stax

Booker T. & the MGs, Staple Singers & Johnnie Taylor launch Stax Remasters Series

From the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, the Stax label dominated soul, R&B, gospel, and related genres with a stable of artists who have since become iconic figures in the history of American popular music. Now a part of the Concord Music Group, the Stax catalog is a treasure trove of some of the most visceral and influential recordings of the 20th century. On May 10, 2011, Concord reaches back into that deep catalog to launch Stax Remasters, a series of reissues that cast a new light on classic Stax recordings with the help of 24-bit remastering, rare bonus tracks, and new liner notes to frame the recordings in a historical context.

The first three reissues in the series are:

  • Booker T. & the MGs: McLemore Avenue (1970)
  • The Staple Singers: Be Altitude: Respect Yourself (1972)
  • Johnnie Taylor: Taylored in Silk (1973)


“Stax is a very important label, not only in the history of soul music, but in the history of music in general,” says Nick Phillips, Concord’s Vice President of Catalog A&R and co-producer of the series with Chris Clough, Concord’s Manager of Catalog Development. “We have a number of amazing recordings by Stax in the catalog. This is an opportunity to revisit some of the best of these classic recordings, upgrade the sound quality, and put them in the proper historical perspective that they deserve.”

Booker T. & the MGs: McLemore Avenue

Released in January 1970, McLemore Avenue is a tribute to Abbey Road, the landmark recording released by the Beatles the prior summer. McLemore Avenue sets up an interesting cause-and-effect loop by putting an R&B spin on songs by a profoundly innovative British pop-rock band that, ironically, emerged years earlier from the most basic elements of American R&B.

McLemore Avenue was inspired by “my pure fascination and admiration of the work that [the Beatles] had done,” says keyboardist Booker T. Jones in the reissue liner notes by music historian Ashley Kahn. “I didn’t know their inner workings. I found out later. I had a picture of those guys as a perfect unit. I didn’t know that they fought, had arguments, or that they needed referees. When you listen to that music, you think it comes from a perfect union, you know?”

The tribute album “represents a fascinating and musically compelling intersection,” says Phillips. “On one hand, you can look at the strength of the Beatles’ songs, and how they’re such strong songs that they can be successfully adapted — in the right hands — to soulful instrumental versions. At the same time, it is of course a testament to Booker T. & the MGs’ creativity and soulfulness and groove. It’s not only a very interesting musical intersection, but it’s also a very deep and at the same time a very fun listen.”

Clearly, Booker T. & the MGs had had plenty of their own opportunities to flex their creative muscles in the studio, having recorded with artists like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. “But on a record like this,” says Clough, “where all the songs were already written and it was just a matter of interpretation, it wasn’t work for them. It was an opportunity to put their spin on the songs and just have some fun.”

The bonus tracks include seven additional Beatles covers, recorded in sessions separate from those for the McLemore Avenue album. “We figured it made good sense to expand this edition by adding other tracks that Booker T. & the MGs had recorded of Beatles songs over the years,” says Phillips. “So the Stax Remasters reissue is not only an expanded edition of McLemore Avenue, it’s also a de facto ‘Booker T. & the MGs Play the Beatles’ collection.”

The Staple Singers: Be Altitude: Respect Yourself

Originally released in 1972, Be Altitude: Respect Yourself captures the celebrated family vocal group in what was essentially the third act of their career, according to music historian Rob Bowman. The Staple Singers had initially established themselves as a gospel group in the 1950s, then merged with the folk music closely tied to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and ultimately veered away from protest songs and toward what Mavis Staples termed “message music” in the early and mid-1970s.

“Obviously, there was a lot going on in America — politically and socially — around that time, and the Staple Singers took up the cause,” says Clough. “Stax provided a huge platform for that cause, and it worked. It wasn’t insincere or disingenuous. It was the real deal. The Staples had taken up the banner at that point.”

Be Altitude found a comfortable middle ground between gospel music and secular music. “Some of the messages in their music have that gospel element running through it, but it’s a broader message than what you’d find in traditional gospel,” says Phillips. “The soul, the gospel, the grooves — all those things blended together — really make for a unique sound that is the Staple Singers.”

