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Soul - Released January 1, 2011 | Stax

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Indispensable JAZZ NEWS
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R&B - Released November 13, 2015 | Stax

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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R&B - Released January 1, 2007 | Stax

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R&B - Released January 1, 2007 | Concord Records, Inc.

This set is the honest to goodness real deal, an undeniably great Christmas album that not only includes simple but striking arrangements of several holiday classics but also plays and feels very much like an album of tracks that really belong together, and it builds as it goes into a striking and powerful listen. Recorded in 1962 at Universal Studios in Chicago, the album features the classic Staple Singers lineup of Pops, Mavis, Yvonne, and Pervis Staples on vocals, with Pops doubling on his trademark reverb-drenched guitar alongside Maceo Woods on organ and Al Duncan on drums. The arrangements are simple and natural, leaving plenty of room for the vocals, and versions here of "The Last Month of the Year," "Joy to the World," and Thomas Dorsey's "The Savior Is Born" are nothing short of an easy, natural perfection. Pops' spooky guitar work gives extra atmosphere to the lightly funky "No Room at the Inn" and the gorgeous rendition of "Silent Night" that ends the album. The 25th Day of December is a wonderful outing, and a classic holiday album. ~ Steve Leggett
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R&B - Released January 1, 1986 | Stax

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R&B - Released July 3, 1968 | Epic - Legacy

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Soul - Released July 9, 1991 | Legacy - Columbia

Originally released on Epic in 1965 as a live in-church session, Legacy's 1991 reissue of Freedom Highway includes two of the original LP tracks supplemented by some truly spirited late-'60s Epic recordings. Despite the glaring omissions, Freedom Highway never feels like a hastily thrown-together compilation. Instead, it follows an arc that deftly mirrors the religious, political, and social fervor of the '60s as filtered through the warm vibrato of Pops Staples' amplifier and the golden throats of his brood. Gospel standards like "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "Wade in the Water" benefit from the full band arrangements, giving them a swift kick of rock & roll that would eventually morph into the soul-funk sound of their popular '70s period. Pops, inspired by his meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., contributes the wickedly infectious title cut -- one of the two live tracks from the original -- and the incendiary "Why Am I Treated So Bad," a bluesy lament inspired by the hardships of the "Little Rock 9." As always, the vocals and harmonies are nothing short of astounding, most notably on the Mavis Staples-led "Move Along Train" -- never has gospel sounded so sexy. Each song bristles with emotion and resonates deeper with every repeated listen, resulting in an experience that transcends scripture while remaining true to its alternately redemptive and fiery foundations. Freedom Highway captures a family approaching the cusp of catharsis, and its charms lie in the world-weary delivery of its message. Their devotion has been tested and their hands have been bloodied, but their faith has grown into an endless garden because of it, and by the time they reach the spookiest version of "This Train" ever put to tape, listeners will no doubt feel as empowered as the once doomed passengers inside. ~ James Christopher Monger
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R&B - Released January 1, 1970 | Stax

Their second Stax release was similar to Soul Folk in Action. The album's highlight is Randall Stewart's "When Will We Be Paid?" ~ Rob Bowman
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R&B - Released January 1, 2006 | Stax

Throughout the distinct phases of their recording career, from straight rhythmic gospel to Civil Rights protest anthems, to what might be called soul folk to the funky grit of their Stax years, the Staple Singers always delivered songs that said something, and even when the grooves of songs like 1971's "Respect Yourself" or 1972's reggae-tinged "I'll Take You There" were sending people to the dancefloors, the lyrics were hopeful, message-driven missives of support for a better self, a better community, and a better world. Stax Profiles is a fine anthology which collects tracks recorded between 1968 and 1975 during the Staple Singers productive stay at Stax Records, and includes both "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There," as well as the powerful "City in the Sky," "Touch a Hand, Make a Friend," "Are You Sure," with its brilliantly staggered vocals, and the Steve Cropper produced "Long Walk to D.C." There isn't a single lame track here, and while there are lengthier collections of the Staple Singers' Stax years on the market, this one has a wonderful flow. ~ Steve Leggett
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R&B - Released May 19, 2017 | Stax

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Gospel - Released April 29, 2016 | Concord Records, Inc.

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A reissue of some of the fine Riverside sides (ca. 1962-1964) produced by Orrin Keepnews. This package actually does contain many of their best-known selections (like "Hammer and Nails") and is a good value for the money. ~ Kip Lornell
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Soul - Released February 27, 2015 | Epic - Legacy

