Various Stax Records Artists – Soul Explosion – Stax/ Craft Records

by | Jun 11, 2019 | Jazz CD Reviews, Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews | 0 comments

Various Stax Records Artists – Soul Explosion – Stax/ Craft Records CR 00174 – 2 Vinyl Audiophile LPs – 1969 – ***1/2

Last October I reviewed Stax ’68 : A Memphis Story, a 5 CD box set of all the singles released by Stax Records in 1968, soon after the time that they were cut loose by their distributor, Atlantic Records, who had basically taken royalties, and signed away one of their lead artists, Sam and Dave, from their roster. Stax struggled to survive, and had to rebuild their marketing, and distribution in short order to stave off bankruptcy. Time was of the essence.

In a matter of months, the label issued 27 albums, and 30 singles to keep creditors at bay, and ensure that Stax could remain a viable entity. As part of their strategy, Stax issued a double LP from their remaining roster ( Booker T and the MGs, The Staple Singers, Eddie Floyd, Carla Thomas, Johnnie Taylor), and included several lesser known artists like Albert King, Jimmy Hughes, and Southwest F.O.B, who were outside of the soul genre. The album was titled, Soul Explosion, and it has now been re-issued by Craft Records, in greatly enhanced acoustics. Made in Memphis, the lacquers were cut by Jeff Powell at Take Out Vinyl, and pressed at Memphis Record Pressing.

This is part of a major campaign to reissue 30 titles in digital platforms in June, to commemorate Black Music Month. Craft is issuing one title per day, with eleven of these titles come from the 1969 Soul Explosion sessions.

Stax was one of the few labels at that time that had white and black management working well together. It was a rare successful business model, at a highly charged time of racial discord, fostered by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and riots throughout the country. The label issued pop, psychedelic, blues, and even country music, a combination that was a rarity, especially for a small label.

On this compilation, we hear four tracks from Booker T and The MGs, who besides being the “house band” for Stax, also had their fingers on the pulse of popular music. Whether covering The Beatles, movie themes (“Hang Em’ High”), hook laden “Soul Limbo,” or the easy listening “Booker’s Theme,” the group knew what would sell to a public who were then being exposed largely to a new rock renaissance.

The Staples Singers, coming out of gospel circles, branched out into social consciousness themes, inspired by Dr. King’s non-violence movement. Their “Long Walk to D.C.” fits right in. Southwest F.O.B. were only partly successful delving into psychedelic music of the day with “Smell of Incense,” and their chaotic “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” does not age well. However, the Bar-Kays acquit themselves well with “Copy Kat” with its blend of surf guitar, horns, and background vocalists.

Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love” was the label’s first hit after the break-up with Atlantic Records. Eddie Floyd was another soul singer whose “I’ve Never Found a Girl” and “Bring It on Home to Me” can be put up against most any Motown and Philly artists for sweet soul vocals.

Stax did well with blues fans with Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign” album, and his “Cold Feet” and “Left Hand Woman” are on this issue. Jimmy Hughes’ bluesy “Peeped Around Yonder’s Bend” deserves some attention.

Stax had a strong ear for undiscovered talent such as the do wop group, The Mad Lads (“So Nice” and “These Old Memories”), and Ollie and The Nightingales with their talented lead vocalist, Ollie Hoskins, on “I’ve Got a Sure Thing.”

This double album is a strong showcase for a special label that attempted to bring an eclectic mix of genres to bridge the racial gap of a turbulent time in our country’s history. The music ages well, and their efforts deserve some love again today…

LP 1- Side 1:
Johnnie Taylor- Who’s Making Love
Jimmy Hughes- Like Everything About You
Booker T and The MGs- Hang Em’ High
Carla Thomas- Where Do I Go
Eddie Floyd- I’ve Never Found a Girl
Southwest F.O.B- Smell of Incense
Albert King-Cold Feet

LP 1-Side 2:
Booker T and The MGs- Soul Limbo
The Mad Lads-So Nice
Eddie Floyd-Bring It On Home to Me
William Bell and Judy Clay-Private Number
The Staples Singers- Long Walk to D.C
Ollie and The Nightingales- I’ve Got a Sure Thing
The Bar-Kays- Copy Kat

LP 2-Side 1:
Booker T and The MGs-Soul Clap ’69
The Staples Singers-Hear My Call
Johnnie Taylor-Save Your Love For Me
Jimmy Hughes-Peeped Around Yonder’s Bend
Carla Thomas-Book of Love
The Mad Lads-These Old Memories
Southwest F.O.B- Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

LP 2-Side 2:
The Bar-Kays-Hot Hips
Ollie and The Nightingales-Heartache Mountain
Johnnie Taylor-Twenty Years From Today
Eddie Floyd-It’s Wrong To Be Loving You
Judy Clay-It’s Me
Booker T and The MGs-Booker’s Theme
Albert King-Left Hand Woman (Get Right With Me)

—Jeff Krow

More Information at Stax Records Website:

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