The two previously unreleased bonus tracks — “Walking in Water Over Our Head” and an alternate version of “Heavy Makes You Happy” — were both recorded at the Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama in 1970 and 1972, respectively. “We felt that it was appropriate to add these bonus tracks, not only because any undiscovered material by a group as great as the Staple Singers is worthy of a listen,” says Phillips, “but also because they’re such great performances that they fit right in.”

Simply put, says Bowman, “the recording you hold in your hands represents the Staple Singers at the very peak of their career.”

Johnnie Taylor: Taylored in Silk

Released in 1973, Taylored in Silk is an ideal example of Taylor’s newly expanded and embellished sound, crafted with the help of producer Don Davis, who had united with Taylor a few years earlier, according to the liner notes by Bill Dahl. “As far as Davis was concerned, a fundamental change of sound was in order for Johnnie,” says Dahl. “Gone were the savory slow blues in favor of a hard-edged, uptempo attack that energized [Taylor’s] sound like never before.”

The issue could well have been regional marketing as much as musicality. “The story goes that Davis was brought in to forge a sound that would be sort of a combination between Northern and Southern soul, and capture the best of both Stax and Motown,” says Phillips. “He certainly hit a home run in his work with Johnnie Taylor, especially on this album.”

Taylored in Silk underwent “a lot of overdubbing,” Dahl notes, “but the end result was a splendidly conceived soul album boasting three major R&B hits within its eight selections…Blues wailer or soul philosopher, silky or gritty, Johnnie Taylor will always be revered as one of the greatest southern soul singers of ’em all.”

The six bonus tracks were previously released as singles in the early ’70s, “and they’re all outstanding performances,” says Phillips. “They certainly fit the vibe and the performance quality of the rest of the album.”

Miles Davis, Albert King & Bill Evans get Definitive discs on Concord

Concord Music Group has assembled three new titles in its ongoing Definitive series, one of which marks the series’ initial foray into CMG’s vast blues catalog. The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige; The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy; and The Definitive Albert King on Stax span a total of 60 years and include the music of two monumental figures in jazz and an equally influential figure in the blues. Each of the two-CD collections is set for release on April 5, 2011.

The two dozen tracks of The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige follow the creative evolution of the most revered trumpeter in the annals of jazz. Spanning the first half of the 1950s, the collection captures Miles at the beginning of his breakthrough to mainstream appeal, according to the liner notes by music journalist and historian Ashley Kahn.

“The purpose of this collection is to deliver a full, definitive overview of that very special period in Miles’s career,” says Kahn. “Its focus covers the nearly six-year period when the trumpeter was signed exclusively to Prestige. Disc 1 offers the best of his 1951 to ’56 sessions primarily as a leader of various ad hoc all-star ensembles. Disc 2 provides a generous sampling of Miles the bandleader, in ’55 and ’56, at the helm of one of the most groundbreaking groups of the day.”

The collection also chronicles Miles’s dramatic artistic growth over a relatively short time, says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the collection. “The years between 1951 and 1956 are not a huge amount of time, but the development by Miles — as a musician and as a bandleader — is pretty astonishing in this period,” says Phillips. “This culminates in what ended up being one of the most legendary groups in jazz, the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring John Coltrane.”

The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy tracks more than two decades of recordings by a highly influential figure in jazz piano. “It would be difficult to think of a major jazz pianist emerging after 1960 who did not take Bill Evans as a model,” says jazz journalist Doug Ramsey, who wrote the liner notes for the 25-song collection that begins in the mid-1950s and ends in 1977. “Indeed, many seasoned pianists who preceded Evans altered their styles after hearing him.”

What’s more, “Evans had a profound effect on how musicians play jazz and how listeners hear it,” says Ramsey. “He is so much a part of the jazz atmosphere that many musicians — regardless of instrument — who came of age in the 21st century are not conscious that his concepts helped form them.”