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In April 1965, the Staple Singers had not yet crossed over to the R&B charts, and were devoted gospel artists at a time when the African-American church was playing a major role in the civil rights movement. Just a month before, Dr. Martin Luther King's march from Selma to Montgomery had pushed violence against peaceful activists onto the nation's front pages and nightly news broadcasts, and made the battle for racial equality the key issue of the day. The Staple Singers had recently signed to Epic Records, and the label wanted to record a live performance by the Staples in their natural environment, Chicago's New Nazareth Church, where the family worshiped when not on the road. Producer Billy Sherrill set up recording equipment at the church, and the result was the album Freedom Highway, which not only captured the sound of the Staple Singers bringing forth the spirit for the Lord, but saw them debuting their song "Freedom Highway," in which they spoke in no uncertain term about the need for civil rights, the first of many songs in their repertoire that spoke of issues in the secular world as well as celebrating God and Jesus. Fifty years after Freedom Highway was recorded, Epic/Legacy have issued Freedom Highway Complete, which presents the April 9, 1965 performance by the Staple Singers in full, in a new mix that emphasizes the interaction between the artists and the spectators, as well as presenting the concert in full, unedited form. While there are some minor flaws in this thinking -- most notably including seven minutes of Rev. Hopkins taking collection and scolding the flock for not donating enough -- the result is a truly extraordinary document. At the opening, "Pops" Staples reminds the audience that they're at a worship service, not a concert, and should react as the spirit guides them, and the joy of the worshipers is genuine and enthusiastic, and it flows back through the Staples, who reveal why the were one of the leading gospel acts of the day as they stretch these songs into glorious testaments of belief. At the same time, you can also hear what set them apart -- "Pops" Staples' guitar work is brilliant, a spectral variation on country blues figures transformed into magic by his sure touch and a bit of reverb, and Mavis Staples, 25 years old at the time, was already singing with the force and authority that would make her a legend. Freedom Highway Complete is a deeply moving document of a handful of gifted artists guided by their talents, their spirits, and their consciences at a critical moment in American history, and it's one of the most important archival releases of recent years. ~ Mark Deming
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Soul - Released January 1, 2016 | Epic - Legacy

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Soul - Released May 30, 2016 | CTS Digital

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R&B - Released January 1, 1968 | Stax

This is one you are probably going to have to search out, but this gem is worth all the effort. First, take the stunning voices of the Staple Singers, with the closely blending harmonies that can only come from the years of a family singing together. Put in the crack vibrato guitar of Pops (he was a blues player early on), add in a top-notch rhythm section that play as close as it gets, and throw in the Memphis Horns. Then add some material that was just about custom-tailored for them, mixed and mastered by Steve Cropper, and you have the makings of a fantastic disc. Still, how many times have we seen all the right ingredients and been disappointed? Not this time. The only disappointment might come from the brevity of the disc; you just want it to continue. The power and majesty that these voices carry comes as close to heaven as can be felt here on earth. They are truly performers who give their all. There are few performers who could rival Otis Redding, and to try and do one of his songs while he was still alive was almost considered sacrilege, yet listen to what they do with "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay." It is a completely different take, yet it loses absolutely nothing and in fact gains a new dimension with their controlled power. True, it probably helps that Steve Cropper, the co-writer of the song, is leading the backing band. Two of the highlights of an incredibly strong disc are "Slow Train," for its slow adept building of potency, and "The Weight." It is a vital testament to belief and love, and you will thank yourself for following a hunch. ~ Bob Gottlieb
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Soul - Released February 1, 1984 | Epic - Legacy

The last of the truly great gospel sides by this seminal family folk-gospel outfit. ~ Opal Louis Nations
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Pop - Released November 23, 1967 | Epic - Legacy

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Gospel - Released April 29, 2016 | Concord Records, Inc.

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R&B - Released January 1, 1973 | Stax

By the early '70s, despite a roster that included the Dramatics and Isaac Hayes, Stax Records was winding down. The Staple Singers, signed to the label in the late '60s, always provided hit singles and respected album efforts. Despite their gospel beginnings, the Staple Singers' biggest draws became Pops Staples' blues-based "devil's music" guitar and Mavis Staples' breathy and sexy vocals. Their 1972 album, Be Altitude: Respect Yourself, all but set the template for their subsequent work. Be What You Are in some respects is an often overly cautious follow-up. The first single, "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)," comes off as a softer take on "I'll Take You There." While the implications of having a narrow lyrical scope did impede the group somewhat, Be What You Are has the group mining familiar terrain with minimal wear. Tracks like "Love Comes in All Colors," "Tellin' Lies," and the masterful "Touch a Hand, Make a Friend" are all strong and well-produced tracks in the group's rural yet urbane style. The effort's lone cover of Bill Withers' "Grandma's Hands," despite Mavis Staples' lead, comes up short due to the perfection of the Withers original. Mavis Staples also gets two solo efforts here, including Bettye Crutcher's tough "Drown Yourself" and the spare "Heaven." Be What You Are isn't as strong or innovative as its predecessor, but it is a cohesive album and a must-have for fans. ~ Jason Elias
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R&B - Released January 1, 1992 | Fantasy Records

The Staples' first album produced by Al Bell and recorded in Muscle Shoals hit the winning formula. Other changes saw Pervis Staples departing just before the album was recorded and being replaced by sister Yvonne Staples. Everything was now in place for the Staples' golden years. Three songs, "Heavy Makes You Happy," "Love Is Plentiful," and "You've Got to Earn It," all charted. ~ Rob Bowman