Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sunday Gospel Time

Rev. Julius Cheeks - Somebody Left on That Morning Train

Gospel singer Rev. Julius Cheeks was one of the hardest-singing of the hard gospel singers. His screaming delivery was an influence on the late Wilson Pickett, and his recordings with the Sensational Nightingales of the 1950s are important to the "golden age" of gospel music. By the early '60s Cheeks had split with the Nightingales and formed a new group, the Knights, with whom he recorded for a large part of the decade. By that time, however, years of being the hardest-singing man in gospel had taken its toll. Cheeks' voice was extremely ravaged, to the extent that most of his recordings with the Knights and beyond found Cheeks serving more as a narrator than as a lead singer, doing monologues and setting up choruses for the group to sing. This effect was very effective, especially on the maudlin 1970 classic "Just Crying," but successive efforts found Cheeks' voice in continued decline. Today's selection was the title track from Cheeks' final LP from 1980 (Cheeks died in 1981). "Somebody Left on That Morning Train" revisits his hit with the Nightingales, "Morning Train." Cheeks' voice is awful here, to be brutally honest, but there's something about how Cheeks puts all of his soul into it that makes the song work.

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