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5.0 out of 5 stars Stax breaks through..., 18 Aug 2011
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This is vol.4 of a 9 CD series that you can buy as a complete box set from Amazon, but it might make sense financially to buy them individually as I did. The series aims to provide exactly what it says on the tin, that is every single (excluding B-sides) released on the Stax/ Volt label, between 1958-1968.

This CD includes all the singles released between 1964-65. This was the year when Otis Redding finally hit it big, with `Mr Pitiful' and the heart aching ballad `I've Been Loving You Too Long' breaking through to the upper reaches of the Pop Chart as well as conquering the R&B Chart. Also included is `That's How Strong My Love is', the original A-side to `Mr Pitiful', which itself was doing well until it's B-side started to get my attention. To fill out what was a bumper year for Otis is a great B-side `I'm Depending Upon You'. All of these tracks are nothing short of superb and make up the backbone of this CD's riches.

Booker T and the MG's (although technically without Booker T as he was away at college so Isaac Hayes played keyboard instead) had a hit with `Bootleg', and its infectious B-side `Outrage' is also included. The Mar-Keys were resurrected and released another funky instrumental `Banana Juice'.

Rufus finally broke away from his `dog' themed records and recorded a classic piece of nonsense `Jump Back', which also featured The Drapels as backing vocalists. Carla Thomas only had one hit `A Women's Love', (which became a bone of contention between her and Stax when it was reworded and released by Wilson Pickett as `It's a Mans Way', writing out her contribution in the process.)

This was also the year David Porter had his one and only release, `Can't See You When I Want To'. An ok song, it ably demonstrates why it was a wise move to team up with Isaac Hayes and write hit songs for other artists. The two most famous of these must be Sam & Dave, who after being loaned to Stax by their label Atlantic had their first hit `A Place Nobody Can Find' backed with `Goodnight Baby'. Already seasoned performers this first release highlights their instinctive ear for harmony and both are simply brilliant. That they would top even this must wait for future volumes.

As ever though it's the one hit wonders and the `also-rans', which make this compilation such a great listen. Wendy Rene and Barbara & the Browns had their last hits; that neither of these acts were more popular was criminal as they had fantastic voices backed by great songs. But there was also The Admirals, The Del-Rays and the flamboyant MC Gorgeous George with his one and only recorded song, the self penned `The Biggest Fool In Town'. That he never recorded again is bizarre as it is a fantastic song and he could have had a profitable recording career.

The liner notes are detailed and informative, providing a potted history of the label as well as explaining how the songs developed. Well written they have the odd spelling mistake or grammatical error (e.g. 'Mr Pitiful' by Otis Redding is spelt 'Mr Pitful') which could have been picked up with more judicious editing. They also tend to overlap with other CD's in this series so sometimes they mention songs which appear on other vols. or don't mention songs at all, which unless you have the whole set can be a little annoying. They also provide a detailed discography with serial numbers, release dates and chart position at the back of the notes.

This was the year that Stax (along with Motown in Detroit) began breaking through to national prominence and this compilation clearly demonstrates how they were going from strength to strength. As a summary of why Stax should be considered one of the greatest labels of all time there is no better argument than this CD.
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