So, for the second of my writings for the Theme Time Radio Hour compilation, we move from the modern Manhattan of 14th St to the eternal hope springs of gospel . . .
16. THE BLOOD (LC Cohen)
THE ZION TRAVELERS
Dooto 602 (1960) 2.06 From Show 80 “Blood”
Pressed for my religious affiliation, I tend to reply 'North London Jewish-ish (through marriage) Catholic atheist' - and, to steal an old Nik Cohn line, not untypical of the sort. As such, I feel as qualified to comment on matters sacred as the merely worshipful - more so, perhaps, not being distracted by faith*.
Founded in Los Angeles in 1944, the Zion Travelers worked steadily but never made the headlines. Though The Blood sounds like it could easily predate Hymns Ancient and Modern, it was actually made in 1962, for Dootone - the label that Earth Angel built. LC Cohen, manager and lead tenor, sings/shouts/wails/testifies: 'Weeeell, bloood, running warm, aaaargh-uh-h, o Lord, in your veins, wooh.' What's he on about? And what is it that a non-Bible-basher like me can find so moving - irrefutable, even - in such unchecked sky pilotry?
My guess is it's because it's a kind of Rothko painting for the ears. An essentially abstract piece of work that floats on the boundary of consciousness - where the inchoate begins to be represented as language. Such expressions of a universally shared sense of the ineffable are pop's half-secret core: from Clyde McPhatter's opening cries on Billy Ward and His Dominoes' The Bells to Lorraine Ellison's despair between 2:42 and 2:54 of Stay With Me to the piano sound at 1:06 (and again at 2:09) on Abba's Mamma Mia.
* Not that I have anything against the religious. I have a cousin -a successful lawyer - who believes in fairies but I still let her drive my car.
Next up Fred Astaire's wedding song.