Monday, 14 January 2019
The Staple Singers - Be Altitude: Respect Yourself (1972)
Released in 1972
This is marvellous stuff. Gospel/soul fusion perfection from one of the seventies' most potent and influential vocal/horns backed groups. I also have to make the point that this Stax remaster is absolutely top notch. The big, bassy, brassy, punchy sound and Mavis Staples' soaring lead vocal come thumping out of your speakers. The best I have ever heard the material.
1. This World
2. Respect Yourself
3. Name The Missing Word
4. I'll Take You There
5. This Old Town (People In This Old Town)
6. We The People
7. Are You Sure
8. Who Do You Think You Are
9. I'm Just Another Soldier
11. Walking In Water Over Our Head
12. Heavy Makes You Happy (Alternate Version)
"This World" is an absolutely stonking opener, full of gospel verve and vigour and captivating drum rhythms. Can that be beaten? Sho'nuff it can - by the wonderful, pounding "Respect Yourself". Great rhythm, great vocals, great lyrics. A superb civil rights anthem. "Take the sheet off your face, boy, it's a brand new day...". Indeed. Just check out those horns too. "Name The Missing Word" has a magnificent, pulsating bass line and a killer vocal. It has sweeping soulful strings, soaring horns and menacing guitar. As for the vocal, it is just peerless. Then there is "I'll Take You There", an anthemic, uplifting anthem of a song that has become known by so many. It is probably the group's most famous number and rightly so. From the first notes of that "Liquidator"-style intro and then the syncopated rhythm topped off by Mavis Staples' "mmm, hmmm" gospel vocal it is an absolute delight. The music is played by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, superbly, as indeed they do on the whole album.
"This Old Town (People In This Old Town)" is a catchy, upbeat, but brooding and soulful cooker of a track. Some of the guitar on these tracks, played by Eddie Hinton, is simply superb. Again, Mavis's vocal is a titanic, towering one. She had one of the truly great gospel/soul voices but never quite got the credit she deserved. She is rarely mentioned in lists of the great soul voices, which has to be wrong. "We The People" is superbly funky and oh man, those Stax horns. "Are You Sure" has a delicious bass line rumbling under the laid-back but insistent quiet, assured vocal. "Who Do You Think You Are (Jesus Christ Superstar?)" is a somewhat pious, devotional song, with "Pops" Staples on vocals this time. It still has a great soul feeling to it.
"I'm Just Another Soldier" is an uplifting slice of gospel soul. The Stax horns drive it along as Mavis's voice soars once again. "Who" is a shuffling piece of praise. The final two tracks are bonus numbers. "Walking In Water Over Our Head" is an irresistibly catchy, Motown-influenced number. "Heavy Makes You Happy" is an alternate version of the groups' earlier hit single.
This is a highly recommended example of gospel/soul Heaven. Let it lift you up.
- January 14, 2019