Title - 4 Newly Expanded CDs from The Staple Singers!
Artist - The Staple Singers
For those not in the know, Grammy® Lifetime Achievement Award recipients and Rock & Roll and Gospel Hall of Fame inductees The Staple Singers are an American musical treasure.
In the ’50s, The Staple Singers were among the greatest of the post-war gospel groups. The ’60s found them recording for a variety of labels like Vee-Jay, Riverside, Epic, and ultimately Stax, pioneering the “soul-folk” sound.
By the end of the decade they were soul music superstars, with hits like 'I Know a Place' and 'I’ll Take You There.'
During the ’70s, they had 13 singles on the U.S. Pop chart and 20 on the U.S. R&B chart.
Besides recording, touring and chasing songs up the charts, the group also found time to not only appear in music-related motion pictures like Wattstax (1972) and The Band’s The Last Waltz (1976), but they also contributed to the Sidney Poitier-directed film soundtrack Let’s Do It Again, with music produced by Curtis Mayfield.
This, their first post-Stax effort, sent the title track, 'Let’s Do It Again,' to the number one spot on both the Pop and R&B charts.
Though the hits slowed after the mid-’70s, the Staples did have a #5 dance chart hit with a cover of the Talking Heads’ song 'Slippery People' in 1984.
Mavis Staples had been releasing solo albums dating back to 1969’s self-titled effort on Stax, but started to pick up the release tempo and carry the family business forward with a pair of albums for the Paisley Park label under the direction of Prince in 1989 and 1993.
She continues performing and releasing albums on Anti- Records to this day, working with artists and producers Ry Cooder, Jeff Tweedy, Arcade Fire, Gorillaz, and Ben Harper, among others.
The always-wondrous Omnivore Recordings will reissue four 1970s released by the group — the Curtis Mayfield-produced Let’s Do It Again soundtrack and Pass It On on June 5th, 2020, and then Family Tree, produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett, and Unlock Your Mind, produced by Chicago soul giant Eugene Record, on June 26th, 2020.
Pass It On: Expanded Edition (1976)
1. 'The Real Thing Inside of Me / Party'
2. 'Take Your Own Time'
3. 'Sweeter Than The Sweet'
4. 'Love Me, Love Me, Love Me'
5. 'Pass It On'
6. 'Making Love'
7. 'Take This Love of Mine'
8. 'Precious, Precious'
9. 'Sweeter Than The Sweet' (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
10. 'Love Me, Love Me, Love Me' (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
As I'm sure we all are fully aware, The Staples Singers have been making religious and secular music albums for a long time. As aforementioned, they got a few national hits out of Memphis with Stax records, but their finest albums were recorded in Chicago.
Freedom Highway on Columbia/Epic and the two Curtis Mayfield productions Let's Do It Again and this record, Pass It On are of The Staples' very best work, in my humble opinion.
This particular recording possesses all of the elements of soul starting with compositions and guitar accompaniment of Curtis Mayfield with Pops, Mavis and the Staples family singing with carefree abandon.
The band, including Phil Upchurch, Lucky Scott and Master Henry Gibson burn on every track making sure that Pass It On has gone down as containing some real top shelf soul tracks.
In his liner notes, Grammy®-Award winning writer (and Stax musicologist) Rob Bowman sets the scene for Pass It On's reissue: “Basking in the glow of the tremendous acclaim for their first post-Stax album, the Curtis Mayfield-produced Let’s Do It Again, both The Staple Singers and their record company had every reason to believe that they could count on substantive commercial success for the foreseeable future."
“In early summer 1976, Pops, Mavis, Cleotha, and Yvonne were once again ensconced at Mayfield’s Curtom Studios in Chicago. As was the case with Let’s Do It Again, backing was provided by the crack Curtom house band: Mayfield himself, handling the lead guitar chores, with Phil Upchurch and Gary Thompson playing rhythm guitar, Joseph ‘Lucky’ Scott holding down the bass chair, Master Henry 3 Gibson conjuring up his supernaturally funky conga and bongo parts, the trap drum kit split between Quinton Joseph and Donelle Hagen, with Rich Tufo playing keys and crafting the arrangements."
'Pass It On: Expanded Edition' CD Official Purchase Link
Let’s Do It Again: Expanded Edition (1975)
1. 'Let's Do It Again'
2. 'Funky Love'
3. 'A Whole Lot of Love'
4. 'New Orleans'
5. 'I Want to Thank You'
6. 'Big Mac'
7. 'After Sex'
9. 'This Train' (Controllers) [Bonus Track]
10. 'You Ain't Fooling Me' (Controllers) [Bonus Track]
11. 'Somebody's Gotta Win' (Controllers) [Bonus Track]
This Curtis Mayfield-penned and The Staple Singers-performed soundtrack to the highly successful 1975 comedy film starring Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby and Jimmie Walker spawned a hit #1 song in the title track (on both the R&B and Pop charts) with Gil Askey and Rich Tufo both being responsible for the arrangements.
As Stax neared bankruptcy, The Staples signed with Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label for this soundtrack album and, as aforementioned, the title track was a #1 hit with 'New Orleans' reaching #70 -- returning The Staples to the upper echelons of the charts for the last time.
Let’s Do It Again, the movie, was a big hit, too. It was a blaxploitation buddy comedy, the second of three from director Sidney Poitier.
Poitier teamed up with the Bill Cosby and the two played clueless everyman husbands attempted to pull off a big con by fixing a boxing match.
