Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  And It Don't Stop
  Book Reports
  Is It Still Good to Ya?
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Xgau Sez
  And It Don't Stop
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Rolling Stone
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
Web Site:
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
CG Search:
Google Search:

Mahalia Jackson

  • Moving On Up a Little Higher [Spirit Feel, 2016] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Moving On Up a Little Higher [Spirit Feel, 2016]
In part because deciding that Jesus wasn't my savior was the toughest intellectual work of my life, I'm not much of a gospel fan, and that goes double for the kind of stately midtempo message singers I avoid in every genre--I don't even really get Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace, hailed as her very peak by many nonbelievers with their fingers crossed. Nonetheless, this is Mahalia Jackson, and I've tried, Lord, I've tried--particularly by buying her early stuff, from before Columbia turned her into what the indefatigable gospel scholar Anthony Heilbut once called "a black Kate Smith." But this career-spanning, Heilbut-compiled selection of live rarities reached me as my earlier tries hadn't, so with other Mahalia versions of half its songs already in my iTunes, I compared and contrasted. Heilbut's finds won every time. At their very best--"Keep Your Hand on the Plow," "Didn't It Rain," the storytelling "Jesus Met the Woman at the Well"--they rock and roll with such grace I shout about it. Often they remind me that the piano is a percussion instrument. And at the very least they're more relaxed. Yet in the end, there's still a bunch of stately message singing here. B+