Overview of African-American gospel sounds whose dazzling talent-display should exhilarate viewers.
Drawing on the voluminous materials collected by archivist-producer Joe Lauro, vet music documentarian Don McGlynn has created in “Rejoice and Shout” an overview of African-American gospel sounds whose dazzling talent-display should exhilarate viewers regardless of religious leanings. Preaching to the converted via target-marketing could gain Magnolia’s planned fall release an audience well beyond docu norms; long ancillary shelf life is guaranteed.
The matter of faith itself is addressed right away, with Smokey Robinson most eloquent in describing music as a natural means of expressing spirituality. Pic then marches chronologically through highlights from gospel’s history, from plantation to first recording (the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet in 1902) to a succession of stellar 20th-century acts. Decision to show an entire, uninterrupted number from each group with surviving performance footage provides terrifically diverse entertainment and a few real revelations. Especially notable are potent singer-guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Swan Silvertones (led by Claude Jeter’s dramatic falsetto), in addition to more widely known crossover artists like Mahalia Jackson. In between, latter-day commentators note the form’s constant evolution. Though evenly paced, the smartly packaged film’s two hours race by.