Tucked within the folds of a three-panel digipak are two CDs filled with a grand, but limited selection of music from the very rich musical legacy of African Americans. With songs that move from gospel to jazz to swing, classical and soul, you get a representative sampling of tunes that investigates the wonderful culture of music created and sung by African American stars. This 2CD set was assembled in response to the Carnegie Hall Festival known as Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy.
Of course, an undertaking of this strength and diversity truly needs a Box set to even begin to adequately cover this essential part of our musical heritage. But regardless, the twenty songs found on here do a wonderful job of whetting your appetite to investigate further. Simply put, this small collection takes a slice of every genre of African American input, and rewards us from the rich vaults of the combined labels.
The album starts off with a Harry Belafonte classic, “Matilda,” moving into the gorgeous production of “Ol’ Man River” (Show Boat), brilliantly sung by Paul Robeson. It moves between gospel (“On Children” – Sweet Honey in the Rock; “Move on Up Little Higher” from a Mahalia Jackson album my grandfather played continually, Gospels, Spirituals & Hymns), and opera (“Let the Bright Seraphim” by Wynton Marsalis & Kathleen Battle). The selection of the definitive Jazz piece from Miles Davis’ great Kind of Blue album, “So What” is essential to any collection of this type. There are four more tunes on the first disc.
The second disc is more greatness beginning with a 1981 R&B recording by Luther Vandross, “A House is Not a Home,” followed by the delightful Jazz of Dizzy Gillespie heard on “Night in Tunisia” (1946), and slotted with gospel great, Andrae Crouch’s “Come Home” (2005). There is the original Pop/R&B tune from Bill Withers, the well-known “Ain’t No Sunshine” included here too. The rest of the disc is rounded out by “Guess Who I Saw Today” (Nancy Wilson – 1960); “Soulville” by the immortal Aretha Franklin (1964) and a few other treasures.
The set is completed with a 12-page booklet that not only list credits along with complete track-listing info (artist, title, album, recording date, etc), but also supplies an informative and entertaining 3-page essay by Bill Carpenter. There are no photos within the booklet but there are a few selected portrait shots found within the panels. The cover art is produced by Gil Mayers and is called Aboriginal Jazz. It is an abstract in tan colours.
Lift Every Voice is a fine but minute reflection of one of the great cultures found within the heritage of our music. It is well worth the acquisition.