The collection also gives proper attention on the second disc to Evans’s Fantasy-era recordings of the mid-1970s, says Phillips, who also produced the Evans collection. “Because the Riverside sessions are so acclaimed and so legendary, the Fantasy tracks are often overshadowed,” he says. “But in listening to this collection, you realize that Evans was still creating some amazing recordings throughout the Fantasy period with some high-caliber musicians, like Eddie Gomez, Kenny Burrell, Lee Konitz, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, and Philly Joe Jones.”

The Definitive Albert King on Stax follows 15 years worth of recordings — from 1961 to 1975, plus a final track from 1984 — by a bluesman who’d spent the early part of his career playing to an African-American fan base in the roadhouses and theaters of the chitlin’ circuit. But by the latter half of the 1960s, the genre “was now attracting the rapt interest of young white listeners, their sensibilities opened wide by the muscular, in-your-face blues rock of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and Jimi Hendrix,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl in his liner notes for the collection. “These new converts were gravitating to the best the idiom had to offer. No single blues guitarist made a more stunning impact during that tumultuous timeframe than Albert King.”

“For as paradoxical as it might sound, you could make the case that Albert King was a cheery blues guy,” says Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Albert King collection. “He had that wry smile, and he often smoked a pipe. He was always well dressed and dapper. He was genuinely interested in putting on a show for his audience, and that sensibility comes through on these tracks.”

Dahl suggests that the years between 1966 and 1975 were a “Golden Decade” for King. “He was with Stax that entire time,” he says, “right up to the Memphis label’s unfortunate demise, cutting one enduring blues classic after another as he scaled the charts over and over again. In the process, King deeply influenced countless up-and-coming blues axemen, even though the ringing licks he coaxed out of his futuristic Gibson Flying V were all but impossible to accurately recreate.”

Al Bell gets Grammy Trustees Award

The Memphis Music Foundation and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, located at the original site of Stax Records, proudly congratulate Al Bell on receiving the highest honor the music industry offers, the 2011 Grammy Trustees Award, given by the Board of Trustees of the Recording Academy. Bell now joins the pantheon of musical icons who have received the prestigious honor, including the Beatles, Walt Disney, George and Ira Gershwin, Berry Gordy, Duke Ellington, and Stax Records’ co-founder Estelle Axton.

For Bell, the honor represents a milestone in his lifetime love of music and work in the industry.

“The phone call I received from Neil Portnow, president of NARAS’ Grammy Foundation, letting me know that I was going to be a recipient of the Trustees Lifetime Achievement Award,” says Bell, “was both humbling and honoring. This is the most meaningful recognition I could have ever hoped to achieve from my industry. I sincerely thank NARAS and the Grammy Foundation for honoring me with their highest award.”

In 1965, a young radio disc jockey from Brinkley, Arkansas named Alvertis Isbell joined a fledging record company in Memphis, Tennessee to help promote the music it was churning out in an old converted movie theater. That small label was Stax Records and Al Bell became known to be one of the driving forces who helped change music history. Decades later, in 2009, he became the chairman of the board of directors of the Memphis Music Foundation (MMF), the main organization charged with promoting the city’s musical legacy, current artists, and future plans.

“This is great news for Al Bell and Memphis Music,” said Dean Deyo, president of the Memphis Music Foundation. “Al started developing young artists during his Stax days over 40 years ago and continues to nurture artist development as chairman of the Memphis Music Foundation.  Memphis music is something very special and one of the main reasons for its success has been Al Bell.  It just may be a bit early to give him a Lifetime Achievement Award, because he is not done yet.  Al Bell is just getting started.”

Kirk Whalum, internationally renowned musician and 12-time Grammy nominee, now CEO for the Soulsville Foundation in Memphis, which includes the Stax Museum, Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School, explains, “There's a very good reason that the name Al Bell is mentioned, the voice of Al Bell is heard, and the handsome and distinguished face of Al Bell is seen more than any other name, voice, and face in the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. It's because of his body of work. Yes he remains a creative, viable, and avant-garde force in the industry. But who wouldn't give a limb to have all his ‘firsts’ and accomplishments in one’s rearview mirror?”

