woensdag 18 maart 2015

* The Staple Singers *

You don't have to believe in God to enjoy songs that praise the Lord. I feel sorry for those who think they can do without religious music. Listen to Washington Phillips! Blind Willie Johnson! Soul Stirrers! Or start with The Staple Singers, whose LP 'Pray On' converted me to gospel, almost 30 years ago.

Roebuck "Pops" Staples and his children made their biggest hits singing soulsongs-with-a-message for Stax (1970-74). They even hit No.1 in the USA-popcharts in 1972 with 'I'll Take You There' (with its intro nicked from the 1969-reggae-instrumental 'The Liquidator' by the Harry J. Allstars). 
In 1975 the Staples family would top the US-charts once more with the title song of the Sidney Poitier/ Bill Cosby-movie 'Let's Do It Again', written and produced by Curtis Mayfield for his Curtom-label.

                                                            The Staple Singers circa 1951
Way before that they recorded pure gospel for the Vee Jay-label (1955-61), then switched to Riverside (1962-64). Below there's six reasons why you should listen to those early Staple Singers, ranging from the powerful 'Don't Drive Me Away' (Mavis at her best) to the subtle grooving 'I Can't Help From Cryin' Sometime' (organ by Maceo Wood; Al Duncan on drums). And check their version of the traditional that influenced 'The Last Time' by the Rolling Stones. The Staple Singers recorded the song first in 1954 for United. That take (with unknown pianist) was sold to Savoy, who eventually released it in 1960 on their sub-label Sharp. I prefer the Staples-recut (no piano) for Vee Jay. The story goes that the latter version inspired Keith Richards, while trying to learn the guitar part, to write the first Stones-'original'. Plus...

Vee Jay: '(This May Be) The Last Time' (?), 'Pray On' (1959), 'Don't Drive Me Away' (1960);
Riverside: 'I Can't Help From Cryin' Sometime' (1962), 'Wish I Had Answered' (1963), 
                 'Masters of War' (1964, Bob Dylan-cover);
Stax: 'Respect Yourself' (1971), 'I'll Take You There' (1972)*
bonus: 'Slippery People' (Talking Heads-cover, 1984 Soul Train-TV performance+interview)

Pops wrote most songs and played guitar, accompanying his son Pervis (1935) and daughters Cleotha (1934) and lead vocalist Mavis (1939). Another daughter, Yvonne (1938), replaced Pervis in 1958 when he joined the army for 2 years, and she stepped in again when he finally left the group in 1970.

                                                         1971 LP 'The Staple Swingers'
Further reading:
Far better story + 1992 Pops-interview: http://jasobrecht.com/pops-staples-interview-playing-for-peace/

Further listening:
   lp Pray On (rec.’55-61 Vee Jay/1986 Charly-New Cross Gospel Series GNC 1002) -16tr
2cd Glory! It's The.. Staple Singers ('55-61 Vee Jay/2000 Snapper-Recall SMDCD431) -32tr
  cd Great Day (rec.'62-64 Riverside/1991 Milestone MCD-47028-2) -27tr
  cd Respect Yourself-the best of ('70-74 Stax/1987 Ace-Stax CDSX 006) -20tr
2cd The Ultimate..: a Family Affair 1955-1984 (most '60-78/2004 Kent CDKEN2 240/Ace) -44tr

*PS: David Hood played bass and Roger Hawkins played drums on I'll Take You There on the original studio version from '72. Hood and Hawkins were the famed "muscle shoals" rhythm section that appeared on many Rock/Pop/R&B records throughout the '70s, most notable on Traffic recordings with Steve Winwood

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