Mercy, mercy, mercy…2 discs, 50 astonishing tracks, more pure funk and soul than should be allowed in one place…Stax: the 50th Anniversary Celebration is a wondrous overview of the soul music juggernaut that was Stax Records in the 60’s and 70’s.
Back in the day Motown was largely uptown, polished, and pop-oriented, Stax was downtown, raw, funky, and pure rhythm and blues. This collection…which kicks off with Carla Thomas’ sublime “Gee Whiz”…is a fine, fine introduction to the Stax musical treasure trove.
All of the greatest stars from the Stax/Volt family are represented here: the incomparable Otis Redding (“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, the original “Respect”, “Tramp” [a duet with Carla Thomas], and the immortal “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”), the mighty Staple Singers (“Respect Yourself”, “I’ll Take You There”, “If You’re Ready, Come Go with Me”), Isaac Hayes (the undeniably soulful remakes of “Walk on By” and Never Can Say Goodbye” and, of course, the eternally funky “Theme from Shaft”), Sam & Dave (“Soul Man”, “Hold On I’m Comin’”, “You Don’t Know Like I Know”), Johnnie Taylor (the raucous “Who’s Makin’ Love”, the silky “Cheaper to Keep Her”, “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone”), the aforementioned Carla Thomas (“B-A-B-Y”, “Let Me Be Good to You”, “I Like What You’re Doing to Me”), Carla’s Dad Rufus Thomas (“Walkin’ the Dog”, “Do the Funky Chicken”) and the amazing Stax house band Booker T. & the M.G.’s (“Green Onions”, “Soul Limbo”, “Time is Tight”.)
And the golden soul flows from even the lesser-known artists like the Dramatics (the irresistible “What You See is What You Get” and the plaintive “In the Rain”), Jean Knight (a one-hit wonder with the grand “Mr. Big Stuff”), the underappreciated Soul Children (“Hearsay”, “I’ll Be the Other Woman”), Linda Lyndell (the original…and superior…version of “What a Man”, a song that was later turned into a big hit by Salt-n-Pepa and En Vogue), William Bell (“You Don’t Miss Your Water” ,“I Forgot to Be Your Lover”, which was remade years later by Billy Idol), Eddie Floyd (“Knock on Wood”), and Mel & Tim (“Starting All Over Again”, later taken back onto the charts by Hall & Oates.)
Throw in some Albert King (the fiery “Born Under a Bad Sign”) and Little Milton (“That’s What Love Will Make You Do”) and the Bar-Kays (“Son of Shaft”), among others and you’ve got yourself some glorious listening.
The 4-disc Stax Story (which came out in 2000) is, of course, more comprehensive but, as I said earlier, Stax: the 50th Anniversary Celebration, is a grand overview for those who want to enjoy this sweet soul music at a economic price (as of this writing, Amazon.com lists the 2-disc set at only $11.99.)