(director: Don McGlynn; cinematographer: Steven Wacks; editor: Frank Axelson; Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Joe Lauro; Magnolia Pictures; 2010)

The result is an uneven film, despite all the talent on display and the importance of the project.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Don McGlynn’s(“The Howlin’ Wolf Story”) gospel documentary offers a history lesson about the traditional African-American church music. It was an American music that evolved out of the blend of plantation slave songs and Christian hymns. Unfortunately, for me, too much of the documentary was like going to church on Sunday and having to deal with a dull sermon on faith. But if you are patient, you are finally rewarded with the lively gospel music. Logging in at close to two hours is too long for such an unstructured and rambling time capsule work. The result is an uneven film, despite all the talent on display and the importance of the project.

The film is filled with interviews, talking heads and archive footage of the gospel singers. I enjoyed most of all the clip of the great Mahalia Jackson, who is shown in a complete performance from “The Ed Sullivan Show.”There were also clips from Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Swan Silvertones. The one gospel album I possess, “Oh Happy Day,” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, was fun to see. Among the interviews, we hear from luminaries such as Mavis Staples, Smokey Robinson and Ira Tucker of the Dixie Hummingbirds.

The Memphis-based Selvy family, a large multigenerational clan, have its members first interviewed sitting in church pews and by the climax give a moving performance featuring the powerful voice of Darrel Petties.

Many perceive gospel music as the music from another era, a music that helped jazz and the blues evolve. For those like me, who enjoy the music in a secular way and not as part of a religious worship, I hope it continues to be part of the American scene and believe it deserves to be remembered for its inspiring and unique sound. The ambitious documentary, despite its limitations, helps gospel music by spreading the word how rich and rewarding is the music.

Rejoice and Shout Poster

REVIEWED ON 12/17/2011 GRADE: B-