catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 9 :: 2004.04.23 — 2004.05.06


Goodbye, Babylon: Honey In the Rock

The ecstatic joy that rock’n’roll stole from American gospel music has finally returned to its rightful owner. Dust-to-Digital’s newly released box set, Goodbye, Babylon, gathers over 125 songs and 25 old-time sermons into the digital fold, making it possible for listeners to hear original recordings of classic and forgotten American gospel songs on just 6 compact discs. If you’re looking for kindred spirits to accompany you on your own Kingdom journey to the Promised Land, look no further than these hand-clappin’, foot-stompin’, guitar pickin’, glory-hallelujah shoutin’ folk!

The spiritual force of the music is complimented by a complete package that is obedient to the gospel tradition in every aspect. After ordering the $100 box set from Dust-to-Digital’s web site, you will receive a miniature wood crate (packed in raw cotton) with a rendering of Gustave Dore’s magnificent The Confusion of Tongues etched on top. Inside the crate: six CDs and a 180+ page book that, complete with Bible verses for each song, not only educates, it also evangelizes.

The makers of Goodbye, Babylon do not seem satisfied to present a historical lesson in old music. Instead, the fellas behind “the most complete assortment and collection of sacred music yet published” maintain their obedience to the gospel tradition by arranging the songs to have a “religious” effect on the hearer. The CDs are ordered according to the themes of death, joy, judgment, salvation and the apocalypse so that by the time the music and sermons are over the listener has become a believer, joined the band and been washed in the blood of the Lamb.

It?s the mixing of life’s harsh reality with the assurance of victory in Jesus that gives this music such power and authenticity. In the book’s introductory essay, Dick Spottswood says, “Religion doesn’t always foster memorable music but, when it does, it rivals the best that secular music has to offer. Sometimes one musical hand may be observed washing the other, allowing free interplay and mutual inspiration between the heavenly and worldly.” It was gospel music’s ecstatic energy that inspired rock bands like The Rolling Stones to tie the Two Gospel Keys’ You’ve Got To Move freedom to the un-bridled licentiousness of the sexual revolution in the fifties and sixties. But, as Spottswood notes, the American gospel spirit belongs also to the German Lutheran tradition (embodied by Bach) and the Appalachian Englishmen whose melodies and rhythms mixed with African traditions in the South.

Gospel music’s rich tradition can be explained by many factors, but if you asked the actual gospel musicians featured on the Goodbye, Babylon discs why gospel music is so great, they’d likely attribute its musical excellence to God, the object of their praise. And, listening to their songs, you will most likely feel compelled to join them. In these days of death and sorrow, there is something very satisfying about a community of praise, a group of people like those featured in Goodbye, Babylon: people who take up the joy of resurrection in their bodies, who put their hope in the goodness of God and proclaim the freedom of Christ despite the cruel realities of this world. If you’ve said goodbye to Babylon for good, you’re going to benefit from the comfort of such friendly voices in these last days.

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