Posts Tagged ‘Cleotha Staples’

The Staple Singers, the gospel-soul family group from Chicago led by Roebuck “Pops” Staples and featuring the unimpeachable vocals of Mavis Staples, was already a going concern by the time they signed with Stax Records in the late ’60s. But that move over to the Memphis label, and the input of producers Steve Cropper and Al Bell, helped take the ensemble to bigger stages and greater commercial heights. This long overdue collection brings together all the full-lengths that the Staples recorded for Stax; a run of albums that resulted in peak R&B/funk recordings like “Respect Yourself,” “I’ll Take You There,” “Heavy Makes You Happy,” and “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me).” The group’s spiritual leanings were ever-present, but what took precedent was an Afrocentrism born from the waves of change being created by the Civil Rights Movement. Who better to bring messages like “Love Comes in All Colors” and “Give A Hand, Take A Hand,” than this church-bred group. This marvellous run of records sound brand new in these new all-analogue pressings, with the earthy tang of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and the Bar-Kays horn section ripping out of the speakers with hip-shaking fervour.

It’s all capped off by a collection of stray singles and, most vitally, a recording of the band’s set at Wattstax, the day-long concert that brought the best of the label to celebrate the Black art and the Black community of Los Angeles. The Staple Singers’ performance is all fire and sweat, with Pops urging the Black Power movement to keep up the good fight and, on “I’ll Take You There,” Mavis testifying like the Holy Spirit had a hold of her body and soul. This is a milestone of American musical history, treated with the appropriate levels of respect and reverence.

From their gospel beginnings through the folk-rock era to their soul music peak, the Staple Singers travelled a long, artistically-rich road into the mainstream of American music, spreading messages of peace, equal rights and love. When the Staples –comprised of family patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples and daughters Cleotha, Mavis and Yvonne– joined Stax in 1968, they were working alongside major rock acts at forums like the Fillmore West and East. Over the next few years, The Staple Singers saw 12 chart hits, including “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There”, both off their 1972 breakthrough album, Be Altitude: Respect Yourself. The Staples continued to record through 1994, when they found a new audience with their cover of The Band’s “The Weight” for MCA Records’ compilation “Rhythm, Country & Blues.” Mavis Staples, who received her first GRAMMY® Award in 2011, continues to record and tour, performing everywhere from the White House to the Kennedy Center Honours stage to major festivals like Outside Lands. Most recently, Staples is the subject of documentary “Mavis!”