Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration
Any soul fan worth his grits will have a dozen of these 50 tracks from the heyday of Memphis’ Stax label. That still leaves room for some thrilling discoveries and happy memory-stoking. The span of 1961 to 1974 closely parallels the rise of Motown, but Stax is just a bit more Southern. Some might say “authentic.” The stars—Otis Redding, Booker T & the MGs, Sam & Dave, the Staple Singers—are well represented. The ear will perk for forgotten beauties like “I’ve Been Lonely for So Long” by Frederic Knight or “Born Under a Bad Sign” by Albert King. Did you know that En Vogue & Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s 1994 hit “Whatta Man” was a cover of a 1968 Stax chart-grazer by Linda Lyndell? Another nice touch is following Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” with the Bar-Kays’ instant sendup “Son of Shaft.” The booklet is packed with old photos and the liner notes by Rob Bowman are insightful. We learn Steve Cropper’s distinctive guitar tuning was an open sixth dyad. Confirming suspicions, “Soul Man” contains an error in tempo that they just went with. Concord purchased Stax two years ago and more sets with unreleased tunes and visuals are planned. Now, that’s one vault worth opening!