Another reader request gives us this week’s ten on ten feature of the Blackwood Brothers. Along with the Statesmen Quartet, the Blackwood Brothers dominated the gospel quartet world of the ’50′s/early ’60′s. Anchored by the strong lead vocal of James Blackwood, who would tour with the group through the early ’80′s.
Trying to compile a list of the ten best recordings of a group like the Blackwood Brothers is not an easy task. Here is the final result.
The Blackwood Brothers ten best recordings are as follows:
- The Keys To The Kingdom (1962)
- In Concert (1960)
- Paradise Island (1959)
- His Hands (1958)
- On Stage (1963)
- Hymn Sing (1956)
- The Fabulous Blackwood Brothers Quartet (1968)
- The Pearly White City (1961)
- Learning To Lean (1976)
- The Sound Of Gospel Music (1966)
- Unlike most groups that have that definitive album that defines them, the Blackwood Brothers released several strong recordings in the late 1950′s and early 1960′s that could be considered their #1. After going over it several times, I went with my gut and gave top honors to the group’s 1962 RCA Camden recording The Keys To The Kingdom.
- This time period was one of the strongest vocal line-ups the Blackwood Brothers had in their career outside the original group. Bill Shaw (tenor), James Blackwood (lead), Cecil Blackwood (baritone), JD Sumner (bass) and Wally Varner (pianist) thrilled audiences night after night.
- “Walkin’ And Talkin’ With My Lord”, “The Keys To The Kingdom”, “I Won’t Have To Cross Jordan Alone”, “Wonderful Love”, “Rock-A-My-Soul” and “Every Day Will Be Sunday” all highlighted this recording.
- Along with the Statesmen, the Blackwood Brothers recorded a concert recording in 1960. Their In Concert album ranks #2 among the group’s best. Listening to these early concert recordings is a treat for those of us not around during the time period. This is another of those recordings every Southern Gospel quartet lover should have in their collection.
- One of the most unusual album’s recorded in Southern Gospel music was the Blackwood Brothers 1959 recording, Paradise Island. A true concept album, taking the sounds of the Hawaiian Islands and translating them to quartet music created one of the more unique recordings in the genre’s history. This album ranks #3 among the group’s ten best.
- As was the case with the Statesmen, the Blackwood Brothers best recordings were recorded with RCA (Victor/Camden). Nine of the group’s ten best were with RCA. The one lonely Skylite recording in the top ten is the 1976 recording Learning To Lean. If for nothing else but containing the biggest song (“Learning To Lean”) in Southern Gospel chart history, the album deserved a spot (#9) in the top ten.
- One of the group’s first RCA albums, Hymn Sing, from 1956 lands at #6 among the group’s ten best. A lesson in Southern Gospel quartet singing is given on this particular album. Classic music such as “I Saw A Man”, “Heavenly Love”, ‘I Wanta Go There”, “I Just Can’t Make It By Myself”, “Inside The Gate” and “I Bowed On My Knees And Cried Holy” make this an easy choice for a top ten listing.
- The Blackwood Brothers have had a list of Southern Gospel’s finest names, in addition to those already mentioned, like Billy Blackwood, Jimmy Blackwood, RW Blackwood, RW Blackwood Jr, Tony Brown, John Cox, Larry Davis, Tommy Fairchild, Whitey Gleason, John Hall, Pat Hoffmaster, Bill Lyles, Jackie Marshall, London Parris, Jeff Stice, Ken Turer and David Weston.
- The Blackwood legacy continues with Jimmy and Billy Blackwood as they travel once again as the Blackwood Brothers. The group released a 75 year recording, two years ago, honoring that legacy.
- With an extensive recording career, here are some honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the top ten: L-O-V-E (1972), 75 Years – The Song Will Go On (2010), With A Song On My Lips (1967), Fill My Cup Lord (1969) and Give The World A Smile (1959).