Mates’ Crates: The Joubert Singers – Stand on the Word

Mates’ Crates, a brand new series headed up by our friend Andrei Sandu, dives into the tales behind records and digs deeper into our connections to music. These are not reviews, they’re stories. This second instalment looks into The Joubert Singers’ Stand on the Word

Label: Favourite (Originally Next Plateau Records) | Year: 2015 (Originally 1985) | Discogs: The Joubert Singers – Stand on the Word

Most famous as the Larry Levan remix not by Larry Levan, this is surely one of the most iconic gospel/disco records around.

I won’t get too deep into the history of this record, mainly because this Red Bull Music Academy article covers it better than I ever could. In short, the original song was the first that Phyliss McKoy Joubert, Minister of Music at Crown Heights First Baptist Church, ever wrote. Privately funded without a label or distributor, there was a fair chance it wouldn’t have been heard further than the church’s congregation.

Tony Humphries, DJ at New Jersey’s Zanzibar club, happened to stumble upon the release while working at Birdel’s Records in New York and was eventually approached to mix a new version. Larry Levan also played at Zanzibar, but that’s as far as the Larry connection goes.

In 2003, a white-label pressing of Humpries’ mix surfaced, with Larry 02 written on it. Whether out of ignorance or the knowledge that anything with Larry’s name on would sell, it’s been distributed as the Larry Levan Mix ever since. (Unfortunately), I don’t run a label, so have never had to think about how to shift copies, but Stand on the Word is one of the most fantastic pieces of music I’ve ever heard.

It’s not surprising that it was a staple at David Mancuso’s legendary Loft parties. Mancuso, on whom I wrote a piece just a few weeks previous to this article sadly passed away in 2016. He was known for playing songs end-to-end, ‘just as the artist intended’. The end-to-end perfection of Stand on the Word lends itself well to this approach, with the celestial opening keys inducing goosebumps before the choir has even sung a note. Accompanied by only drums, piano and a bass guitar, the layered vocals build for four minutes, reaching a euphoric peak just before the track begins to fade.

I was lucky enough to hear Horse Meat Disco play this at Newcastle’s World HQ, a few years back, borrowing from Mancuso’s playbook and leaving a good thirty seconds of silence after it finished as the crowd simply took in the experience. I was recently overjoyed to find that The Joubert Singers are still around, closing Mister Saturday Night‘s 250th party for a surprise live performance just last summer. Hearing a DJ hit play on this record was in itself such an experience that I can barely imagine what the real deal must have been like.

Who knows what other gospel treasures are waiting to be found in the bargain bin of a New York record store…