Sounds of Blackness, a 40-person choir and ten-piece orchestra led by Gary Hines, combined traditional African music with urban soul to become one of the most distinctive and popular contemporary gospel groups. Over the course of their career, the group won many awards, from organizations as diverse as the Grammies and the NAACP.
Russel Knight formed the group that would prove to be the origins of Sounds of Blackness in 1969 at St. Paul, Minnesota's Macalester College in 1971. It wasn't until 1971, when Gary Hines was hired as their musical director, that the group developed its own identity. Hines opened the group up to the entire community and expanded their musical scope to concentrate on all aspects of black music. He designed the group as a way to embrace all manners of African-American music and create rich, diverse music to celebrate God and the human spirit, as well as make social statements. With their new direction in mind, the group renamed themselves Sounds of Blackness.
For the first decade and a half of the group's existence, Sounds of Blackness primarily played around Minneapolis, often opening for acts as diverse as the Jackson 5 and Hampton Hawes. They frequently released their own records, which helped them strengthen their local following.
Partially by choice, Sounds of Blackness remained a regional attraction until 1989, when Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the hot Minneapolis-based production team, brought Janet Jackson to one of their concerts. Jackson's enthusiastic response inspired Jam & Lewis, who were already in negotiations with Sounds of Blackness, to sign the group to Perspective/A&M immediately. Before the Perspective deal, any major label interested in the Sounds of Blackness asked the group to streamline their sound to include only gospel or R&B, or asked them to change their name to Sounds of Music; it wasn't until Perspective that they were allowed to keep their style and sound intact.
The group's national debut album, The Evolution of Gospel, was largely produced by Jam & Lewis and received strong reviews. The pair produced the group's next two records, 1992's The Night Before Christmas (A Musical Fantasy) and 1994's Africa to America: The Journey of the Drum, as well.
All of the Sounds of Blackness' first three records were successful, earning strong reviews and sales, plus several awards. Their success meant that the group could branch out on Time for Healing, which was released in May 1997. Time for Healing was the first self-produced Sounds of Blackness album, featuring heavy contributions from assistant director Billy Steele and bandleader Levi Seacer. The group followed it with Reconciliation in 1999, and landed a gig at the White House that New Year's Eve.
01. Chains 02. Optimistic 03. Ah Been Workin' 04. Pressure, Pt. 1 05. Testify 06. Gonna Be Free One Day 07. Stand! 08. Pressure, Pt. 2 09. Your Wish Is My Command 10. Hallelujah Lord! 11. We Give You Thanks 12. He Holds the Future 13. What Shall I Call Him 14. Better Watch Your Behavior 15. Please Take My Hand 16. I'll Fly Away 17. Harambee (Swahili for Let Us All Pull Together)
01. Hold On, Pt. 1 02. I'm Going All the Way 03. Ah Been Buked, Part 1 04. I Believe 05. Hold On, Pt. 2 06. Everything Is Gonna Be Alright 07. Sun-Up to Sundown 08. The Lord Will Make a Way 09. He Took Away All My Pain 10. A Place in My Heart 11. The Harder They Are the Bigger Th 12. The Drum (Africa to America) 13. African Medley_ Royal Kingdom_Ris 14. A Very Special Love 15. Strange Fruit 16. Black Butterfly 17. You've Taken My Blues and Gone 18. Livin' the Blues 19. Ah Been Buked, Part 2
01. Africana 02. Spirit 03. We Are Gonna Make It Through, Pt. 1 04. Hold On (Change Is Comin') 05. Love Will Never Change 06. Love Train 07. God Cares 08. Hold On (Don't Let Go) 09. Crisis 10. We Are Gonna Make It Through, Pt. 2 11. You Can Make It If You Try 12. The Blackness Blues 13. I'll Open My Mouth to the Lord-Better Be Ready-Rockin' Jerusalem-E 14. So Far Away 15. Familiar Waters 16. Time for Healing 17. We Are Gonna Make It Through, Pt. 3 18. Hold On (Change Is Comin') [Roger Troutman Remix] 19. Kwanzaa-Uomja-Uhuru
01. (Prelude) Sounds of Blackness, Pt. 2 02. Heaven on Earth 03. Don't You Ever Give Up 04. Sweet Spiritual Suite in Eb, Pt. 1 05. Tears in Heaven (Ft. Ron Winans) 06. Another Day 07. Movin' On 08. Brighter Day 09. Yes We Can Can 10. Real True Love 11. Children of God 12. Sweet Spiritual Suite in Eb, Pt. 2 13. Trouble Is My Home 14. Sweet Spiritual Suite in Eb, Pt. 3 15. Obafemi 16. As Long as You're With Me 17. Life Has Meaning
01. Chains 02. I Believe 03. Stand 04. Optimistic 05. Hold On (Change Is Comin') 06. Spirit - Craig Mack, Sounds of Blackness 07. Testify 08. Everything Is Gonna Be Alright 09. Pressure, Pt. 1 10. I'm Going All the Way 11. Black Butterfly 12. We Give You Thanks
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