Soulsville U.S.A – A Celebration Of Stax | Album Review

Soulsville U.S.A – A Celebration Of Stax

Craft Recordings – Concord Music Group

60 Tracks/55:25 – 60:18 – 69:15

Any serious collector of music from one of the most venerated labels of all-time will have the three volume box set collection of the Complete Stax/Volt Singles, which covers the labels history over twenty-eight discs with more than 670 songs. Most listeners appreciate the many hit records from the Stax catalog, and that is all they need to be happy. If you would place yourself in that group, this three disc collection will certainly fit the bill.

Starting with the first release, the Veltones “Fool In Love,” a doo-wop vocal with tremolo-laden guitar from 1959, the first disc rolls along with highlights including their first hit, the instrumental “Last Night” by the Mar-Keys, onto the classic “Green Onions” by Booker T & the MG’s plus several well-known performances from Sam & Dave and Otis Redding, like “Try A Little Tenderness”. Mixed in are tracks that aren’t as familiar, like Wendy Rene’s heart-tugging “After Laughter,” William Bell’s classic “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” the Astors sweet vocals wrapped around the driving beat on “Candy,” and a stunning cut from the star-that-should-have -been, Mable John on “Your Good Thing(Is About To End)”.

The second disc digs right in with Albert King’s enduring “Born Under A Bad Sign,” Sam & Dave on “Soul Man,” and Redding’s swan song “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay”. The level of performance stays high through the passionate rendition of “I Got A Sure Thing” by Ollie & the Nightingales, matched two tracks later by Linda Lyndell’s funky tribute on “What A Man”. There are several from Booker T & the Mg’s, the Staple Singers – with Mavis taking us home on a cover of “The Weight” – and the dean of Memphis funk, Mr. Rufus Thomas, teaching everyone righteous dance moves on “Do The Funky Chicken”. His daughter, Carla, also makes several appearances, featured on a duet on “Just Keep On Loving Me” with Johnnie Taylor. Bell returns with a heartbreak song for the ages, “I Forgot To Be Your Lover”.

The Staples Singers have three songs on Disc 3, including “I’ll Take You There,” which hit thee top spot on the Pop and R&B charts. Johnnie Taylor reminds listeners that he was a masterful singer on the dark cheating tune, “Jody’s Got Your Girl And Gone,” then reminds men about an essential fact of life, “Cheaper To Keep Her”. The Temprees hit all of the right notes on a cover of “Dedicated To The One I love,” Issac Hayes delivers his monster hit, “Theme From Shaft,” and the Bar-Keys turn things around on their response song, “Son Of Shaft”. The Dramatics had several tunes reach #1 on the R&B chart, including “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get”. Little Milton shows off his talent as singer and guitarist on “That’s What Love Will Make You Do”. Two other chart-toppers are included – Jean Knight’s sassy “Mr. Big Stuff” and Shirley Brown’s emotional testimony on “Woman To Woman”.

The appeal of this collection is that it offers a hearty mixture of the enduring hit records of the Stax artists coupled with lesser-known gems that are often equally compelling. It is by no means a definitive summation but certainly will entice listeners to take a deeper dive into the Stax vault.

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