“The Last Soul Company”

Voices of Victory

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In 1978, when they were known as the Inspirational Choir, the Voices of Victory of the Salem Baptist Church of Omaha, Nebraska, made history when the Reverend James Cleveland recorded them for his James Cleveland Presents series. The resulting Savoy Records double album, I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired, featuring singer and musician Keith Pringle and choir director Doretha Wade-Wilkerson, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1979. Curtis Burrell’s title track, with Cleveland and Pringle trading leads, has since become a perennial in the gospel song lexicon.

Delighted by the album’s overwhelming success, Cleveland and the Salem Inspirational Choir went on to record a couple more live, in-church albums for Savoy: Victory Shall Be Mine in 1980 (the title track was released as a single) and He’s Able the following year. At one point in 1981, I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired and Victory Shall Be Mine were on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart at the same time.

More than 20 years later the Voices of Victory Mass Choir, still the signature choir of Omaha’s Salem Baptist Church, returned to live recording under the leadership of senior pastor Maurice Watson and minister of music Jay Terrell. Less than a month after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the choir recorded They That Wait.

Captured live at Salem Baptist, They That Wait features I Can’t Forget and Unconditional Love, compositions written by celebrated gospel songwriter Pastor Rudolph Stanfield, who also plays keyboards on the album. Jesus Saves, the Angelic Choir classic, is co-arranged by Stanfield, Terrell, and Todd Harrison. Terrell, who co-produced the album with Stanfield, wrote the majority of the album’s material.

Jesus Saves is led by the Reverend Bruce Parham, a gospel soloist in his own right who recorded for Savoy, Sweet Rain, Emtro and other labels. Debbie Austin, who had guest soloed on Jay Terrell and Higher Praise’s 1994 Blackberry Records offering, Cloudless Day, leads Hold On Your Change Will Come. Gwen Morton fronts Unconditional Love.

The Williams Brothers—Melvin and Doug Williams and Henry Green—were the executive producers of They That Wait. They released it on their Blackberry Records imprint in 2001 and Malaco Music Group distributed it nationally.

Formed in 1951 as the Inspirational Choir, the Voices of Victory are longstanding participants in the Gospel Music Workshop of America and recipients of the Governor’s Art Award. They have shared the stage with gospel icons Richard Smallwood and Ricky Dillard, as well as country stars Trace Adkins and Lyle Lovett. A smaller segment of the choir travels locally and regionally to sing for special occasions. Meanwhile, the full ensemble, now under the direction of music minister Ananias “Markey” Montague, ministers on first and fourth Sundays at Salem Baptist.

—Robert M. Marovich

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