Testify!: The Gospel Box
This joyous three-CD celebration of gospel comes in an immaculate, gilded package that looks like a holy book. It's a fitting design, considering the heaven-sent contents within. Simply put, this is the best all-around gospel gathering in recording history. Spanning 1942-1996, the collection includes such classics as Shirley Caesar's spirit-filled "No Charge," Clara Ward's "How I Got Over," the Winans' "Tomorrow," the Edwin Hawkins Singers' jubilant "Oh Happy Day," the Caravans' Pentecostal-flavored "Walk Around Heaven," Andrea Crouch's "My Tribute," and Marion Williams with the incomparable Thomas A. Dorsey on "Take My Hand, Precious Lord." But the gospel story, as the 40-plus pages of liner notes reveal, is deep and varied, so the songs here go beyond the standards. There are rarer treasures, too -- a studio version of Mahalia Jackson's "Didn't It Rain," and "Mary, Don't You Weep" by Aretha Franklin and Rev. James Cleveland. Then there are the contemporary hits from some of gospels pace-setting new stars like Yolanda Adams ("The Battle Is the Lord's") and the Sounds of Blackness ("I Believe"). Finally, there are gifts from more mainstream performers: Whitney Houston's "I Love The Lord," the Commodores' "Jesus Is Love" featuring Lionel Richie on lead vocals and Boys II Men's "Dear God." Just put it on and rejoice.