The Sons of the Soul Revivers
Songs We’ll Always Sing – A Tribute to The Pilgrim Jubilees
Little Village Foundation
The Little Village Foundation brings us another gem, choosing to give the Bay Are gospel group, The Sons of the Soul Revivers, an opportunity to pay homage to one of their major influences, The Pilgrim Jubilees, in an album of classic, traditional gospel, sung by a quartet and veteran five-decade band. Like most Little Village projects, Jim Pugh and Kid Andersen steer the ship, recording at Kid’s Greaseland Studios. This is the fourth album for the group, one whose lead singer was singing in front of audiences as age six or seven. That’s James Morgan paired with his brother Dwayne Morgan on the front line. The group was formed in 1970 when at the age of nine Walter Jr. Morgan with his brother Sidney and some cousins began his own gospel group, succeeding his father’s Soul Revivers, thus the Sons of the Soul Revivers.
Former Huey Lewis & the News manager Bob Brown, a Sons fan and a vital cog in the Little Village Foundation, suggested to Jim Pugh, who was also impressed when seeing the group on YouTube., that he record the group. Pugh first recorded them live at Brown’s Rancho Nicasio and then again for this studio effort. The other members of the group are Walter Jr. Morgan (vocals, guitar), DaQuantae Johnson (vocals, bass), Ronnie Smith (drums), with assists from Kenny Van Zandt on bass and D’Mar on congas. Neither Pugh nor Andersen play on the album, at least according to the credits but there’s an organ in there on some tracks (i.e. “Step Out”) which is likely Pugh’s.
James talks about the album this way, “We definitely used the Pilgrim Jubilees as a blueprint for the traditional gospel quarter sound should be. We got a chance to see those guys in 1977, and log story short, they blew us away. When they got on the stage, they sang. They didn’t have fancy gimmicks, they didn’t have a standout tenor singer where you can showcase his vocals., like Claude Jeters (Swan Silvertones), they were just a good, old-fashioned solid group who could really sing. And I said to myself, ‘that’s the way traditional gospel quartet should be.’ And with this effort, we just want them to know that we love them, that we appreciate them, and that we will not allow the traditional sound of gospel quartet to die. As long as we’re living, we’re going to keep it going.”
Both Dwayne and James picked “It Ain’t Safe,” the second track, and sourced from the Jubilees’ Don’t Let Him Down release, as their favorite for its timely message of trying to get along with everyone, regardless of background or color. As you’d expect, James’ lead vocals are fervent, and the harmonies are those honed from decades of performing. It’s all about the voices with the guitar, drums and bass staying in that gut check pocket throughout.
Like the Pilgrim Jubilees, there are no histrionics save an impassioned scream or two at the right moment – just passionate singing from the heart, designed to joyously lift up listeners. This kind of traditional gospel music mostly relegated to the church without much radio play or press, for that matter. Kudos to the Little Village Foundation for keeping this important part of American music in the forefront.
Walter Jr. expresses it better – “We’re giving honor to a group that we grew up listening to, and unfortunately, a great portion of the group is deceased now. And sometimes, gospel groups can get lost in the shuffle, forgotten about, and we decided – they have so many wonderful songs that should be carried to the next generation. So, we talked with them and got permission, and so we recorded their hits. We want to spread a good message to a lost world so that people can feel better. There’s something in gospel that soothes peoples’ mind.” let the healing begin.
- Jim Hynes