Soul - Released January 18, 2019 | Dockland Music


Soul - Released October 19, 2018 | Craft Recordings

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
1968 was a pivotal year in Stax Records' history and a fascinating story in itself. Otis Redding (their biggest star) and four members of the Bar-Kays were killed in a plane crash in December 1967. Their distribution agreement with Atlantic Records was dissolved, resulting in the loss of several more artists from Atlantic, and in the loss of their entire back catalog to Atlantic, which meant Stax earned no revenue from its previous recordings. Then, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis exacerbated racial tensions not just nationwide, but acutely in Stax's hometown of Memphis (King was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers). Rising from the ashes, Stax had an ambitious plan to create an entirely new catalog in just over a year. Otis Redding's posthumous classic "Dock of the Bay" was a tremendous help in getting the label off the ground again. But the model of a house band and single producer that had given Stax their legendary sound was not going to work for the amount of material that had to be created in order to give them a solid catalog. To that end, they had to bring in outside producers, which began to upset what had essentially been a cooperative up to that point. At the same time, the music business was shifting from singles sales to album sales, and Stax was keen to make that transition as well. All this is extensively chronicled in the accompanying book. As far as the music, it's all top-notch, but you can hear the change in sound taking place. Of course, there are songs you recognize, but there are at least as many that you probably don't. Despite the pervasive unrest, the songs never get overtly political. Even "Tribute to a King" isn't about Dr. King, but about the King of Soul Music, their friend Otis Redding. The music stands on its own, of course, but the story behind it all is remarkable and largely untold. Stax '68 is a great collection of music, and this excellent set places it in a proper historical context, telling the story of the rebirth of one of America's great soul labels. ~ Sean Westergaard

Soul - Released July 27, 2018 | Dockland Music

Soul - Released June 22, 2018 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul - Released May 4, 2018 | Freaksville Music

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Soul - Released May 31, 2018 | Rhino Atlantic


Soul - Released September 20, 1977 | Universal Records


Soul - Released November 10, 2017 | Stax


Soul - Released August 18, 2017 | Rhino Atlantic


Soul - Released July 14, 2017 | WM Italy


Soul - Released July 1, 2017 | Soundstarrecords


Soul - Released April 15, 2017 | Fantasy Label


Soul - Released September 13, 2016 | Sony Music Entertainment


Soul - Released April 22, 2016 | Rhino Atlantic

Atlantic Records must have felt conflicted when they signed the Sweet Inspirations to a record deal in 1967. On one hand, the group was clearly one of the finest female vocal groups (arguably the finest) in the history of R&B, featuring four outstanding singers who could dazzle individually or in harmony. But at the same time, the Sweet Inspirations were in great demand as backing vocalists, having worked magic on sessions for some of Atlantic's biggest stars, including Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, and Esther Phillips, and by making them stars on their own, the label could spoil a formula that had been working well for them. Between 1967 and 1971, Atlantic released 17 singles by the Sweet Inspirations, and while several of them fared well on the R&B charts, none of them became major crossover hits or pushed them into true soul stardom, even though they were teamed with some of the best producers and arrangers in the business. If the Sweet Inspirations didn't earn much chart action, it was never a matter of talent or the quality of their product, as confirmed by a listen to The Complete Atlantic Singles Plus, which pulls together the A- and B-sides from those 17 45s, along with four bonus tracks, three seeing their first release here. The Sweet Inspirations -- Cissy Houston (Whitney's mother), Myrna Smith, Estelle Brown, and Sylvia Shemwell, with Ann William replacing Houston in 1969 -- never sound less than expert on any of these 37 tracks, and put a soulful stamp of their own on tracks that were already hits for others, including "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby," "I've Been Loving You Too Long," and "To Love Somebody" (the latter recorded while the Bee Gees looked on in amazement). Atlantic clearly spared no expense on these sessions, with Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin, and Ugene Dozier among the producers and arrangers who worked on this material, and the graceful strut of the music is as much of a pleasure as the fine voices they accompany. The Sweet Inspirations are ultimately better remembered for their work behind the scenes than their recordings as headliners, but these sides make it clear they were four of the finest vocalists birthed by the Southern soul movement of the '60s; this set ignores the gospel sides they recorded for Atlantic, making it less than a definitive overview of their career, but if you're only looking for their soul sessions, this is pure magic, and as good as it gets. ~ Mark Deming

Soul - Released December 18, 2015 | Stax

One of the better and more thoughtful Isaac Hayes compilations, Ultimate Isaac Hayes: Can You Dig It? is a three-disc (two CDs and one DVD) set that covers his years on Stax. There's a wide range of material here, from singles to deep album cuts, that provide a very representative look at these years, and Stax is even wise enough to include "I Stand Accused" and "Walk on By" in their full 12-minute versions. Only minor quibbles could be made with the selections. The third disc, a DVD, contains three songs performed by Hayes at Wattstax. And then there's the cherry -- er, some other spherical object -- on top: Hayes' performance of Chef's "Chocolate Salty Balls." ~ Andy Kellman

Soul - Released November 6, 2015 | Rhino Atlantic


Soul - Released October 23, 2015 | Playoff Records


Soul - Released October 23, 2015 | Playoff Records


Soul - Released January 1, 1966 | Mercury Records


Soul in the magazine