Monday, September 22, 2008

Fourteen Years Later; Remembering Mattie Moss Clark

This afternoon while opening the front door to go to the mailbox to see what bills arrived, I was greeted by a sealed white package lying on the porch. Usually the U.S. Postal Service (not UPS) rings the doorbell to see if anyone is home, but I didn’t get that today. Maybe because the television was so loud in the house that I couldn’t really hear anything outside my bedroom. I anxiously open the package to see what beautiful piece of vinyl I received this week after weeks of glorious victories on eBay in search of priceless, vintage gospel records. This week, I received a sealed copy of The Best of the Southwest Michigan State Choir of the Church of God in Christ. The album, released in 1979, is a double-disc collection featuring some of the greatest sides ever recorded with the famed historic choir on the Savoy music label. Much of the material comes out of the late ‘50s and 1960s including “I Thank You Lord,” “Salvation Is Free,” the contemporary sounds of "He Abides" and the charismatic COGIC standard “Climbing Up The Mountain.”

And this wonderful institution in gospel music history was led by a powerful force named Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. The choir went on to record a number of albums for several music labels including Savoy and Sound of Gospel - three of those recordings were certified gold. But the group made their mark for being one of the earliest choirs to record their music using the classic three-part harmony. They also earned the distinguished honor to being one of the first groups to record albums in a live recording setting.

After opening the album to journey back in time to these classics, I decided to do a little extensive research on the legendary matriarch. Most of the stuff I already knew, but what I found to be quite bizarre is that of all the days...I received this album in the mail on the exact same day when Dr. Mattie Moss Clark departed this life and passed away. Today marks the fourteen anniversary of her passing after a severe bout with diabetes.

In this new age of technology, some are sharing their massive collections with the world quicker than the music labels. At, Johnzoe777 and Rowoches, a 24-year old music buff, have posted video clips of some of Mattie Moss Clark’s greatest hits - straight off of the needle of those wonderful vinyl discs. Some of the clips even feature glimpses of the classic “Harvey” album covers. Songs posted by include ‘Write My Name Above,” “Climbing Up The Mountain,” “I Thank You Lord” and “Oh Sinner, You Can’t Hide from God.”

Finding Mattie Moss Clark music, whether it is on vinyl, tape, CD or on mp3 websites, remain a terrible hide-and-seek goose hunt for many music lovers. Much of Savoy’s divine past lies in rest in the hands of Jackson, MS-based Malaco Records and hasn’t see the light of day since vinyl was king of record shops. There may be a few legal matters holding the label back on whether it is possible to re-release the material as reissues or as revamped “greatest hits” collections, since Arista Records was in charge of manufacturing and distribution of all of Savoy’s album releases from 1975 to 1986. Savoy has released other compilations in the past, but barely a trace of them in the last five years - except for compilations from New York Restoration Choir, Georgia Mass Choir and the imbalance assortment of Savoy Gospel Classics. But there’s a ton of gospel classics and never-released cuts sitting in the chambers of Malaco and continues to collect dust as the company continues their worldwide domination to buy out other smaller music labels. The most recent acquisition included AIR Gospel. But for Mattie Moss Clark fans, they have to sit and wait for the original masters of her well-beloved recordings to somehow earn some T.L.C. (tender love & care). With so much potential to revive their catalog and to bring new found attention to their priceless goldmine, the Malaco Music Group continues to withdraw any sign of re-releasing records from the Roberta Martin Singers, the Angelic Choir, Isaac Douglas, the Davis Sisters, the Caravans, Jessy Dixon, the O’Neal Twins, Sara Jordan Powell, Donald Vails, Georgia Mass Choir, New Jerusalem Baptist Church Choir and the Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir.

Well, in the meantime - we're off to eBay and YouTube.

Below is a YouTube clip of the Mattie Moss Clark "Write My Name Above;" featuring the legendary Rose Marie-Ransom on lead.

Gospel 101: The Official Gospel Timeline []
Rowoches posts "Climbing Up the Mountain" (Original) []
Johnzoe posts "Write My Name Above" []
Mattie Moss Clark Biography & Partial Discography []

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