|LIVE IN LONDON by Andrae Crouch & the Disciples (1978)|
Light Records - LSX -5717
The familiar disco-influenced beat of Perfect Peace immediately begins, featuring a live horn section and Andrae's sparkling, unmistakable acoustic grand piano playing. Live in London is underway.
The Disciples were a group that Andrae Crouch had assembled in the late 60s. After being "discovered" by Ralph Carmichael, they were signed to Light Records and quickly recorded a string of albums that garnered critical acclaim and won the hearts of millions. Crouch wrote songs that connected with audiences from all walks of life, all ages, and across racial, denominational and socio-economic lines. His music served as a bridge between the Black Gospel world and what would eventually come to be referred to as "CCM" in much the same way that the Imperials bridged the gap between Southern Gospel and Jesus Rock. Crouch and his joyful band of singers and musicians were equally at home among Jesus people at Explo '72 and the Burbank studio of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. They were just as comfortable performing at an A.M.E. church convention as they were on a nationally-televised Billy Graham crusade. While Gospel legends like James Cleveland and the Mighty Clouds of Joy rarely saw a Caucasian face in their audiences, Andrae would routinely sing to crowds that were 50 to 75% white. Remember, churches were by and large still racially segregated all over America in the 70s. Andrae was that rare artist who was embraced by the Black Church, the White Church and the Jesus Movement. Crouch even dismantled generational walls; the parents of his Jesus Movement fans would later find Crouch's songs in their church's hymnals.
Andrae Crouch & the Disciples owned the seventies. They recorded six albums during that decade, plus a double greatest hits release. They toured internationally, playing prestigious venues, and became the first Christian group to play NBC's Saturday Night Live. Multiple Dove and Grammy awards were added to the Crouch trophy case during the 70s. All the while, Andrae insisted he was not an entertainer. “If you ask him, he’ll tell you he’s ’a minister spreading God’s word through song,’" wrote Ebony magazine. "The simple truth of the matter is that Crouch has concocted a winning formula of highly energized rhythm and blues production values and techniques of song construction with explosively charged religious messages, and has emerged as one of the hottest, most commercially successful practitioners of gospel music in the country, if not the entire world.” That was high praise. And absolutely true.
Live in London was the second live album for AC&D. The first one, Live at Carnegie Hall was released in 1973 and will undoubtedly show up on this list a little later on. Live in London was much more polished and was released as a 2-record set.
Recorded at Hammersmith Odeon in London and Free Trade Hall in Manchester, Live in London’s memorable gatefold cover was designed by Don Zubalsky. The front cover featured an iconic Robert August illustration of a “flying piano.” Photographs by Danny Dunn and Paul Slaughter were part of the inside and back cover design.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Andrae’s longtime producer and drummer Bill Maxwell. I asked him how Live in London came about in the first place. “Andrae was getting booked in all these great concert halls, you know, Carnegie Hall, then Sydney Opera House,” Maxwell remembers. “In London we were going to play Royal Albert Hall but that fell through. But they wanted a live recording and we tried recording in Sydney but it didn’t turn out really good (it was on a 4-track machine). So we said, let’s try to do a live album in London."
According to Maxwell, the experience of recording Live in London was a real whirlwind. “We were booked on a tour to go to England,” he says. “We flew from L.A. to London and then took a bus to Wales and played a concert that night with Pat Boone and the Boone Family. The next night we went into London, I met with the remote truck and we had a day to set up the truck for the mics at the Hammersmith Odeon. I was at the same time playing drums and producing the album. It was crazy. We just had time for a quick sound check, went on stage in London and the audience was fantastic. We were a little ragged, but it was the first time they’d seen Andrae. The crowd was incredible. We had a day off, so I listened to the tapes and then we went to Manchester, England. We took the truck to Manchester and recorded the second night. So we had tapes to pick through. We used a lot of Manchester tapes on the album. We came home and fixed a few bad notes and all that stuff.”
|Bill Maxwell on drums|
For many artists, live albums seemed like stale greatest hits compilations, released as a way to fulfill an obligation to the record company. Not so with Andrae. “What we wanted it to feel like – and it was a very complicated procedure – we wanted it to feel like you were sitting in the audience, and one song just led into another,” says Maxwell. “It wasn’t like one song ended and faded out and another song fades up; we wanted it to flow from the song through the applause and whatever Andrae said, into the next song…we wanted it to feel like you were going through a whole concert. In order to do that, we were taking tapes from different nights. It was very complicated.”
