The following first appeared in Release, Fall, 1993, and was written by Steve Plottner.
The music, born in small and large
churches from Boulder to Birmingham,
had spilled into the streets of Harlem,
Watts, Hough and hundreds of other
inner-cities across the continent. The
Staples Singers, Otis Redding, Bobby
Bland and many others were making
tunes that touched the hearts of their
listeners' emotions with a sound that
came to be known as "soul music." Darrell
Brown and David Batteau were among
those touched by such songs as "Sittin'
On The Dock Of The Bay" or "In The
Midnight Hour" and their lives were never
quite the same. So it was no surprise
that decades later the two songwriter/
musicians might dream of undertaking a
soul mission. And it was no surprise that
the two, both believers and followers of
Jesus Christ, might dream of reclaiming
that soul sound for His work, reaching
with it into the roving masses of hungry
hearts that clamor for hope.
But it has been a surprise to both
David and Darrell that their album, Soul
Mission, has captured the interest of the
general public. In fact, Soul Mission and
its instigators, David and Darrell, have
appeared on Arsenio Hall, CNN ShowBiz
Today, CNN Headline News, CCM-TV,
TBN and many other shows. The duo is
also scheduled for the Tonight Show with
Jay Leno in early '94. Yet for all the media
hoopla and grass roots enthusiasm Soul
Mission has generated, David and Darrell
never forget how the album came into
"We were at the Melody Lounge,"
explains David, his words punctuated
with laughter, "listening to a band called
Chester White and the Soul Pigs. And
everyone was having a good time. I began
to think of a song that Darrell and I had
written a few years ago with Russ Taft,
"Table In The Wilderness." And I began to hear it soul-style."
Darrell had just moved from Los
Angeles and was living in a tin sheet
metal construction trailer in the Arizona
desert. "I wanted to mix the earthiness of
music for common people with the uplifting message of the gospel," he says,
reflecting on those first days in the trailer
writing songs with David amidst the thick
desert dust and scorching sun.
The two then discovered what David
calls "the adventure of Christ." Neither
had any idea just how far that adventure
would take them in making the album
that is now known as Soul Mission. But
the concept behind it became known,
by word of mouth, to the musicians and
singers needed to record it.
The recording date was set for
November 5 through 8, four days in his-
toric Capitol Recording Studio B, where
the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Beatles and
Bobby Darrin had gone before. Booker T.
Jones came. He had helped popularize the
Memphis Soul sound and his skill on the
Hammond B3 organ has been heard on
such diverse tunes as Bill Withers' "Ain't
No Sunshine" and Willie Nelson's
"Stardust." Booker T. was the backbone of
the house band at Bob Dylan's 30th
Anniversary Celebration at Madison
Square Garden and most recently lent a
hand to folk artist Shawn Colvin's latest
album. Steve Cropper, the guitarist well-
known for writing such classics as "Sittin'
On The Dock Of The Bay" and "Knock On
Wood," joined Booker T. in Studio B. And
James Gadson, soul drummer for Marvin
Gaye and co-producer of Bill Wither's
well-known hit "Lean On Me," arrived.
Freddy Washington, bass player for Aaron
Neville and Anita Baker, rounded out the
band with his deep-groove playing.
Others wanted to join in. The voice on
the soundtrack for "The Color Purple," Tata
Vega, helped form the core group of
singers. The legendary Mavis Staples
joined her. And through friends and
colleagues the word spread to Victor
Cook, Grady Harrell, Lynn Davis and many
other singers and musicians that some-
thing was happening in Studio B that
could not be missed. What followed was
an intense four days filled with singing,
playing, praying, eating, laughing and crying-a time of relentless joy and struggle-as Soul Mission was recorded live.
"I knew when I heard Tata's voice on
"Table In The Wilderness" that an incredi-
ble thing was happening," says David
Batteau. "The agony in my own life was
being healed." God was speaking through
the music in ways that reached into the
souls of that Dream Team Soul Band
assembled in Studio B. "We'll never be the
same," both David and Darrell emphasize
now, and listeners to Soul Mission will
undoubtedly be likewise moved.
Following "Table In The Wilderness,"
Mavis Staples delivered a stirring lead
vocal on "Some Sweet Day," a hopeful
tune with infectious horns. "He said two
thousand years ago to watch and wait to
greet Him/My heart is ready with a shout
and I'm going out to meet him" the song
Of course, the reviewers and critics
might use such terms as "a joyful celebra-
tion" or "well-crafted tunes delivered
with powerful voices and top-notch
musicianship" or "deep soulful stirrings
from some of the finest musicians ever
gathered." But such hyperbole, in this
instance, is better left to the insulated
offices of record company executives. This
is music that pierces your heart, rattles
your walls, and penetrates your will to
empower you to a deeper relationship
with Jesus Christ. And this is music you
can use to dance in the streets.
A tune on Soul Mission, "Tear This House Down," indicates the need to break down old walls and build a new founda- tion on Jesus Christ. David Batteau and Darrell Brown have broken down the musical barriers that have separated steeple and street. Perhaps it is, in fact, the reuniting of the joy and inspiration of soul music with the fun and earthiness of the Gospel that is the paradox of this adventure with Christ.
Yes is the answer....