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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mavis Staples - The power of soul
What a treat to stumble onto this album streaming alongside Robert Plant's brilliant new record "Band of Joy" on the the excellent New Public Radio. Mavis Staples voice at the age of 71 remains a minor miracle and her gospel zeal is fundamentally intact. On her version of "Pops" Staples "Downward Road" the third song on this new album she openly berates those amongst us...
Published on 11 Sep 2010 by Red on Black

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too polished
I was disappointed in that the production had lost its spontaneity through being far too polished. Come back the "Songs of Praise" informality, a must for true worship!
Published on 27 April 2012 by Marmeduke


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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mavis Staples - The power of soul, 11 Sep 2010
By 
Red on Black - See all my reviews
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This review is from: You Are Not Alone (Audio CD)
What a treat to stumble onto this album streaming alongside Robert Plant's brilliant new record "Band of Joy" on the the excellent New Public Radio. Mavis Staples voice at the age of 71 remains a minor miracle and her gospel zeal is fundamentally intact. On her version of "Pops" Staples "Downward Road" the third song on this new album she openly berates those amongst us who are "unbelieving souls" and it is indeed a fearsome salutatory warning to all ungodly pagans (I must pop along to the the old non conformist chapel one Sunday!) Indeed listening to her enduring and rich deep soul contralto it suggests that being on the side of the lord has done her no harm whatsoever with this set of deeply rooted gospel songs being her best in years. An additional and more secular factor may also be the presence of Wilco's resident genius Jeff Tweedy providing the albums production and a couple of songs including the gently rolling country soul of the title track which must be one of the best songs that Tweedy has never recorded with his own band.

The Tweedy-Staples pairing does not seem that likely a partnership but shared love of both of them for Chicago blues, gospel and R&B provides the unifying force and it works a treat. No where is this more apparent than on the stirring "Creep along Moses" which is the type of gospel powerhouse infused with the emotion that is at the heart of soul music and is an aural delight to savour. It takes considerable restraint not to utter a loud "hallelujah" at the songs conclusion. The mood slows on Staples dramatic cover of Randy Newman's "Losing you" which is infused with so much genuine authenticity and passion that it will barely leave a dry eye in the house particularly when she sings "Do you know how much you mean to me?/Should've told you `cause it's true/I'd get over losing anything/But I'll never get over losing you". It is spine tingling cover and please download it and let it wash over all over you. The funky blues of her cover of Allen Toussaint's "Last train" is effortless while the stellar acapella version of traditional arrangement "Wonderful saviour" is a model of its kind. The album however saves the best until last with Staples take on the double pairing of "Too Close To Heaven/I'm On My Way To Heaven Anyhow" which taps into blues so deep its almost primal. Truly epic music.

Overall Tweedy's production is hugely sympathetic and like all great musicians he recognises that the most the powerful instrument should take centre stage. In this case it is the voice of Staples which is the star of the show and throughout she is a veritable powerhouse of emotion but also gentle restraint when needed. That said when she lets rip on a cover of the Reverend Gary Davis spiritual "I Belong to the Band - hallelujah" the woman is a force of nature. Tonight millions will watch yet again distinctively average singers strain and warble in front of the X factor judges (some of whom in turn can barely strain and warble). They would be much better employed seeking out the wonderful music of this stellar singer and civil rights activist for this is the real deal with Staples vocally the strongest she has ever been. Her voice ranges from a churchy low register to an hurricane which could tear the roof off and it was this that that led Bob Dylan to describe the first time he heard her sing, "That just made my hair stand up, listening to that. I mean, that just seemed like, that's the way the world is". Staples has influenced all from Aretha to Prince and long may she run.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even atheists with steel hearts, 13 Oct 2010
By 
S Jones (Liverpool, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: You Are Not Alone (Audio CD)
must admit that this is a magnificent album. What makes it so good is the wide range of styles that Mavis displays on the album. "I belong to the Band" is straightforward rock, "Losing You" is almost late-night jazz, while"Last Train" reminds me of Little Feat. Mavis's voice is superb throughout, and as well as the overt religious message there are nicely humorous touches, and some of the social messages that featured heavily in The Staples Singers work - "In Christ there is no East or West" is as much about racism as it is about Christianity.

