Mighty Clouds of Joy overflow with magic, energy

By Jason Fierstein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Mighty Clouds of Joy have met with success among both gospel and secular crowds for over 35 years, and still continue to "rain" strong. The gospel-based R&B quartet bring their soulful talent this Tuesday night into Centennial Hall.

Formed in Los Angeles in 1960, the Clouds have amassed six Grammy Awards from their 25 albums released since their original signing on the gospel label Peacock Records. For their ten-year stay on the Peacock label, success in the mainstream spotlight was inevitable with the growing popularity of the Motown sounds of the 1960s. Their credibility was later reinforced through their move to ABC Records. The Mighty Clouds of Joy made the crossover to modern R&B when black gospel sounds were fading from the radio waves and in popularity in the early '70s.

While on the ABC Records label, the Mighty Clouds of Joy received a Grammy nomination for God is Not Dead and received a Grammy for their 1978 album release of Live and Direct. After the demise of the ABC Records label the Clouds drifted over to Epic/CBS, where they swooped up another Grammy for their album, Changing Times.

More recently, the Clouds have had the honor of performing their divine music around the globe over 200 times per year. From regular performances on the Arsenio Hall Show, the Montreux Jazz Festival and at the White House, the Clouds have kept the spirit of the church alive through their gospels. Such performers as the Rolling Stones, Aretha Frankin, Paul Simon and Ray Charles have enjoyed the company of the Clouds on stage.

Their performances have been hailed as magical. The Mighty Clouds of joy have taken the essence from the traditional Southern Baptist church harmonies and have blended in more energetic, Motown sounds.

Joe Ligon, co-lead singer for the Mighty Clouds of Joy, is not surprised at the group's ability to change and to endure the elements.

"The reason is we have seen traditional gospel music and we have seen the change to contemporary R&B from a purely gospel sound," says Ligon. "Kids were coming from middle class families and they didn't exactly understand anything about hard times and money problems (the ideas incorporated in gospel). The new generation didn't have to deal with that. So we introduced that sound into more contemporary music music that the kids could understand."

"Our longevity has been due to adjustment to any change in music trends," said Ligon of the quartet's 35 years of performance. "If you don't adjust to change, you won't keep up."

The Mighty Clouds of Joy will play Centennial Hall tonight. Showtime is at 8 p.m.. For info call the Centennial Hall Box Office at 621-3341.

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