November 19, 2013

The Highway QC’s, “Pray” (1968)

In 1945, Lee Richardson, Gus Treadwell, Creedell Copeland, Marvin Jones, and Charles “Jake” Richardson formed The Teenage Highway QC’s, named after Quincy College High School of Chicago. Various line-ups of the Highway QC’s performed into the 1990’s. Spin off stars include Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls, and Johnnie Taylor. In “Pray,” personal and global apocalypses merge harmoniously. The stakes of one are intimately bound up with the other. Consequently, doo-wop directives oblige you to pray, or rather, not to “forget to pray,” for the sake of humanity.

November 19, 2013

The Prodigals (Choir of the Missouri Medium Security Prison), “This is the Way I Pray” (n.d.)

Prisoners at Prayer (Nu-Sound Records) was arranged and produced under the auspices of Chaplain Earl-Clayton Grandstaff. Grandstaff was an ordained Baptist minister and the author of A Study of Correctional Chaplaincy Service (1966). His was a mixture of benevolent reform, faith in redemption, and spectacle. The novelty of reformed criminals is quite palpable on this album. As deviant peculiarity gives way to choral coordination in your ears and in front of your eyes, you cannot help but think of the Foucauldian framing, perhaps only through it.

Album Insert“Prisoners are people . . . yet visitors never cease to marvel at the personality and performance of prisoners,” says Superintendent Ed Haynes of the Missouri Medium Security Prison in Moberly, Missouri. Liberal conscience is emboldened here, swayed by the righteousness of its cause, its knowledge of being in the right. As reported in the liner notes, Haynes “welcomes students and serious visitors to what has been called a ‘bold venture of faith about the inherent goodness within every man . . . Truly NO MAN IS AN ISLAND when prisoners are at prayer.”

As the unattributed blurb on the sleeve attests, we have here “a really unique choir, performing a public service for the listener and for the participant alike, whether incarcerated or a member of the ‘free society’ …”  The scare quotes seem to offer a rebuke of sorts, a reminder, a stinging criticism of the way in which members of the free society casually hold their assumptions.


November 19, 2013

Prayer—The Christian’s Chief Business (1959)

In what amounts to mnemonic therapy, the brain is strengthened and the will is chastened in Prayer—The Christian’s Chief Business (Sacred Records). Sacred Records was started by Earle E. Williams in 1944. He was the host of Sunday Sing (originally Highway to Heaven) on KCOP in Los Angeles, which premiered in October of 1956.

Williams was fond of the stentorian voice-over and it is readily apparent in this selection.

We need to know that our praying is well done. We need to know why and how we should pray. We must know the conditions of prayer which God has given in his word, the Bible. So we turn now to the script cards . . . you will need to have your purple pencil.

From start to finish, the narrator guides you through the necessary conditions of prayer and repeatedly assesses your learning outcome. Attention is incited for 20:57. And the stakes are high but never explicitly confirmed. For if you cannot recall, “promptly and accurately,” the conditions of prayerful propriety, well, then, you need to listen again. And again. And again.

Take out your purple pencil.

November 19, 2013

Unknown, “The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore” (1970)

“The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore” promised nothing less than to generate the “best possible self” by way of concentration and relaxation. This was no ad copy hokum, but the results of “extensive research” into how it affects “your respiration, heartbeat, and metabolism.”

In listening tests conducted prior to the release of ENVIRONMENTS ONE, it was found that this sort of sound had a direct effect on the imagination and subconscious of the listener, no matter what his age or occupation. If used while reading, comprehension and reading speed improve noticeably. If used at mealtime, appetites improve. Insomniacs fall asleep without the aid of drugs. Hypertension vanishes. Student’s marks improve. It’s [sic] effect on the esthetics of lovemaking is truly remarkable. In noisy or very quiet surroundings, improvement in working conditions is little short of miraculous. Teenagers are the record’s biggest fans; they call it everything from  “the ultimate trip” to “sensual rock.”