The Clark Sisters reunite to record `One Last Time'

April 15, 2007|By McClatchy-Tribune

DETROIT -- It's been a while - 13 years to be exact - since the Clark Sisters, the biggest-selling female gospel group of all time, put out an album together, though it doesn't feel as if they've been away.

Their new album, Live - One Last Time, was released last week, but in the time that their voices were absent as a group, their influence and dominance on gospel and R&B music remained as strong as it was when they released their groundbreaking 1981 single, "You Brought the Sunshine." By 1983, it was still riding high, peaking at No. 16 on the Black Singles charts, No. 27 on the Club Play charts and No. 80 on the Hot R&B charts.

Their early 1980s album, Is My Living In Vain, stayed on the top of the Billboard charts for more than a year. Like the much-celebrated Winans family, the Clark Sisters, also from Detroit, made crossover music that appealed to a secular music audience.

Together, the Clark Sisters are one of the world's most celebrated gospel music families, influencing artists like Mariah Carey, Beyonce and Faith Evans.

Their mother, the late Mattie Moss-Clark, was the international minister of music for the Church of God in Christ, producing successful albums, building youth choirs and increasing gospel music's profile. And the sisters have Grammy nominations and Dove, Stellar and Soul Train awards.

The Clark Sisters - Jacky, Karen, Twinkie and Dorinda - are credited with helping to create the contemporary gospel sound that has made the genre as successful as it is today, paving the way for acts like Kirk Franklin.

Live - One Last Time reminds music listeners everywhere why their vocal harmonies were dubbed the Clark Sound, a roller-coaster ride of riffs, scats and runs.

After years of going it alone, the sisters decided to reunite. They recorded the album in July in Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center.

"The Clark Sisters are a foundation for gospel music," says gospel star Fred Hammond, who fronted the male gospel group Commissioned.

"A lot of people don't know this, but when we built Commissioned, we were trying to be the male vocal version of the Clark Sisters. ... That's who we looked up to vocally."

During their hiatus, the sisters kept busy. Twinkie Clark-Terrell, Karen Clark Sheard and Dorinda Clark Cole released solo projects in 2002. Eldest sister Jacky Clark Chisholm released her solo debut in 2005. But is this new album the Clark Sisters' last album, as the title of the project suggests?

That's still up in the air, the sisters say.

"Whatever God says is whatever we're going to do," Clark Chisholm says.

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