Caesar: Hallelujah and Amen

Shirley Caesar revisits her collection with the spirited CD
Shirley Caesar revisits her collection with the spirited CD "After 40 Years." (Artemis Records)
By Mike Joyce
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Forty years and 40-plus albums into her illustrious solo career, gospel great Shirley Caesar remains such a powerful force onstage, so spirited and impassioned, that it's hard to imagine any audience resisting the sound of her music and ministry for very long.

Yet nothing beats hearing the 69-year-old multiple Grammy winner perform for a church congregation familiar with her legacy. A career retrospective, "After 40 Years: Still Sweeping Through the City," was recorded at Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh, N.C., where Caesar is co-pastor and guiding light. The hometown setting inspires a series of live performances that are testimony to the singer's remarkable endurance and still galvanizing delivery. From the '60s forward, her repertoire, which includes several original compositions, is well represented.

Among the standouts: the album's title (and opening) track, which moves from a bluesy stroll into a romping, stomping anthem, marked by robust harmonies and tambourine-shaking propulsion; an exhausting and ultimately exhilarating nine-minute reprise of Caesar's signature song-parable "Hold My Mule"; and a stripped-to-the-essentials medley of "Peter, Don't Be Afraid," "Nobody but You, Lord" and "Teach Me, Master."

This 12-track collection boasts other soul-stirring treats, including three appearances by vocalist Joe Ligon of the Mighty Clouds of Joy, and several rafter-raising arrangements that take full advantage of Mount Calvary's choir. Saved for last is a rousing reprise of "The Gold Apple Tree," yet another reason to hail the mighty Caesar.

DOWNLOAD THESE:"Sweeping Through the City," "Never"

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