Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Stax Story


Welcome to the second of our compilation reviews.  The choice of this collection was another no-brainer for both Mine and YourZ (truly).  It is a stunning document of a label whose influence is without doubt.  Just look at their roster: Carla Thomas, The Mar-Keys, Booker T & The MGs, Otis Redding, Albert King, Isaac Hayes and so much more.  I mean, whether you like R&B, soul or blues music, there is no denying the potency of the Stax label.

I have to thank Mine for having the good sense (and taste, of course) to ensure she had this in the collection.  The only problem I have with reviewing it is trying to figure out which disc (there's four of 'em) I most prefer.  What this essentially comes down to for me is familiarity (as it does for most of us).  Tracks such as Green Onions and Groovin' by Booker T & the MG's, Walking The Dog by Rufus Thomas, Soul Man by Sam & Dave and Dock Of The Bay and These Arms Of Mine by Otis Redding all evoke powerful memories from my childhood. 

But there are also some lovely surprises among the tracks too.  I am very familiar with Elvis Costello's version of I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down but had never heard Sam & Dave's version (still prefer Elvis' version more).  And to hear Isaac Hayes sing the disco classic I Never Can Say Goodbye is a treat, as is the original version of Respect Yourself by The Staple Singers.

I've only really touched on some the gems contained on The Stax Story.  There are so many more (anything touched by Booker T, for instance or some of the other tracks by Sam & Dave or Otis Redding).  If you like this music, you may well already have this collection or, at the very least, some of the artists featured here..  If you don't know this music, you couldn't do much better than this as a starter kit for your learning pleasure.  Either way, you gotta have soul, man.



I was introduced to the idea of this kind of compilation back in the 80s, with the Atlantic Rhythm & Blues collection.  Back then I was poorly paid (some things never change) and couldn't afford the whole thing so I bought Volume Six.  And I'd love to hear it again, but it's currently languishing with the rest of the vinyl, unplayable.  (Do you begin to see a pattern here?) (YourZ sez: lets put it on the to-do list, huh?)

So when the Stax Story became available, at a more reasonable four-volume set, I snapped it up.  And it's been a regular on my CD player ever since, with great tunes I never knew had originals (What A Man), plus old favourites like Green Onions.  I must admit I don't play the Blues album as much as the rest, but then my general meh-ness toward the blues has already been well documented on these pages.  I defy anybody with an ounce of soul in their system not to groove along with the Hits, Finger-snappin' and Live albums in the set.

Now I yearn for the Atlantic recordings to again be mine... I'm really looking at bidding on a decent turntable in good condition on eBay.

VERDICT:TURN IT UP (get on down)

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