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Playlist - "Why God has the best tunes" by Martin Rossiter feat Dolly Parton, Sufjan Stevens, Elvis, Byrds & more

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Former Gene frontman Martin Rossiter releases his first solo album The Defenestration Of St Martin. Clearly in a religious mood, to mark his return he’s compiled us a Playlist called “Why God has the best tunes”. Here’s why…

“Like most children of my age in South Wales, every Sunday I went to Methodist Chapel. I fell in love with the hymns. We didn’t have any pop music in the house, the most contemporary album my folks owned was Sinatra’s Songs For Swinging Lovers and that never got played. The only musical education I had came from the pews of Conway Road Methodist Church in Cardiff: the hymns with their transcendent melodies and words from another more portentous age.

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“When I write now, I’ve realised I’m merely trying to recapture the feelings provoked by Charles Wesley being sung by a congregation of heavily mustached Welsh men. The vast majority of records I come back to again and again have some connection to the church, whether it’s a voice, a melody or an arrangement. I’ve realised my emotional responses to music were hard wired in my early years. I am a rabid atheist but my task is to disprove the (mis)quote The devil has the best tunes.”

The Impressions – People Get Ready

“Curtis Mayfield has a voice that could only have been matured singing Gospel. It’s an unshowy and humble performance that forces the ear to listen to the words.”

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Dolly Parton – Coat of Many Colors

“This shares more in common with People Get Ready than one might think on first listen. For all writers who have learned their craft in church it becomes second nature to arrange the music with one purpose: to showcase the narrative, to present the message.”

Johnny Cash – The Battle Hymn Of The Republic

“Despite the patriotic tone, I find myself swept away by the stirring melody, arranged to embolden and galvanize. Add to that a voice that rasps truth and I’m there, bayonet in hand.”

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Candi Staton/Frankie Knuckles – You Got the Love

“Although someone did their best to ruin this for a generation, this remains one of the most inspired recordings ever committed to tape. House was designed to transcend the everyday, to create a Godly euphoria. The genius of this, is it takes an already uplifting, semi religious vocal and lays it atop Knuckles’ ethereal masterpiece. The result is the sensation that there is something bigger than the individual. 200 years ago the only feasible explanation for this feeling, was a connection to God.”

Aaron Copland – Appalachian Spring: 1945 Suite, excerpt Simple Gifts

“This is based on the Shaker song Simple Gifts. The beauty of this lies in the combination of the most pure melody with Copland’s modern American classical archetype. It leaves me breathless.”

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The Byrds – Turn, Turn, Turn

“Written by Pete Seeger, the lyrics are taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes. The Byrds managed to turn this into celebratory West Coast pop hymn.”

Paul Robeson – Amazing Grace

“Amazing Grace has a melody that has an unmatched universality. I listened to over twenty versions when assembling this list from Aretha to Elvis. Robeson’s version is simple and touching, his magnificent baritone adding even greater consequence to the lyric.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Just a Closer Walk With Thee

“The vocal is truly astonishing. Despite her still unsurpassed technical ability she made a decision to let the tone of her voice do all the work. It’s so sympathetic to the lyric that if you are not moved, you clearly have no soul.”

Sufjan Stevens – O Come, O Come Emmanuel

“This was always my favourite carol as a child. Sufjan has managed to capture the other-worldly melancholy that’s intrinsic to a lot of the greatest Christian music.”

Elvis Presley – Crying In The Chapel

“Elvis said: I know practically every religious song that’s been written. He sings with such a delightful and delicate respectfulness, I suspect that was true.”

For more from Martin, including his solo album, head to Pledgemusic.com/projects/martinrossiter.


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