You can hear black history and suffering in the voice of Paul Robeson. The son of a minister who had been a slave, Robeson - in addition to being a lawyer, college football star and McCarthy-era iconoclast - was one of America's earliest mainstream black entertainers long before Sidney Poitier. He was also one of the first singers to perform old gospel spirituals for public consumption, many of which he recorded privately, as can be heard on this stirring Smithsonian collection of unarchived Robeson recordings.
The Renaissance man's deep, emotive baritone provides highly affecting soulfulness through 32 songs, including Scandalize My Name, Swing Low Sweet Chariot and Bear The Burden In The Heat Of The Day. He also performs German arias and Yiddish chants. Not only is this the musical equivalent of the deepest shade of blue you'll ever see, but the 36-page booklet contains fascinating essays and biographical texts on an African American legend.