From 1965 until the company was forced into involuntary bankruptcy in 1975, Bell helped build Stax Records into one of the most influential labels in the world, working with artists such as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Johnnie Taylor, Sam & Dave, Booker T. & the MGs, the Bar Kays, Richard Pryor, and a host of others. He also produced and wrote such hits as the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There.”  When Bell owned Stax in the 1970s, it was the second-largest African-American owned business in the United States. After the company’s demise, he went on to serve as president of Motown Records Group, and later started his own Bellmark Records label, releasing Prince’s top-selling song ever, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” and Tag Team’s multi-platinum hit “Whoomp! (There It is),” one of the best-selling rap singles in history. Bell now operates his own web-based music channel, AlBellPresents.com.

For Isbell, given the name Al Bell in 1957 as radio announcer in Little Rock, Arkansas,  whose famous radio sign-on was “This is your 6-feet-4 bundle of joy, 212 pounds of Mrs. Bell’s baby boy, soft as medicated cotton, rich as double-X cream, the women’s pet, the men’s threat, the play boys pride and joy, the baby boy Al Bell,” — the Grammy Award not only marks his lifetime of work in the music industry, but also gives more fuel to what he plans to do now and in the future.

“When Mr. Portnow said ‘Lifetime Achievement Award,” Bell continues, “I didn’t think about my past. It sounded prophetic. Because what has happened to me is that I’ve begun to pursue that which I have learned in life and I’m about the business of achieving it. It’s a beginning for me. With this award and through my role with the Memphis Music Foundation, I am beginning my lifetime evolvement and development in the recorded music industry.”

Albert King/Stevie Ray Vaughan 'In Session'

On December 6, 1983, legendary blues guitarist Albert King joined his disciple Stevie Ray Vaughan on a Canadian sound stage for the live music television series In Session. Magic happened. The highly sought after video footage from that one-time legendary summit becomes available for the first time ever on November 9 with the release of Stax Records’ deluxe two-disc CD/DVD In Session.

The DVD contains three classic performances unavailable on the previously issued audio disc: “Born Under a Bad Sign,” the landmark title track from Albert King’s biggest Stax release written by William Bell and Booker T. Jones; Stevie Ray’s “Texas Flood,” the Larry Davis-penned title track of Vaughan’s immortal debut album; and “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town,” made famous by Louis Jordan and later, Ray Charles.

“It was evident from the first choruses,” writes liner notes author/musicologist Samuel Charters, “that they were playing for each other. And that was the best audience either of them could ever have. The music never lost its intensity, its quality of something very important being handed back and forth and there was time for Stevie and Albert to see where their ideas took them.”

Accolades have showered upon this momentous encounter. “As a document of what was probably one of the greatest nights in the musical life of SRV, this belongs in the collection of every true fan,” said the Austin American-Statesman. Sonic Boomers added, “Both men are gone now, but rare recordings like In Session remind us of a time when blues giants still walked the earth side by side.” Elmore magazine called it “an indispensible part of any blues fan’s collection.” And BluesWax noted, “thank goodness, this disc lives on and on.”

Now this one-of-a-kind visual document featuring two giants of American blues can be enjoyed by audiences all over the world. Sadly, King and Vaughan would not share a stage together ever again. Vaughan, 31 years King’s junior, died in a helicopter crash in the fog on the way back from a concert in 1990. King outlived him by two years, dying of a heart attack in 1992. They didn’t meet often, and their careers took different paths. But we can all be grateful for that one long day in a television studio when sparks flew and this timeless performance was forever captured.

Otis Redding's 2-CD 'Live on the Sunset Strip'

In 1966, Otis Redding had emerged not only as the star of Stax Records but as one of nation’s most influential soul singers. With his version of “Satisfaction” climbing the charts in April 1966, Redding arrived in Los Angeles to play both the Hollywood Bowl (as part of a KHJ-AM listener appreciation concert that also featured Donovan, Sonny & Cher and the Mamas & the Papas) and a four-nighter at the legendary Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip. According to Taj Mahal, whose ’60s band the Rising Sons opened the Whisky shows, “At that time, Otis was it.”

