Throughout the last half of the 1980’s and well into the 1990’s, few artists had the raw energy and natural stage excitement of Charles Johnson & The Revivers, a trio organized by former Sensational Nightingales member, Charles Johnson. From the trio’s founding until the early 90’s, the group included Johnson and brothers Darrell and Ricky Luster.
In a genre that consisted mainly of white male quartets and family groups, CJ&R carved out a niche among the more charismatic crowd with their black gospel roots and high-energy concerts. Nowhere is this more evident than on 1988’s One Night Revival, originally recorded in Dayton, OH, and released on cassette and VHS.
One of the many ways that CJ&R was different from the standard gospel artists at the time was their instrumentation, which often consisted of just two guitars and a bass (although, for One Night Revival, a live drummer was present, and a keyboardist appears to have been dubbed in later, mainly for organ parts). This, coupled with many original compositions from Johnson, gave the group their own identifiable sound, both lyrically and stylisically.
Another standout with the trio is their pentecostal-based musical approach, which often includes long call-and-response interludes with the audience. As a result, some songs clock in at 6-7 minutes long (such as with “Going On With Jesus” or “Saints Hold On”). Listening to a couple of those tracks makes it very easy to see why so many groups did NOT want to follow Charles Johnson & The Revivers on stage.
What makes this particular album special is the inclusion of what became their most well-known song, a cover of “I Can’t Even Walk (Without You Holding My Hand).” An additional verse was added to the group’s original version, and it’s used to great effect here, turning it into an encore of the song.
While many folks are familiar with their second live album, Let’s Have Church, which was released on a large label (with a larger budget), this album, which was an independent release, is a perfect showcase of a group that works both to their own strengths and within their own limitations to deliver an absolutely stellar performance that is still enjoyable over many listens.