I could lavish superlatives on this all day, and other reviewers have given a more detailed track by track review, so I'll conclude by saying simply that this is, in my opinion, the album of 2010. And remember: "The downward road is crowded with unbelieving souls" - so believe in Mavis and buy this album.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heaven Sent, 19 Sep 2010
By 
The Wolf (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: You Are Not Alone (Audio CD)
In a week saturated with papal posturing and pomposity it
is a joy to have the opportunity to consider Ms Staples'
truly joyous expression of a faith of more modest proportions.

As a creature without a soul I may not possess the necessary
credentials to evaluate performances of such obvious comittment
but what passes for spirit at the core of my hairy heart cannot
but respond with warmth and affirmation to a work of such simple,
uncluttered beauty and consummate musical refinement.

Ms Staples voice is remarkably intact for a septuagenarian; it
has inevitably deepened and darkened with time but this only
serves to enchance her impeccable ability to give life to the
words she sings. The interpretations of these thirteen fine
songs are full of light and shade; pointed emotion and unbridled
fun. They are framed with subtle understanding by Jeff Tweedy's
marvellously focussed production and the unfailingly sympathetic
and highly skilled instrumental contribution of her cracking band.

The treasures are many! Ms Staples rips up the rug and delivers
a raucous performance of Rev. Gary Davis' 'I Belong To The Band',
belting out the lyrics with extraordinarily rasping and robust power!
No less so her ripe-to-bursting rendition of Pop Staple's 'Downward
Road'; a call to arms to drive the devil down!

Allen Toussaint's 'Last Train' gets a laugh-out-loud treatment!
With Ms Staples "....huffing and puffing and chugging like a
choo-choo train (CHOOO CHOOO!)" it is simply impossible NOT to
love her! This lady is certainly no "Cuckoo Brain"!!

The stripped-down bluesy arrangement of Randy Newman's 'Losing You'
is one of the album's several highlights. The quality of her diction
weighs every word; the sublime melody is perfectly understood and
delivered with brutally honest world-weary feeling. Stunning!

If it were within me to change my wicked ways Ms Staple's passionately
performed acapella rendition of 'Wonderful Saviour' might well stand
as a stepping stone on the road to my own potential redemption but
whether I believe it or not Ms Staples remains an artist with the power
to make us consolidate or reconsider our position with regard to
the mysterious lure of the hereafter. If there is a heaven there
is no doubt that she will be there one day - but not just yet please!

Essential.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You are not alone: Mavis Staples - Mavis Staples sings a song for everyone, 8 Oct 2012
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: You Are Not Alone (MP3 Download)
I have to say up front that I am not usually a fan of church music of any form, it clashes so strongly with my atheist principles. But this album of gospel is just so well done that it is thoroughly uplifting. Even someone like me can put it on and feel uplifted by the sheer passion of the singing.

Mavs Staples has a Rolls Royce of a gospel voice, full of inflection, colour and pure joy at the message she is trying to communicate. Coupled with production from Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, a programme of rich, powerful songs has resulted which sweep you along and lift your soul to the sky. It's dangerously feel good.

An excellent album, 5 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Last of her generation, 29 Mar 2011
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This review is from: You Are Not Alone (Audio CD)
Absolutely wonderful. Saw her on Jools Holland show and was so impressed that I bought this album next day and the listening gets better each time I play it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mavis adds further to the Staples legend, 3 Jan 2011
Great album. Consistent from start to finish. Lots of highlights but her version of 'In Christ There Is No East Or West' is a standout - she transforms this usually dreary (if theologically sound) hymn into a powerful soul ballad - and does so so well that you want to join in - either with the backing singers or on guitar. Highly recommended
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too polished, 27 April 2012
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This review is from: You Are Not Alone (Audio CD)
I was disappointed in that the production had lost its spontaneity through being far too polished. Come back the "Songs of Praise" informality, a must for true worship!
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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You are not alone, 18 Jun 2011
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This review is from: You Are Not Alone (Audio CD)
This was one of those times when I just saw the CD and thought 'that looks good, ' but I'd never heard of Mavis Staples before. So it was pot luck! It was ok but not really my sort of thing!
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