Maxwell went on to explain the post-production process: “You would have to mix the song – and in those days we didn’t have digital recorders – we would mix the song and finally get it right on a 2-track, and then you would have the applause on a 2-track, you would have what Andrae said on a 2-track, then you would have the next song on a 2-track, and you’d have another 2-track to record it. You’d have to hit all those machines at once, and then cut those things together! So it was a complicated process, but I learned from some good engineers. And I think we pulled it off, if you listen to it,” said Maxwell.
Crouch was at his best in front of a live audience. The concerts always seemed more like church services, as Andrae not only performed, but exhorted the audience and became a powerfully effective worship leader (before we had even heard of that term). At the end of the day, there was an anointing of the Holy Spirit that was so evident in Crouch's music, and especially on those live concert recordings. What do I mean by "anointing?" I have no idea how to explain it or quantify it. But I know it when I feel it.
“Really, with Andrae, my favorite thing was the way he led worship, when the Holy Spirit would show up,” remembers Bill Maxwell. “You never knew when that was going to be, but you know, in the early 70s there was no one else really singing praise songs and having the audience sing along like that. It was really special when the Holy Spirit would show up. That’s what separated Andrae from just being a band. There was an anointing on it. God would just show up. It happened for a long time. And when it was happening, we knew it. Because it was like, you’re on stage and you could feel that something was happening. That’s what made Andrae special. It was a gift that was on him.”We are treated to four classic hymns on Live in London: Revive Us Again, Power in the Blood, Amazing Grace and I Surrender All. This has to be the most beautiful and inspiring arrangement of I Surrender All ever recorded. I can remember picking out those amazing chords by ear as a young keyboardist and I've basically played Andrae's arrangement of this song in church for most of my life.
"Jesus is alive and He's here tonight. The reason we know that is because we brought Him along with us, and after we got here we found Him to already be here! Tonight, we're not gonna have a concert -- I've said it before -- we're gonna have church! In England!" -Andrae
Humor is utilized on You Don't Have To Jump No Pews. It's a playful reminder that our relationship with the Lord is "not based on emotion or feelings, but faith in God's Word, and receiving."
On the classic Take A Little Time, Crouch not only recounts the story of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus, but he also shares his personal testimony by half-talking/half-singing the verses as only he can. He talks about the Lord healing his body, helping him find work, saving him, and even filling him with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, while the crowd roars its approval.
What the Lord means to you maybe I can't see
Oh, but this one thing I know,
The Man is everything to me (yes, He is)
Because I remember the time
When a job for me was so hard to find
Still, the Lord made a way for me
And some of you heard about when I was sick
And my doctor said I would not get well
But you know the Lord touched and healed my body
And right now I'm able to tell
That's why I say that
I just want
I just want to take a little time right now
and thank the Lord
for all He's done for me
You know some people have houses way up on a hill
But many of them up there don't even know
That God is really, really real
That God is really, really real
But right down here I know He's real
‘Cause He lives within my soul
And when I was only nine years old
He saved me and made me whole
And then a few months later
He gave me something,
Something that I needed most
You know He filled my soul
With the power of the Holy Ghost!
With the power of the Holy Ghost!
The crystal clear voice of the late Danniebelle Hall is featured on another Crouch classic, Tell Them. This one is focused on evangelism.
The funky If I Were a Tree reminds us that we were created in God's image "to give Him the highest praise."