Live on the Sunset Strip, slated for May 18, 2010 release on Stax Records through Concord Music Group, captures Redding in the white heat of transition, when his star power was undeniable and it was still possible to catch him backed by his own road band in the tight quarters of a smoky nightclub. The 2-CD set features three full live sets that have never been previously available in their entirety. A definitive live statement from Redding, the songs are sequenced exactly as they went down, complete with an emcee and spoken introductions by Redding. The booklet features rare photographs as well as extensive liner notes by Ashley Kahn, author of music biographies and a contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition.

Live on the Sunset Strip highlights versions of Redding’s best-known songs: “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Security,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” “Satisfaction,” “Respect,” “These Arms of Mine” and “Just One More Day,” to name a few.

As Kahn points out in his notes, “In 1966, Redding was 24 and defined not only the sound but the style and look of a true soul man. Tall and lanky, he was ready to drop to his knees and tear off the thin-lapelled jacket of his sharply pressed suit when it was time to deliver the goods. His ten-piece band was his personal, traveling amen-corner, urging him to testify night after night . . . His out-of-breath stage patter was warm and downhome. ‘Ladies and gentlemens,’ he addressed his fans, ‘holler as loud as you wanna — you ain’t home!’”

The Whisky A Go Go was known for its integrated booking policy and for helping bring awareness of R&B and blues to rock audiences, who attended shows by the Doors, Love, and the Standells at the venue. On April 7-10, the club booked the Otis Redding Revue for the Easter weekend that followed the Hollywood Bowl appearance. Redding’s entourage included an emcee and a full 10-piece band (led by saxophonist Bob Holloway) along with three up-and-coming singers performing one tune apiece before the headliner hit the stage. Engineer Wally Heider, the West Coast’s leading recorder of live performances, was hired to tape the three nights.

The shows did not go unnoticed by the Los Angeles Times, which noted: “Drawn by his growing popularity, a fervid audience shoe-horned into the club . . . Redding was assured of an In Group [sic] following Thursday night when from among his spectators emerged Bob Dylan, trailed by an entourage of camp followers.” (Legend holds that Dylan offered him “Just Like a Woman” as a possible cover that night, though Redding thought the song was a little wordy.)

Redding achieved even greater heights in the months after the Whisky performances, chalking up two new hits (“Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa [Sad Song]” and “Try a Little Tenderness”). He played San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, took part in the Stax/Volt Revue through Europe in March ’67 and stole the show at the historic Monterey International Pop Festival in June of that year. The ultimate tragedy happened on December 10, 1967, when, as eloquently stated by Kahn, “his death in an airplane crash . . . dramatically froze his star forever in its perfect, meteoric apogee.”

In 1968, Stax posthumously issued the LP In Person at the Whisky A Go Go, with liner notes by Los Angeles Times critic Pete Johnson, who’d also reviewed the live show. In 1993, the CD Good to Me: Recorded Live at the Whisky, Vol. 2 expanded on a largely forgotten 1982 LP, Recorded Live. While those releases juggled selections from different shows, Live on the Sunset Strip stands out as a historically true document, offering the last three consecutive sets capturing Redding and his band in top form.

“I’m still real clear about those shows,” recalls Taj Mahal, whose Rising Sons opened them. “It was raw and unscripted. It was just the joy of music, you know. The joy of rhythm, the joy of energy. . .”

Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere reunite for new album, 'Midnight Flyer'

Steve Cropper, guitarist for Booker T. and the MGs and one of the primary architects of the unmistakable Stax sound of the 1960s, and vocalist/keyboardist Felix Cavaliere, the voice of the Rascals and the pivotal figure in the blue-eyed soul movement of that same era, have reconvened for their second collaborative recording. Sparks fly at the crossroads of Memphis soul and East Coast R&B when Stax Records releases Midnight Flyer on June 15, 2010.

