Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Over in Glory: Favorites From Classic Gospel Groups [MCA, 1998]
All climax, all the time. In a music whose individual proponents make it their business to channel the universal, why not stick to their ecstasies and leave the mundane to their secular counterparts? Not that these impassioned tracks are above detail--one apogee among many is the Jackson Southernaires' painfully protracted tale of a son who reaches his dying mama just hours too late. But whether the glorious singers are getting happy or laying their burdens down, they're all in extremis, opening windows not into their mortal souls but into an idealized gospel experience--the spiritual release nonbelievers prize in a music that will never be their own. Connoisseurs may cry cartoon, but for most of us that's a plus, as are the articulated call-and-response built into the group format and the crassness of Peacock's Don Robey, not a guy who hesitated to besmirch the Lord with rhythm sections. Guitars either. A