Switzerland’s High Jazz Records have that winning knack of digging out lost ephemeral collections steeped in not only in jazz, but soul, funk, and gospel: albums that slipped into the world many moons ago, unheralded and largely unloved, known to a small coterie of eagle-eyed collectors but hidden away from the rest of us, stashed in basements quietly gathering seminal status.
Perhaps you previously caught the wonderful offering from Elder Jeffrey Roberson and the New Life Singers, or Michael Orr’s kickass Love Will Rise, or Bridge’s boogielicious Crying For Love: stone cold classics all three, and perfectly encapsulating the treasures dug up by these knowledgeable Swiss diggers.
I’m glad to report then that there`s another humdinger courtesy of Harold Sutton & The Crusaders – eight soulful gospel bangers, originally released in 1985, that sound fresh and funked-up: the bass pops, the beats fly, the vocals are otherworldly. Jesus gets hymned in various uber-hip ways by celestial voices attuned to a higher vision, that funk gets thrown down righteously, and the pews rock to those beats.
Why Do You Wait kicks things off: Larry Graham-like bass slaps take the lead before the tune fixes on a mighty chanted groove two and a half minutes in: if you feel an eight minute edit of this section coming on then I’m with you – killer!
He’s Real turns up the burners: high-octane call and response, the drummer hitting hyperdrive, synths set to ‘space age’, piano player chunking out heavy block chords – keeping it real years before Mr Scruff had the same thought.
They can also drop the tempo and create a cracking ballad or two: Don’t Let It Change Your Mind is soft-focus, ‘joy and sadness, disappointment and sadness / don’t let it change your mind’ is the refrain – again the synths and the keys whirl and twirl around, a loose-limbed paean to a religious calling.
The title track is probably the highlight – six-plus minutes of locked-in-the-pocket groove, heartfelt vocal delivery, smooth as silk chord progressions, musicians and vocalists dancing together, celebrating humanity, looking within to withstand the vagaries of life. Even for those of us who absolutely do not share their religious conviction, the message is strong and vital: and when the Stevie-esque harmonica hits halfway in then all bets are over, Jazzanova.
Happy Song plays us out and the vibes are ridiculously good: ‘he keeps me singing a happy song / he keeps me singing all day long’ – for those of us prone to dwell on the darker side of life the message is clear. Sunshine after the rain, morning has broken: the meaning is as simple as it is profound.
You Got The Power is another storming offering then, from a label that rarely puts a foot wrong. Get yourself right with whichever god you may or may not feel like revering: Harold and company have been resurrected and the joyful noise sure sounds pure. Heavenly delights all round.
Harold Sutton & The Crusaders` You Got The Power is out now, on High Jazz Records.