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The Mighty Clouds of Joy – 1974 – It’s Time

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A landmark blend of gospel spirit and 70s soul – and one of the greatest moments ever from The Mighty Clouds Of Joy! Like so many other soul artists before them, these guys have voices that are steeped in the best traditions of gospel – but rather than giving up their roots and going secular, they just cut this set with the best Philly soul help of the time – arrangements from Wade Marcus, and a smoking Sigma Sound lineup that includes work from Norman Harris, Vince Montana, Bobby Eli, Ronnie Baker, and Earl Young – all of whom give the record the vibe of the best Philly International material from the time! Dave Crawford produced, but the set almost feels more Gamble & Huff than anything else – as the quintet’s vocals really soar.

A1 Time 3:18
A2 Stoned World 3:13
A3 Laugh 3:15
A4 (You Think) You’re Doin’ It On Your Own 5:03
A5 The Master Plan 4:02
B1 Mighty Cloud Of Joy 5:10
B2 Everything Is Going Up 4:08
B3 Heart Full Of Love 3:30
B4 Time 3:36

Contemporary gospel’s preeminent group, the Mighty Clouds of Joy carried the torch for the traditional quartet vocal style throughout an era dominated by solo acts and choirs; pioneering a distinctively funky sound that over time gained grudging acceptance even among purists, they pushed spiritual music in new and unexpected directions, even scoring a major disco hit. The Mighty Clouds of Joy were formed in Los Angeles during the ’50s by schoolmates Joe Ligon and Johnny Martin; while still in their teens, the original group — which also included Leon Polk, Richard Wallace, and brothers Ermant and Elmo Franklin — made their recorded debut in 1960 with “Steal Away to Jesus,” cut for the Peacock label. Their debut LP, Family Circle, arrived a year later. In the years that followed, the Mighty Clouds joined the ranks of gospel’s greatest showmen; one of the first groups to incorporate choreographed moves into their act, their nimble footwork and bright, color-coordinated outfits earned them the sobriquet “The Temptations of Gospel.”

More importantly, they were the first group to add bass, drums, and keyboards to the standard quartet accompaniment of solo guitar, resulting in a sound that horrified traditionalists but appealed to younger listeners — so much so, in fact, that the Mighty Clouds became the first gospel act ever to appear on television’s Soul Train, where they performed their disco smash “Mighty High.” Their crossover success continued with opening slots for secular pop stars including Marvin Gaye, the Rolling Stones, and Paul Simon, whom the group backed during a monthlong stint at Madison Square Garden. While lineup changes plagued the Mighty Clouds throughout their career, they remained active into the new millennium; in addition to co-founders Ligon and Wallace, their latter-day incarnation also included Paul Beasley, Michael McCowin, Wilbert Williams, Johnny Valentine, and Ron Staples. As the years advanced, Ligon took a more supportive singing role, with lead vocals performed by ex-Gospel Keynotes vocalist Beasley. Ligon died in December 2016 at the age of 80.