Midnight Flyer, recorded in Nashville and mixed by the legendary David Z, is the followup to Nudge It Up a Notch, the 2008 maiden voyage by Cropper and Cavaliere that scored critical acclaim from the music and mainstream press. The San Francisco Chronicle called Nudge It Up a Notch “an unexpected delight,” while Blues Wax heralded the project as “one of the great surprises of 2008, and further evidence of Concord’s genuine commitment to the revamped Stax imprint.”

The Stax legacy — and Concord’s commitment to it — are very much alive in Midnight Flyer, an album that once again showcases the songwriting prowess of two towering figures from one of the most seminal periods in the history of American pop music. Assisting with the songwriting throughout most of the album’s 12 tracks is drummer/percussionist/vocalist Tom Hambridge, who also lent a hand with the crafting of the previous album.

“Felix and I come from pretty much the same musical school — but from different geographical locations,” says Cropper. “He’s a Jersey boy at heart, and I grew up in Memphis, but when soul meets soul, what can you say? There are no borders. There are no boundaries.”

But geography does play a role in the making of great songs, says Cavaliere. “Steve has that Southern vernacular, which is something I really like,” he says. “It’s almost like another language to those of us from the East Coast. It has a certain folky quality to it. Some of those idioms are part of the hit songs that Steve has written and recorded over the years, and they’re part of this record as well.”

The impact of both of these musicians and songwriters on pop music is nearly impossible to quantify. As part of Booker T. & the MGs — the house band for the Stax label in its original incarnation during the 1960s — Cropper co-wrote and produced classics by artists like Eddie Floyd (“Knock On Wood”), Wilson Pickett (“In the Midnight Hour”) and Otis Redding (“Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”). In subsequent decades, he lent his instrumental and production skills to a range of artists including Jeff Beck, the Blues Brothers, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and many others.

Cavaliere came to prominence in the mid-’60s as vocalist/keyboardist/songwriter for the Rascals (initially known as the Young Rascals). Cavaliere wrote and/or sang several of the band’s biggest hits, including “Good Lovin’” (1966), “Groovin’” (1967), “It’s a Beautiful Morning” (1968) and “People Got To Be Free” (1968). The phrase “blue-eyed soul” was coined during the Rascals’ heyday, due in large part to the group’s highly successful forays into R&B and soul — styles that had been developed and previously dominated by African-American artists.

Co-produced by Cropper, Cavaliere and Hambridge, Midnight Flyer captures the synergy and brilliance that can only emerge when two powerful forces of nature come together. The result is a range of styles and shades, from heartfelt ballads like “When You’re With Me” to the soul-charged “I Can’t Stand It,” a churning vocal duet featuring Cavaliere and his daughter Aria. “Sexy Lady” harkens back to the soul stylings of the ’70s, while the funky instrumental “Do It Like This” digs into a tight groove and makes plenty of room for Cropper’s tasty riff work to close out the set.

“The main thing we both take away from this record is how much fun we had making it,” says Cavaliere. “We may have used a lot of new technology that didn’t even exist when Steve and I were recording back in the day, but the songs themselves are still the most important part of the process, and we just had a blast writing and recording them. I think that spirit comes through on the record.”

Cropper notes a timelessness about Cavaliere that serves as a metaphor for the music itself. “Felix is ageless,” he says. “Sure, you can look at him and see that he’s gotten older since those early days, just like we all have. But if you close your eyes, he sounds as young and energetic as he did when he was making records back in the ’60s . . . Working together on records like this reminds us of the kinds of things that go into the making of a good song. We’re still doing that, and we’re still having fun doing it.”

STAX REISSUES JOHNNIE TAYLOR'S LIVE ALBUM, ' LIVE AT THE SUMMIT CLUB'

Johnnie Taylor- for the Grateful Web

Johnnie Taylor, one of the greatest soul singers who ever lived, was at the peak of his game on September 23, 1972, when he sang to an effusive crowd at the now-defunct Summit Club in South Los Angeles. The show was captured on tape and will be reissued February 20 by Stax Records as Johnnie Taylor: Live at the Summit Club.

