Two Wings good
Among the most charismatic of all guitar-slinging evangelists in a gospel field packed with church-wrecking holy rollers, the man behind the angel-wing-sporting character known as Elder Utah Smith has remained largely a mystery to spiritual music scholars and collectors alike. So I'm happy to report that Lynn Abbott's sleuthing expedition into Elder Utah Smith's life and times has resulted in an excellent anecdote-packed biographical study, I Got Two Wings (CaseQuarter).
Along with informative first-hand accounts, newspaper clippings, label artwork and never-before-published photos of Elder Smith in action (with wings and without), the folks at CaseQuarter behind the superb CD anthologies of Reverend Charlie Jackson, Isaiah Owens and the Spiritualaires of Hurtsboro, Alabama, have also included a fabulous 18-track disc of Elder Smith's hard-to-find recordings along with those of his Church of God In Christ contemporaries. A revelatory introduction to the explosive spirit-raising experiments blasted out in the name of Jesus years before the advent of rock 'n' roll.
I Got Two Wings compilation CD
Rev. Utah Smith - Two Wings
Elder Curry - Memphis Flu
Eddie Russ - Zaius
Eddie Russ - Take A Look At Yourself
Besides being home to the NFL team with the most Super Bowl wins of any football franchise, Pittsburgh has also produced a number of jazz greats, including Mary Lou Williams, Kenny Clarke and the late, great keyboardist Eddie Russ, whose accomplishments are often overlooked.
After leaving the spiritual jazz crew the Mixed Bag, Russ went on to record the fabulous Fresh Out LP for JazzMasters, followed by late 70s soul jazz cookers for the Monument label See The Light and Take A Look At Yourself, which have been out of print for ages.
Unlike many jazz reissue operations, "fusion" isn't considereed a bad thing by those in charge of the UK-based Soul Brother label, who've thoughtfully repackaged Russ's two Monument releases on a single disc that should be of interest to anyone who can't get enough of what Weldon Irvine and Lonnie Liston Smith were putting down back in the day.
If you type "Wicked Witch of Washington" into Google, chances are you'll get more hits for Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton than for the DC funk rock band Wicked Witch, formed by students of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts back in the late 70s.
The hombre known as Witch might look like some crazy Hendrix-inspired psych ripper, but the surviving Wicked Witch recordings released on vinyl as Chaos 1978-86 by Honest Jons are closer in spirit to "Prince Charles" Alexander or maybe a Black Merda-backed Fugi angling for some percussion-heavy Experience Unlimited action. Admittedly, it's not all gold, but it's still an intriguing discovery, and the six tracks here are more enjoyable than any of that Elmore Judd rubbish Honest Jons is pushing.