"…My Mind Holds This World In Its Hand…"
In 2004 the Fantasy Group acquired the entire Stax catalogue and its mastertapes – and through their 'Concord Music Group, Inc' Division - this release is the first of 3 inaugural CDs re-launching the famous Soul label. They all feature brand-new 24-bit remasters, bonus tracks, updated booklets and are pitched at mid-price.
The other two titles so far are "Tailored In Silk" by JOHNNIE TAYLOR (1973) and "McLemore Avenue" by BOOKER T. & THE M.G.’s (1970). Each title carries the generic logo "Stax Remasters" on their spine to differentiate them from previous issues.
Released May 2011, Concord Music Group, Inc 0888072328761 breaks down as follows (49:38 minutes):
1. This World
2. Respect Yourself
3. Name The Missing Word
4. I'll Take You There
5. This Old Town (People In This Town)
[Tracks 1 to 5 are Side 1 of the original LP]
6. We The People
7. Are You Sure
8. Who Do You Think You Are? (Jesus Christ The Super Star)
9. I'm Just Another Soldier
[Tracks 6 to 10 are Side 2 of the original LP]
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "BeAltitude: Respect Yourself" released March 1972 in the USA on Stax STS-3002 and April 1972 in the UK on Stax Super 2325 069
Tracks 11 and 12 are "Walking In Water Over Our Head" and "Heavy Makes You Happy (Alternate)" – both tracks are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
The new 12-page booklet has very knowledgeable and affectionate liner notes by ROB BOWMAN (author of "Soulsville U.S.A. – The Story Of Stax Records"). You get the original artwork and production credits also and there’s a collage of 3 photos on the inlay beneath the see-through tray and the disc itself pictures the group too. But it’s a shame the booklet goes no further – there’s no new photos, none of those magical Stax sevens pictured nor any memorabilia. It makes the inlay feel workmanlike at best – even a little dull – when it should have spread its wings a little. But the big news is the SOUND…
24-bit remastered from the first generation tapes by JOE TARANTINO at Joe Tarantino Mastering in Berkeley, California – the audio quality is truly GORGEOUS. Having had previous versions of this great Soul album on CD from the mid 1990’s – the sound was good rather than great – hissy in places too. That’s all gone – and it's not loud for loudness sake either - but clear and warm and full of presence.
The bass is beautiful as is the rhythm section – and the powerhouse vocals of Mavis Staples now take centre stage in a way they’ve never done before. "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There" are so common to our ears that it comes as a genuine shock to hear them sound this good. The other single off the album "This World" is so clear and muscular too (lyrics above). A fantastic job done.
The bonus tracks are way better than I had expected – the 'Alternate' version of Jeff Barry and Bobby Bloom’s "Heavy Makes You Happy" was recorded August 1970 at their first session in the Muscle Shoals Studios and sounds like a live rehearsal – it’s excellent. You can clearly hear EDDIE HINTON on Guitar and BARRY BECKETT on Keyboards and the end of the song hears them ad-lib for a full minute longer than the finished single did. But then we get the real deal – an outtake that could easily have been an album track. Recorded in Muscle Shoals in October 1972 and written by PHILLIP MITCHELL, TERRY WOODFORD and OSCAR FRANCK – it features the other in-house band members for the album DAVID HOOD on Bass and ROGER HAWKINS on Drums and it’s a winner. "Walking In Water Over Our Head" is a fully finished upbeat song that could easily have been recorded yesterday. Genuinely - after all these years – to hear any new material by The Staples Singers from that stunningly creative period is an out-and-out blast.
As a voracious lover of the label, these reissues are incredibly exciting to me. With this properly realised sound quality – I immediately order the other two.
To sum up - their uplifting Soul and Funk music combined with their message of love and positive thinking have resonated with generations of listeners for decades now – but at last – The Staples Singers get to hear their efforts at Stax really shine…
A bit of a forgotten Soul classic frankly and recommended big time.
PS: titles in the "STAX REMASTERS" series are:
1. McLemore Avenue - BOOKER T. & THE M.G.'S (1970) [May 2011]
2. Woman To Woman - SHIRLEY BROWN (1975) [September 2011]
3. Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get – THE DRAMATICS (1972) [September 2011]
4. Be Altitude: Respect Yourself - THE STAPLE SINGERS (1972) [May 2011]
5. Tailored In Silk - JOHNNIE TAYLOR (1973) [May 2011]
6. Do The Funky Chicken – RUFUS THOMAS (1970) [September 2011]