 
The live album, produced by Al Bell, the then-president of Stax Records, was recorded at the time of the historic two-day Wattstax concert at nearby Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.  The Wattstax bill was filled, so Stax put many of its artists into nearby clubs where they were taped and filmed.

 
As well as including his biggest hits ("Who's Making Love," "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone"), the album contains six previously unreleased tracks that emphasize the blues side of Taylor's repertoire. Label-mate Rufus Thomas said of Taylor in his introduction: "When you speak of blues, this is a man who knows 'em from the letter A to the letter Z."

 
Taylor recorded eight straight Top 10 R&B hits, though by 1971 he had been eclipsed by Isaac Hayes and the Staple Singers as the label's top hitmakers. Eventually he moved from Stax to Columbia, where he enjoyed one more big hit, "Disco Lady," before winding down his recording career at Malaco with steady work on the Chitlin' Circuit.

 
staxWhile this recording found Taylor was at the peak of his faculties, his band unfortunately was not in such top form. The musicians messed up again and again — not so much that the audience really noticed, though Taylor did chastise them from time to time. The flaws and the way Taylor handled them without interrupting the flow make for fascinating — and ultimately satisfying — listening. The Arkansas-born vocalist considered himself "a salesman of songs," and he wasn't about to allow adverse circumstances to prevent him from driving home the messages of six of his biggest hits (including two very different versions of "Steal Away") and extended treatments of the blues songs "Little Bluebird" and "Hello Sundown." Six of the nine performances on the reissue, which was produced by Stuart Kremsky, are entirely new to disc.

 
Concord Music Group, which acquired the legendary Memphis label as part of its purchase of Fantasy Records in 2004, will also honor Stax's 50th year by releasing definitive collections, rare performances, unreleased tracks and more from the Memphis R&B imprint in deluxe new packages. Plans for digital releases, remixes and other projects are also in the works; the anniversary year's releases are slated to include more than 20 CDs and DVDs.

 
In addition, Concord Music Group will reactivate Stax this year as a dynamic new force in contemporary R&B music committed to the continuing the legacy of the original legendary label. The first new Stax signings are Isaac Hayes, Angie Stone and Soulive.

STAX RECORDS/CONCORD MUSIC GROUP TO ISSUE STAX 50

Deluxe 2-CD set, out March 13, 2007- for the Grateful Web

The 50th anniversary of the legendary soul label Stax Records will kick off with the release of a deluxe edition 50-song, 2-CD box set titled Stax 50: A 50th Anniversary Celebration. The most comprehensive Stax hits collection ever — featuring for the first time all major Stax hit singles — Stax 50 will formally inaugurate Concord Music's re-launch of Stax. The set is packaged in a hardcover box with lenticular cover art of the famous snapping finger logo. Street date is set for March 13, 2007.

Last month, Concord Music Group announced a year of activity that will include deluxe reissues, special events and the reactivation of the legendary label with a slate of new artist signings.

Stax 50 features hits from the Memphis label's heyday of the 1960s and '70s, including the many legendary artists who jointly created the "Stax sound," among them Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Booker T & the MGs, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, The Dramatics, Little Milton, The Mar-Keys, Mel & Tim, Jean Knight, and The Emotions.

 
Stax Records holds a critical place in American music history as one of the most popular soul music record labels of all time — second only to Motown in sales and influence, but first in gritty, raw, Southern-steeped soul music. Stax placed more than 167 hit songs in Billboard's Hot 100 pop charts as well as a staggering 243 hits on the R&B charts. In addition to the "core" artists who appear on Stax 50, the label was also home to recordings by Albert King, Big Star, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Moms Mabley and even the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

 
As noted in Stax historian Rob Bowman's extensive liner notes for the box, "The story of Stax Records is about as improbable and unforeseeable as any tale could possibly be." The label was launched in Memphis by a white country fiddler named Jim Stewart and his sister, Estelle Axton. The name came from combining the first two letters of each of their last names. Originally known as Satellite Records, with a roster that spanned pop to blues to rockabilly, the label's 1960 name change to Stax cemented the label's commitment to R&B and soul, commencing with Rufus & Carla Thomas' "'Cause I Love You." Within a short time, Stax, based in a former movie theater on Memphis' McLemore Avenue, grew into a self-contained indie powerhouse with its own studio, A&R staff, writers, producers and house band.

