Monday, 4 June 2018
The Complete Stax Singles Volume Two (1968-1971)
The first thing to say about this wonderful box set is that the remastered sound is SUPERB. The era of stereo was thankfully arriving for most of these recordings and they sound great. Full, bassy sound, just what these recordings need. Check out Booker T & The MGs pounding "Slum Baby" as an example.
Secondly, in comparison to Volume One, which is extortionately priced for some reason, Volumes Two and Three are available for a good price, either as physical product or download. Individual tracks can also be downloaded in their own right too.
This box set only covers a three year period, but man, what a period. Stax must never be allowed to hide for too long in the shadow of Motown. Some magnificent soul (and blues) classics on here, as well as some that many will not have heard. So many of them featuring that rumbling bass sound and that heavenly blast of the trademark "Stax" horns and top notch vocal performances. My own personal horn-driven highlights are:-
"I Have Learned To Live Without You" - Mavis Staples
"By The Time I Get To Phoenix" - The Mad Lads
"Girl, Come On Home" - Major Lance
"Mr. Big Stuff" - Jean Knight
"Blues Power" - Albert King
"Private Number" - Judy Clay & William Bell
"Sweetback's Theme" - Melvin Van Peebles
"Do The Funky Chicken" - Rufus Thomas
"Time Is Tight" - Booker T & The MGs
"Theme From Shaft" - Isaac Hayes
"I Stand Accused" - Isaac Hayes
"Respect Yourself" - The Staple Singers
"I Like Everything About You" - Jimmy Hughes
"Jody's Got Your Girl And Gone" - Johnnie Taylor
"Born Under A Bad Sign" - William Bell
"The Look Of Love" - Isaac Hayes
"Never Can Say Goodbye" - Isaac Hayes
"Who's Making Love" - Johnnie Taylor
"Soul Limbo" - Booker T & The MGs
"Your Sweet Lovin'" - Margie Joseph
"Stealing Love" - The Emotions
"Slum Baby" - Booker T & The MGs
"Bracing Myself For The Fall"- Ollie & The Nightingales
"The Challenge" - The Staple Singers
That's just for starters. Maybe some the classic cuts from Stax were from 72-74, such as The Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There" and "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)" and Mel & Tim's "Starting All Over Again", but many of them are on here, certainly those from Isaac Hayes and also the blues material. There is a "pure soul" earthiness to many of the songs on here, without the polish of the mid 70s material. Listen to "Stealing Love" by The Emotions. There are also interesting recordings of Stax artists covering other soul artists' songs, like The Staple Singers' "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay" and The Mad Lads' "By The Time I Get To Phoenix". There are also some soul cuts from Northern Soul favourite Darrell Banks. Actually, probably an amalgam of the years 68-73 sees one hell of a lot of good material captured.
I remember at ten years old, hearing "Do The Funky Chicken" by Rufus Thomas. While I found the song's subject matter hilarious, there was also something about the sound and the dirty soul vocal that Thomas delivered that hooked me. I have remained so ever since.
"...This is the kind of stuff
To make you feel like you
Want to do something nasty
Like waste some chicken gravy
On your white shirt
Right down front here we go y’all..."