1. The Warning
Roy Tyler, David Tompkins – Tight Legs Music / D E Music (BMI)
2. Tired Of The Game
Raphael Saadiq, Glenn Standridge, Bobby Ozuna, Angie Stone, Shawn Kane - Ugmoe Music / Universal Music Publishing (ASCAP), Jake and the Phatman Music (ASCAP), Alegna Music / J Music Publishing (BMI), Keep It Real Ent. (ASCAP)
What will it take for listeners not familiar with the power and glory of modern Gospel to be open to and revel in the genre's multiple rewards? It might take as little as listening to this CD, containing sixty exhilarating minutes presented by one of the strongest Gospel ensembles in the country, Roy Tyler & New Directions.
The quartet's stirring music is carefully chosen and is simply remarkable in its blending of old and new. Their faith & heartfelt passion in singing is absolute. Because of that, this latest recording is joyful, propulsive and absolutely infectious. After just a listen or two to this compelling, jubilant, driving modern Gospel meets old-school spiritual soul, you'll surely be feeling it too. This music is as bracing as a winter storm, yet is presented with the loving humility and gracious bearing of a true believer.
Most American music, Jazz and Soul, certainly R&B and Rock, have their roots in Southern Gospel and/or Blues music. That becomes a direct link to Tyler's modern music that many listeners might not be conscious of, but can't help but "feel it" just the same. Roy Tyler & New Directions' invigorating song succeeds because it revels in the rich cultural wealth of the African American churches of the Deep South by combining it with the drive and compulsion of beat-based music. The group's "joyful noise" significantly narrows the line between traditional Gospel and contemporary R&B. In fact, with the collaborations of Clarence Fountain and Raphael Saadiq, this recording spans three generations of gospel influence.
One of this group's most rewarding accomplishments however is that they don't need to downplay their sincere message to appeal to a wider audience. Their courageous lyrics and modern take on the human condition is forthright and edgily honest. Tyler and his band's urgent and insistent music challenge its audience, but their music isn't sledge-hammered on to those listeners who may just want to shut up and dance. The experience becomes thrilling and joyous, filled with high emotion and deep feeling.
Having Gospel music cross over to mainstream popularity is a rare occurrence. "I'll Take You There" and "Oh Happy Day" come readily to mind. However if New Direction's soulfully sweet, superbly blended harmonies grab the attention of new audiences, the delight at beating the odds will bring the group great reward. Their songs of course have a faith-based message, and as one of those tunes ("Shout It Out") included here states clearly, "It's in me, and it's got to come out."
Tyler & New Directions' musical mixture combines authentic four part Gospel harmony, made famous in the 30s, 40s and the genre's "Golden Era" 50s by small ensemble vocal groups like the Soul Stirrers, Blind Boys of Alabama, Golden Gate Quartet and others. Later in the 50s, that same sound could readily be heard in 50's Doo-wop ensembles like the Drifters, Platters and Little Anthony & the Imperials. A decade later it can be heard within the superb Motown sound, featuring tight harmonies by groups such as the Four Tops, the Miracles and the great Temptations.
Roy Tyler's journey from the small town of Delhi, Louisiana to the San Francisco Bay Area occurred in 1967, the year of the freewheeling Summer of Love. Tyler, couldn't help to bring with him the deep spiritual values of his youth, that of the fervent Baptist Church, along with the soul-enhancing African-American roots music of the Deep South.
A thirty-year Gospel veteran, Tyler is no stranger to audiences unfamiliar with the spiritual music. In addition to singing regularly in places of worship, he has sung his non-secular music literally around the world in night-clubs, concert halls and large-scale festivals. He's also backed up pop stars like Huey Lewis and the News, Blues legends such as John Lee Hooker and B.B. King and Blues/Rock bands like The Fabulous Thunderbirds. He knows what these kinds of audiences will respond to and he's effortlessly earned enthusiastic and spiritually charged audience acclaim from every crowd he's played to.
Producer Jim Pugh, Tyler's longtime collaborator, has enjoyed a superlative tenure as keyboardist with the Robert Cray Band, and has also played with the likes of B.B. King, Etta James, and John Lee Hooker. With Pugh's impeccably utilized talents, Roy and New Directions have created here an hour of New Gospel glory.
Roy states, "I'm hoping listeners will understand the things I feel and sing about. This music has a heart, and the music is in my heart. I've been given the freedom to sing what I think about, and it is the first time I've recorded where I've been able to fully express myself in song. This 'Swamp Gospel' music is for everybody. It's a joyous and unique occasion to have full creative freedom and not have to compromise my artistic vision in the least. It sets me free."
So do the group a favor, won't you? When they ask you about Roy Tyler, you can tell them "he's headed in a New Direction." - Joseph Jordan
Joseph Jordan is the recipient of the "Blues Writer of the Year" award for 2003 by the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame. He's the National Editor of the 2004 "Keeping the Blues Alive" Blues Foundation Award-winning monthly magazine Southland Blues. He's also been a contributing writer with Blues Access, & Blues Revue.
"The Gospel Hummingbirds and Roy Tyler are responsible for the path my musical career has taken. Roy Tyler is like a father figure to me and it is his guidance, expertise, and his understanding of music that has helped me grow. His love for playing gospel music mixed in with his love for R&B has helped me find a balance for the two genres in my own music." - Raphael Saadiq
"One of the best gospel albums of the year." - Clarence Fountain (The Blind Boys of Alabama)
Bayview Studios, Richmond, CA: Recorded (tracks 4,10,13) Studio 880, Oakland, CA: Recorded (tracks 1, 8, 9) The Mont, Piedmont, CA: Recorded (tracks 1, 8, 9) The Days Inn, Sacramento, CA: Recorded (tracks 9) Creekside, Oakland, CA: Recorded (tracks 3, 5) 37th Street Baptist Church, Oakland, CA: Recorded (tracks 11, 12) Guerilla Uphonics, Oakland, CA: Recorded (track 12) Digital editing by David Earl and Steve Cyphers at Severn Studios, Severn, MD Photography by Leslie Hirsch at Hirsch Photography http://www.hirschphotography.com CD design by Kate Moss at Moonshine Design http://www.moonshinedesign.com