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This month, we’re featuring an amazing new pressing of an album that has never been released on vinyl: a live recording of Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1960. The album came out on CD in the ’90s, but hasn’t been on vinyl till Org Music decided to reissue it. We’re carrying a red and white swirl edition, exclusive to Vinyl Me, Please. We talked to Org Music’s Andrew Rossiter about everything you need to know about their reissue.
VMP: For the uninitiated, who is Sister Rosetta Tharpe? Why is she an important artist to know?
Andrew Rossiter: Sister Rosetta Tharpe is an important artist for anyone interested in gospel music, rhythm and blues, jazz and particularly for those interested in tracing the roots of rock and roll. She was among the first gospel artists to perform in secular clubs, and she helped bring gospel music into the mainstream when she signed to Decca in 1938. It would be an understatement to say that Tharpe is one of the most influential artists of the past century, earning her the nickname "the godmother of rock and roll.”
Tell me what you know about this concert you guys are issuing on vinyl. Interesting story behind it?
The concert was recorded while Tharpe was on tour in Europe in 1960, partly to avoid the backlash she faced from her religious fans in the United States for her controversial cross-over between gospel and secular blues music.
What makes this concert special?
The recording captures Sister Rosetta in an intimate setting, playing a solo set with just her voice, electric guitar and the occasional stomp of the foot to keep rhythm. Hearing the audience clap along and interact with Tharpe throughout the performance makes it very easy to imagine yourself there in the crowd.
Why did you guys want to issue this on vinyl? It had never been on vinyl, right?
That’s right; the recording had never been on vinyl, and was actually never issued at all until a 1991 CD release from Southland Records. Aside from being an absolute pleasure to listen to, Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s recordings are important historical documents, and this one is no exception.
How did ORG Music get involved?
We recently started working with a catalog group which controls the rights to Southland Records, among other labels, to reissue their catalog on vinyl. We have more records from this group in the works already, and plan to continue the series in the months and years to come.
Can you describe the process of remastering this? Did you have original tapes?
We had high-resolution digital transfers taken from the original analog tapes, which are now housed in New Orleans. We then commissioned Infrasonic Mastering in Los Angeles to remaster the album for vinyl from those tape transfers.
If someone wants to get into more Sister Rosetta Tharpe, what’s another album they should look into?
It’s difficult to choose just one, but I'd suggest Gospel Train, which is the first album of hers that I picked up. I also recommend checking out the PBS American Masters film Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll.
Anything else people should know about the album?
As we do with the vast majority of our releases, and virtually all of our jazz reissues, we pressed the album on audiophile-grade vinyl at Pallas Group in Germany.
As a bonus, here's a video Org Music made to show off the record:
Andrew Winistorfer is Senior Director of Music and Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard, The Story of Willie Nelson, Miles Davis: The Electric Years and The Story of Waylon Jennings. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.