Richard Gibbs – Just For Me
The Sirens Records
11 tracks – 44 minutes
Chicagoan Richard Gibbs has literally spent his entire life perfecting his craftsmanship. His mother and father were considered gospel royalty. Both were members of touring gospel groups. His mother, Inez Andrews toured with The Caravans in the 1950’s and 60’s and his father, Richard Gibbs Sr. toured with The Soul Stirrers but died when Richard was only two years old. Richard traveled with his mother on her tours and was exposed to the music of the church. At age 3, he became infatuated with the organ when he first heard John Green performing on it at the Redeeming Church of Christ.
He started playing the organ at age 7 at the Nazarene Deliverance Church of God and continued playing there for the next ten years. His first professional exposure was when at age 13 he accompanied his mother in a New York performance. In 1979, he moved to the Central Baptist Church where he has regularly played now for over 40 years. He has of course, been a guest at numerous other churches over the years.
He attended Chicago State University for two years but quit when Edwin Hawkins hired him to tour with his band. he also toured as a member of Billy Preston’s band. But the major portion of his touring life was a 20-year tenure as the keyboard player for Aretha Franklin. With Aretha, he played at The White House and appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show four times. He currently tours with The Blind Boys of Alabama. His skill has also made him a highly sought-after studio musician. He is credited on over 70 recordings by many of the top artists in the gospel genre including Mavis Staple.
While focused on the organ, Richard is also skilled on the piano and bass. He plays all three instruments in the recordings on this album. Kenard Pulliam plays drums on all tracks. On seven of the songs, the music is solely from those two individuals. Nine of the eleven songs are instrumentals with the remaining two with guest vocalists Denise Rutledge on track 4 and Clyde Brown on track 10 with backup vocalists listed as Just Friends (Gus Lacey, Chuck Lacey, Janice Gilmore, Lorie Smith, Joni Montgomery and Patricia Hill) on both tracks. On the final track, Richard steps aside to allow his 18-year-old son Richard Gibbs III the opportunity to show his talent on organ and bass.
The album is dedicated to his mother and to Aretha. The songs are the music he has accompanied many times with each of those performers and is played as they would have expected him to play for their vocal performances. But now it is his time to shine with the instruments the center of the performance. So, are you ready to go to church?
The album opens with the upbeat organ driven “The Healer”. The piano is featured at the start of “I Am on the Battlefield for My Lord” and blends with his organ for a very bluesy number. “The Old Landmark” brings the swing reminiscent of “When the Saints Come Marching In”. Denise Rutledge is a very old family friend and provides classic gospel touches to “Mary, Don’t You Weep”. “Precious Memories” again blends the organ and piano for a solemn song. The smooth “Just For Me” which was written by his mother has a brief taste of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Next up is the well-known “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” followed by a piano lead on “God Will Take Care of You” with the organ providing an undercurrent. “You Are Going to Need Somebody on Your Side” provides a nice jazzy addition. Richard teamed with vocalist Clyde Brown for the composition of “Whisper a Prayer”. Another long-time friend of Richard’s, Al Willis adds guitar and Daniel Witherspoon provides strings and the tambourine to provide a very full sound. And as noted earlier Richard III plays the organ and bass while his father plays piano on the final cut “Hold Up the Light”.
If you enjoy gospel music, love the sound of the organ or simply like the sound of smooth easy-going music, this album might be one that you would find enjoyable.