If you’re a breathing human in 2019 — and I’d assume you’d have to be, but correct me if I’m wrong — you know the weight that just existence can have on you. It’s hard out here, and I don’t just mean trying not to die from the climate crisis. Which is why the album that I’ve been spending more time with these last few weeks than any other is The Time For Peace Is Now, a collection from Luaka Bop that collects “lost” and rare gospel singles from the ’70s. These are songs being made by people who were convinced that world was in crisis — Vietnam, poverty, and drug abuse were wrecking the world then — and turning that worry into transcendent, beautiful music that at the time probably didn’t get the attention it deserved. Thanks to The Time For Peace is Now now these unsung heroes can speak to a new generation of people worried the world is going to end.
The Time For Peace is Now is the sequel to Luaka Bop’s release of The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, a collection of Alice Coltrane’s spiritual music. Compiled by the work of collectors and gospel experts, the 13 songs and artists here all recorded for tiny regional labels, and toured the gospel circuit, but never made an impact on the charts. So while they might capture some spirit of the popular soul and gospel of the ’70s, nothing here is going to be familiar to you, which is what makes this set so impactful. The slow burn of James Bynum’s “We Are In Need” feels like a true revelation, and the Triumphs and “We Don’t Love Enough” sound like a lost powerhouse group of gospel. The moments of jaw dropping songcraft are too momentous to list here, but by the time you get to the final track — Mighty Revelaires’ “Sunshine After Every Rain” — it feels like you’ve gotten a primer on a bunch of artists to track down.
If there’s an inspiration here beyond the lord above it’s the Staple Singers: They were, even in the ’70s, the Beatles and the Stones of gospel, having gone “pop” on albums for Stax and hitting No. 1 on Billboard after years touring churches. They’re heard in ecstatic family shouts of Floyd Family Singers’ “That’s A Sign Of The Times,” and the warbling rock of “Peace In The Land” by the Gospel I.Q.’s. But the Staples are most present in “We Got A Race to Run” from the hilariously named Staples Jr. Singers, a song that simmers like a 95-degree day on asphalt, a song that itself makes the case for many more editions of The Time For Peace Is Now. Because if there are this many amazing, affecting songs that feel like a warm embrace in uncertain times, there has to be many more out there, waiting to be discovered.