymns and Spirituals, were staples of 1950s Christian music. According to Wikipedia, the LP, Hymns, released in 1956, peaked at #2 in the Billboard 200 — where it would spend a lengthy stay for a total of 277 weeks.

Art Reynolds (1966, 1967/Capitol). The Art Reynolds Singers, a Long Beach-based Christian group, recorded the original version of Jesus Is Just Alright — which the Byrds popularized in 1969. Can’t say enough good things about this vocal group. It’s great to hear artists creating music from the heart with the goal bringing spiritual awareness.

The Kinsfolk (1969/RCA). An Aussie outfit that I believe was one&done in American with this Camden (i.e. RCA-budget) LP. The LP exhibits a calm acoustic feel, which at times recalls the muse of Bert Jansch. The LP includes a cover each of songs from Dylan and Donovan.


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When I was a kid in the 50s, we used to go visit my Godparents' summer cottage on the Susquehanna River. On days when the weather wasn't so pleasant outside, I'd be reduced to either watching the fuzzy black & white TV, or sometimes we'd listen to Godmother's phonograph. Her record collection there included a few of the albums you've posted above. I remember very well staring at the artwork of those three Tennessee Ernie Ford hymn albums while they were playing. Thanks for the memory.


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My Dad had a Few Tennessee Ernie Ford cassettes and other old time Gospel recordings and I have some more modern compilations of old hymns and Church songs and I play them for a little Spiritual lift they were all very well done and I'm thankful to have them in my huge collection


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Dionne Warwick had Gospel tunes on some of her albums. When she left Scepter to go to warner, there was a two record set released called Dionne Warwick From Within. The first side is mainly Gospel songs.


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I remember an album by Jim Reeves titled We Thank Thee that my parents listened to a lot when I was young. Simple, elegant and very heartfelt effort.

Also, another Elvis gospel album, His Hand In Mine.


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All throughout her career Anne Murray has released a number of gospel tracks on her albums and then released in 1999 “What A Wonderful World”.
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