Jimmie Walker, already making a name for himself on Good Times, plays the hopeless boxer Bootney Farnsworth, and Poitier and Cosby turn him into a contender by hypnotizing him. Calvin Lockhart plays a crime boss named Biggie Smalls; that’s where the name comes from.
In his liner notes for Let’s Do It Again, Bowman explains: “Soundtrack albums are a genre unto themselves. They often contain a great title song, but commonly the bulk of the material on these albums are extended versions of instrumental bits that were written to serve the visual narrative of the film rather than to be listened to repeatedly unto themselves."
"In the case of Let’s Do It Again, the title track, ‘New Orleans’ and the soul nourishing melody and groove of ‘I Want To Thank You’ make this particular soundtrack an absolutely essential part of The Staple Stingers’ oeuvre. When it was originally released, the album reached #5 on the R&B album charts and #20 on the pop charts.”
'Let's Do It Again: Expanded Edition' CD Official Purchase Link
Family Tree: Expanded Edition< (1977)
1. 'Family Tree'
2. 'What You Doing Tonight'
3. 'See A Little Further (Than My Bed)'
4. 'I Honestly Love You'
5. 'Hang Loose'
6. 'Let's Go To The Disco'
7. 'Color Me Higher'
8. 'Boogie For The Blues'
9. 'I Honestly Love You' (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
10. 'Let's Go To The Disco' (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
I mean, and straight off the bat, the way Mavis does 'I Honestly Love You,' making it her own, to this day, well, in my humble opinion, no one has come close to her style or delivery!
So if you hadn't guessed already, Family Tree returned the group to a more familiar Staples sound. Once again, Pop is heard, and Cleo and Yvonne are upfront of the mix with Mavis.
Eugene Record's production of the album - featuring strong vocal and rhythm tracks - captures the energy in The Staples' performance. Tracks such as 'Boogie For The Blues' and 'Let's Go To The Disco' - two of the best songs on the album - were written by Aretha's sister Carolyn Franklin.
Let's Go to the Disco' has the fastest bassline in town, and the strings make Van McCoy sound plain, so whilst The Staples' message may not be very substantial, the sound is still good.
In his liner notes for Family Tree, Bowman explains: "For Family Tree, the decision was made to hire a very different Chicago-based producer and songwriter, Eugene Record."
"Record had come to fame in the early 1970s with the Chi-Lites, co-writing and singing lead on a string of hits including ‘Have You Seen Her,’ ‘Oh Girl’ and ‘(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People'."
"When the Chi-Lites’ label, Brunswick Records, ran into financial difficulty in 1975, Record opted to go solo and signed a four-album deal with Warner Bros., the same label that The Staple Singers were signed to.”
'Family Tree: Expanded Edition' CD Official Purchase Link
Unlock Your Mind: Expanded Edition (1979)
1. 'Chica Boom'
2. 'Don't Burn Me'
3. '(Shu-Doo-Pa-Poo-Poop) Love Being with a Fool'
4. 'Show Down'
5. 'Unlock Your Mind'
6. 'Handwriting on the Wall'
7. 'Mystery Train'
8. 'Leave It All Up to Love'
9. 'I Want You to Dance'
10. 'God Can'
11. 'Chica Boom' (Single Edit) [Bonus Track]
Featuring two songs by American funk and soul singer/songwriter Paul Kelly, a cult favorite, and a personal vocal hero of mine, Kelly should have gotten The Staples to sing more of his tunes because they sound better interpreting them than he does!
Kelly's 'God Can' and 'Don't Burn Me,' benefit from the singing and recording technique because, in all truth (sorry), Kelly's own recordings sounded like he cut them in a closet!
The productions by Jerry Wexler and Barry Becket are first-class but the material is third-rate, in truth (again, sorry). Other than the two Paul Kelly songs, 'Leave It All Up to Love,' and the percolating 'Chica Boom,' there's not much else to get excited for on their one before last album.
The album was produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett, aside from those other songs, there isn’t a whole lot happening with this one, but it has a nice, even pop/gospel flow to it and for that alone, it's worthy of a delightful reissue.
In his liner notes for the Unclock Your Mind reissue, Bowman writes: "As the sun rose on January 1st, 1978, The Staple Singers were struggling to stay relevant."
"Over the past quarter century the group had risen through the ranks of the gospel world, single-handily founded the sub-genre soul folk and had become soul music superstars when they recorded for Stax Records in the first half of the 1970s."
"After Stax encountered financial trouble leading to eventual bankruptcy, the Staples signed a three-album deal with Warner Bros. The new arrangement got off to a great start with the group’s first post-Stax single, the Curtis Mayfield written and produced ‘Let’s Do It Again,’ topping the charts in late 1975."
"Since then the Staples had recorded a second album with Mayfield, 1976’s Pass It On, and a third Warner Bros. album produced by former Chi-Lite Eugene Record, 1977’s Family Tree."
"With each new release, the group found themselves slipping further and further down the R&B charts while missing the pop charts altogether. A radical solution was called for."
All these new editions feature liner notes from Grammy®-Award winning author, Rob Bowman and add all single edits issued for the album as bonus tracks.
The reissues are produced and remastered by Grammy®-winners, Cheryl Pawelski and Michael Graves respectively, and include photos and ephemera in the booklets.
'Unlock Your Mind: Expanded Edition' CD Official Purchase Link