 
Concord Music Group, which acquired the legendary Memphis label as part of its purchase of Fantasy Records in 2004, will also honor Stax's 50th year by releasing definitive collections, rare performances, unreleased tracks and more from the Memphis R&B imprint in deluxe new packages. Plans for digital releases, remixes and other projects are also in the works; the anniversary year's releases are slated to include more than 20 CDs and DVDs.

 
In addition, Concord Music Group will reactivate Stax this year as a dynamic new force in contemporary R&B music committed to the power and legacy of their forbearers. The first new Stax signings are Isaac Hayes and Angie Stone.

 
TRACK LIST

DISC ONE

1.  CARLA THOMAS – "Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes)"
2.  THE MAR-KEYS – "Last Night"
3.  WILLIAM BELL – "You Don't Miss Your Water"         
4.  BOOKER T. & THE MGs – "Green Onions"                  
5.  RUFUS THOMAS – "Walking the Dog"         
6.  OTIS REDDING – "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)"
7.  THE ASTORS – "Candy"
8.  OTIS REDDING – "Respect"
9.  SAM & DAVE – "You Don't Know Like I Know"
10. THE MAD LADS – "I Want Someone"
11. SAM & DAVE – "Hold On I'm Comin'"
12. CARLA THOMAS – "Let Me Be Good To You"         
13. MABLE JOHN – "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)"
14. EDDIE FLOYD – "Knock on Wood"         
15. CARLA THOMAS – "B-A-B-Y"
16. OTIS & CARLA – "Tramp"         
17. THE BAR-KEYS – "Soul Finger"
18. ALBERT KING – "Born Under a Bad Sign"
19. SAM & DAVE – "Soul Man"
20. OTIS REDDING – "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay"
21. OLLIE & THE NIGHTINGALES – "I Got a Sure Thing"
22. BOOKER T. & THE MGs – "Soul Limbo"
23. EDDIE FLOYD – "I've Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)"
24. LINDA LYNDELL – "What a Man"
25. WILLIAM BELL & JUDY CLAY – "Private Number"
26. JOHNNIE TAYLOR – "Who's Making Love"
27. WILLIAM BELL – "I Forgot To Be Your Lover"
28. CARLA THOMAS – "I Like What You're Doing (To Me)"
 
DISC TWO

1.  BOOKER T. & THE MGS – "Time Is Tight"
2.  THE EMOTIONS – "So I Can Love You"
3.  ISAAC HAYES – "Walk on By"
4.  RUFUS THOMAS – "Do the Funky Chicken"
5.  JOHNNIE TAYLOR – "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone"
6.  JEAN KNIGHT – "Mr. Big Stuff"
7.  ISAAC HAYES – "Never Can Say Goodbye"
8.  THE DRAMATICS – "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get"
9.  THE STAPLE SINGERS  – "Respect Yourself"
10. ISAAC HAYES – "Theme From Shaft"
11. THE BAR-KAYS – "Son of Shaft"
12. LITTLE MILTON – "That's What Love Will Make You Do"
13. FREDERICK KNIGHT – "I've Been Lonely for So Long"
14. SOUL CHILDREN – "Hearsay"
15. THE DRAMATICS – "In the Rain"
16. THE STAPLE SINGERS – "I'll Take You There"
17. MEL & TIM STARTING – "All Over Again"
18. THE TEMPREES – "Dedicated to the One I Love"
19. THE STAPLE SINGERS – "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)"         
20. JOHNNIE TAYLOR – "Cheaper To Keep Her"
21. SOUL CHILDREN – "I'll Be the Other Woman"
22. SHIRLEY BROWN – "Woman to Woman"