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PASTOR T.L. BARRETT - Like A Ship (Without A Sail)

When we reviewed Good God! Born Again Funk earlier this year, it was the opening cut, “Like A Ship (Without A Sail)”, that impressed us the most. Recorded in 1971 by Pastor T.L. Barrett & The Youth For Christ Choir, the track upped the stakes for standard gospel, which always made the effort to communicate directly with god, this time sonically approximating the sound of a congregation beamed down from heaven above. The gargantuan sound generated by Barrett’s 40-strong youth choir was bolstered by Gene Barge and Richard Evans (both session heavies for Chess Records), guitar giant Phil Upchurch, and Barrett’s own piano chops, which he developed during his time at Manhattan’s Village Gate in the '60s. Back in his hometown of Chicago, Barrett took over the pulpit at Mt. Zion Church and built up a massive flock, with Sun Ra, Phil Cohran, Donny Hathaway, and Earth Wind & Fire’s Maurice White and Philip Bailey all dropping by to dig the deep spiritual vibes. Add to that his involvement in Jesse Jackson’s black-empowerment Operation Breadbasket, and you can see why Barrett’s strong musical/religious influence in Chicago led to a street being named after him!

A serious rarity on the vinyl market, Like A Ship (Without A Sail) is also a rare work of inspiration in every sense of the word: gospel music so rarely sounds this groovy, updating Ray Charles’ sacred soul-jazz to suit the times (“Blessed Quietness”), and at times also showing the influence Hathaway had on Barrett (“Wonderful”). Honestly, as a hardened atheist, I’d join this choir nonetheless just to thrill in the pure oxytocin-induced joy of singing this music. My vote for most sublime reissue of the year!  

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