Tag Archives: Abyssinian Baptist Choir

[4] The Abyssinian Baptist Choir – Shakin’ The Rafters

3 May

After 3 great recordings in a row, our first swing and a miss?

My brother pens an engrossing blog on books and reading.  Over 60-odd posts, I have noticed something interesting about his reviews.   The positive ones – where he explains what it is he sees in this obscure tome, or that overhyped bestseller – are more enjoyable to read than his posts detailing why he felt his time could have been better spent than on this particular work.

When I mentioned this to him, he acknowlegded that he felt the same, almost like he was cheating his readers, but that he had noticed something *even more* interesting.

Negative reviews get more hits and more comments.

Let’s hope that’s the case here so the time I spent listening to Shakin’ the Rafters isn’t a complete bust.


I like gospel music well enough.  I’m very much looking forward to the Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash gospel recordings coming up – in fact, I already own some of them.  The musical artistry, the excessive, expressive joy is uplifting.

But, despite Tom Moon’s assertion about the rhythm section being the star of this album, I found the recording muddy and amateur.  Both the piano and organ are buried in the mix, and the drums almost inaudible.  Worse, there is simply no clarity in the 120 piece choir.

Most frustrating of all are the performances by one soloist after another – they all exhibit the necessary fervor, but also a striking lack of technique.  Their voices are almost uniformly tired and pitchy by the middle of their 3+ minutes in the spotlight. This is a deal breaker for me when listening to “all time” recordings.

I gave the disc multiple chances, and will acknowledge that played quietly through computer speakers at work, there is a catchy, swinging feel to much of the music.  This was utterly lost for me when heard through headphones or better quality speakers – the recording and performances are simply not “good” enough.

As for the 3 previously unreleased tracks that end the disc, the reason they were initially left off is obvious.  For two and a half tracks, they are dirges without the passion that is the only redeeming feature (in my eyes) of the earlier tracks.  That the last track finally kicked back into an uptempo is far too little too late.

The compositions are repetitive and simplistic, which would bother me less if performed with more skill.  Live recordings can capture the spontaneity and electricity of musicians in the moment, warts and all – this one captures more warts than mere energy and enthusiasm can cover up.

For an alternate view, I asked my belting singer of a wife her opinion.  She immediately recognized and connected with this archetypal example of classic 60s gospel.  Like me she was less than thrilled with some of the caterwauling from the choir, but appreciated the live, spontaneous and somewhat raw nature of the performances from the soloists.

Seems that, as I’ve been told, “the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum.”

And, weeks after first hearing these songs, some of them (“Heaven Belongs To You” perhaps being the best example) have become lodged in my head as solidly as any pop earworm you care to mention, so perhaps Moon has something here after all, even if it’s not my cup of tea.

Perhaps not a swing and a miss, then.  Call it a foul tip?

Owned before blogging?  No.  (0 of 4.  0%)
Heard before blogging?   No.  (1 of 4.  25%)
Recommend?                No.  (3 of 4.  75%)

Next Week: AC/DC – Back In Black

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