Check Out This Incredible Trove of Vintage Amateur Gospel

Memphis Spiritual FourBig Legal Mess Records

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Various Artists
The Soul of Designer Records
Big Legal Mess Records

 

With 101 tracks on four discs, The Soul of Designer Records isn’t for casual listeners, but it will delight most anyone who partakes. This amazing, irresistible collection chronicles the output of the Memphis-based Designer label, which from 1967 to 1977 served as a vanity press for mostly amateur gospel artists looking to record their own 45s. Despite the artists’ nonprofessional status, not to mention the microscopic budgets, the recordings are almost uniformly excellent and exciting, marked by raw, unfeigned passion and stripped-down settings that suggest a church-ified counterpart to garage rock. From Grand Junction to Cora Bell Watkins to the Mighty Blytheville Aires, likable nobodies all, this is one terrific set.

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