Posts Tagged ‘Mavis 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!”

Mavis Staples has never shied away from making a statement, going all the way back to the raw vocal power and unshakeable commitment of The Staple Singers’ 1965 civil rights anthem “Freedom Highway.” The records she’s been making on ANTI for the last 15 years — the overt examples being We’ll Never Turn Back and If All I Was Was Black— have been increasingly oriented toward raising consciousness and, considering Americas’s current state, we need Staples’ fiery forward momentum more than ever.

The message is clear from the get-go on We Get By, as the dirty, grinding blues riffs of Staples’ bandleader/guitarist Rick Holmstrom power opening cut “Change.” “What good is freedom if we haven’t learned to be free?” asks Staples, and the band’s gritty rumble underlines her outrage.

Jeff Tweedy produced and wrote her last album, and wasn’t above gently pushing the envelope, but Ben Harper fills the writer/producer role by just letting Mavis be Mavis on We Get By. Harper takes her down a vintage Staple Singers path with the funky “Brothers and Sisters,” and when she sings, “trouble in the land, we can’t trust that man” her intentions aren’t exactly elliptical. The classic vibe is carried forward with Holmstrom’s doomy Pops Staples-style guitar licks on “Heavy on My Mind.”

Staples’ gospel repertoire comes to the fore on the sanctified stomper “Sometime,” when she utilizes simple, gospel-style lyrics to passionately reiterate the need for change. It’s not all current affairs though — for all the biblical allusions, when Mavis sings “Nothing in the world is stronger than my love for you” in blues-rocker “Stronger,” she seems to blur the line between earthly and spiritual. And she allows a peek at her intimate side on when she dips into her sensual side for the slow-burning, love-hungry, “Chance on Me.”


Nearly 80 upon the album’s release, Mavis is the last surviving member of the Staple Singers’ ’70s lineup. But closing out the album by calling for “One More Change,” she makes it plain that her struggle is our struggle, and it goes on.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, close-up

If All I Was Was Black, released this week, marks Mavis Staples’s third album-length collaboration with Jeff Tweedy, and its new single—the first to prominently feature Tweedy—is a wonderful showcase of their chemistry. In the face of a tumultuous country beset by racial strife and political division, Staples and Tweedy are fighting back the only way they know how: not with anger or anxiety, but with love and togetherness. “Ain’t No Doubt About It” is a heartwarming duet, with the pair trading verses about the power of friendship to push away worries.

Arcade Fire recruited Mavis Staples for a bombastic new anthemic track, “I Give You Power.”
Watch Arcade Fire Perform Epic ‘Reflektor’ in the New Live At Earls Court”
A new  Two-disc set compiles 2014 London concert ‘Live at Earl’s Court,’ and the documentary ‘The Reflektor Tapes’
The track finds Arcade Fire putting an industrial spin on the dance-rock sound of their last album, Reflektor, without skimping on the disco gospel.
“It’s never been more important that we stick together & take care of each other,” the group tweeted, adding that all proceeds from the song will go to the ACLU.
The track opens with a bruising bass synth and Win Butler’s soft vocals. Mavis Staples joins soon after and takes control, carrying “I Give You Power” brilliantly with her ageless roar as the song builds into a dance floor rallying cry.

“I Give You Power” marks Arcade Fire’s first piece of new music since 2013’s Reflektor. The group is reportedly at work on a new album, which is tentatively due this spring. As Rolling Stone noted in the 2017 album preview, the band recorded material between summer festival dates in Montreal and Paris with multi-instrumentalist Tim Kingsbury hoping the sessions would “put a little burst of energy back into the process.”
As for Staples, the legendary singer released her 15th studio album, Livin’ on a High Note, last February.



“High Note” by Mavis Staples from the album ‘Livin’ On A High Note,’ available February 19th,

The indie Staples Singer is back with a new joint, and a documentary on HBO, to boot. Mavis Staples, the legendary soul and R&B singer that came up with her family’s band The Staples Singers, signed to ANTIRecords almost a decade ago, and has made records with the likes of Ry Cooder and Jeff Tweedy. Her latest, Livin’ On A High Note, features production from M. Ward and contributions from Bon Iver, Neko Case, Nick Cave, and Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArds), among others. The first single, “High Note,” has a pleasing enough tele tone and Staples aching croon, but we’re hoping her 79-year-old pipes are still strong enough to flex a little harder on the rest of the record. Look for Mavis!, an upcoming HBO documentary on her life, premiering February 29th.



Mavis Staples and band with help from Norah Jones and Taylor Goldsmith performs the Bands song “The Weight” at the Newport Folk Festival last Sunday with a mixture of Gospel Country and Blues close to an unforgettable performance  celebrating her 75th birthday.