The group then transitions to a worship set that includes the chorus Hallelujah (better known as Alleluia) and two of the aforementioned hymns. Things remain relatively calm during Revive Us Again, but Power in the Blood hearkens back to a style that Andrae must've heard a great deal growing up in the Church of God in Christ. There were probably some folks "shoutin' in the aisles” before that one was over.
Crouch always had a knack for surrounding himself with anointed, talented singers and players. For Live in London The Disciples consisted of Bea Carr, James Felix, and longtime members Danniebelle Hall, Perry Morgan, and, of course, Andrae's twin sister Sandra Crouch. The band consisted of Felix on bass, Harlan Rogers and the late Mike Escalante on keyboards, Hadley Hockensmith and Jimmie Davis on guitars, and longtime drummer Bill Maxwell. Of course, Crouch himself played acoustic piano. Glenn Myerscough and Allen Gregory played horns. The live format really allowed these players and singers to shine.
The second record in this 2-album set begins with a song that Bill Maxwell says was added to the setlist at the last minute. Situated somewhere between funk and traditional black gospel, I Just Want to Know You indicates a longing to know the Lord on a deeper, more personal level.
The second-coming inspired classic Just Like He Said He Would was up next. Before the song, Andrae led the audience in a little call-and-response with the song's lyrics, then had a little fun contrasting his song with the old hymn that talks about being satisfied with just "a cabin in the corner of Gloryland."
"I don't even like cabins!" declared Crouch, to the delight of the British audience.
"There's a revival goin on right now all around the world, for those of you that don't know it. And God is moving by His spirit. And all you've got to do is just open your heart and say, 'Lord, here I am. I open the door of my heart.' He's knocking right now to some of you who have been running from Him. All you've gotta do is say, 'Yes. Yes, Lord. I'm willing to go all the way with You. I'm tired of fighting.' I remember when I was nine years old, I told Him, 'Yes.' And I haven't regretted one moment of following Jesus." -Andrae
Next, Andrae delivers a powerful, heartfelt testimony song called I'll Keep On Loving You, Lord. It's a ballad that Crouch sings alone, and it's a gem.
The last song on Side Three is a funky testimony song titled You Gave to Me. It was a favorite from the group's This is Another Day album.
The album's final side opens with Andrae again leading worship, first in a call-and-response format (O Taste and See), and then by leading the audience in Amazing Grace (listed on the album as Praise God, Praise God).
Next, the title track of This is Another Day gets the live treatment. If you're ever down and need encouragement (or just a good, swift kick in the pants), you really can't go wrong listening to this song.
The group then transitions back into a reprise of Praise God (sung to the tune of Amazing Grace). Andrae exhorts the crowd, "Don't just sing it from your lips, but sing it from your heart."
Next up is one of the album's highlights, an uptempo song called Well Done. This one looks forward with anticipation to the day that we will stand before the Lord face to face:
"Well done, well done
Good and faithful servant, well done"
When I see His precious face
All I want to hear Him say is, "Well Done"
Live in London concludes with an abbreviated version of one of Andrae's greatest songs, My Tribute.
Andrae Crouch would go solo in the 1980s. He recorded albums of his own, collaborated with artists like Michael Jackson and Madonna, and also worked successfully in film and television. But it is safe to say that the energy, passion and pure joy exhibited during his time with the Disciples was never again equaled.
We didn't know it at the time, but this would turn out to be a Dove and Grammy award-winning double live album that put an exclamation point on the career of this groundbreaking, trendsetting, culture-bridging group. Sure, there were compilations that followed many years later, and a successful solo career for Crouch, but Live in London was the last major release from AC&D. They went out with a bang.
“I know Alex Acuna tells me that’s the reason he got saved, because of that album,” Bill Maxwell remembers. “He was on the road with Diana Ross; he didn’t speak very good English. He said he could just hear the drum beat and ‘Jesus.’ And there was something about it that got his heart. So, if it just accomplished that, if it spoke to Alex and led him to the Lord, that made it all worthwhile.”
Editor's Note: Andrae Crouch went Home to be with the Lord on January 8, 2015.