In 2004 the Fantasy Group acquired the entire Stax catalogue and its precious original mastertapes and through their 'Concord Music Group, Inc' Division they've begun to drip-feed CD reissues for the famous American Soul label out into a hungry marketplace. Every title features brand-new 24-bit remasters, bonus tracks, updated booklets and each mid-priced CD carries the generic logo "Stax Remasters" on their spine to differentiate them from previous issues.
Released May 2011 - Concord Music Group, Inc 0888072328761 (Barcode 888072328761) breaks down as follows (49:38 minutes):
1. This World 2. Respect Yourself 3. Name The Missing Word 4. I'll Take You There 5. This Old Town (People In This Town) 6. We The People 7. Are You Sure 8. Who Do You Think You Are (Jesus Christ The Superstar) 9. I'm Just Another Soldier 10. Who Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "BeAltitude: Respect Yourself" released March 1972 in the USA on Stax STS-3002 and April 1972 in the UK on Stax Super 2325 069
Tracks 11 and 12 are "Walking In Water Over Our Head" and "Heavy Makes You Happy (Alternate)" - both are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
The new 12-page booklet has very knowledgeable and affectionate liner notes by ROB BOWMAN (author of "Soulsville U.S.A. - The Story Of Stax Records"). You get the original artwork and production credits also and there's a collage of 3 photos on the inlay beneath the see-through tray and the disc itself pictures the group too. But it's a shame the booklet goes no further - there's no new photos, none of those magical Stax sevens pictured nor any memorabilia. It makes the inlay feel workmanlike at best - even a little dull - when it should have spread its wings a little. But the big news is the SOUND...
24-bit remastered from the first generation tapes by JOE TARANTINO at Joe Tarantino Mastering in Berkeley, California - the audio quality is truly GORGEOUS. Having had previous versions of this great Soul album on CD from the mid 1990's - the sound was good rather than great - hissy in places too. That's all gone - and it's not loud for loudness sake either - but clear and warm and full of presence. The bass is beautiful as is the rhythm section - and the powerhouse vocals of Mavis Staples now take centre stage in a way they've never done before. "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There" are so common to our ears that it comes as a genuine shock to hear them sound this good. The other single off the album "This World" is so clear and muscular too (lyrics above). A fantastic job done.
The bonus tracks are way better than I had expected - the 'Alternate' version of Jeff Barry and Bobby Bloom's "Heavy Makes You Happy" was recorded August 1970 at their first session in the Muscle Shoals Studios and sounds like a live rehearsal - it's excellent. You can clearly hear EDDIE HINTON on Guitar and BARRY BECKETT on Keyboards and the end of the song hears them ad-lib for a full minute longer than the finished single did. But then we get the real deal - an outtake that could easily have been an album track. Recorded in Muscle Shoals in October 1972 and written by PHILLIP MITCHELL, TERRY WOODFORD and OSCAR FRANCK - it features the other in-house band members for the album DAVID HOOD on Bass and ROGER HAWKINS on Drums and it's a winner. "Walking In Water Over Our Head" is a fully finished upbeat song that could easily have been recorded yesterday. Genuinely - after all these years - to hear any new material by The Staples Singers from that stunningly creative period is an out-and-out blast.
To sum up - as a voracious lover of the Stax label these reissues are incredibly exciting to me. And as for The Staple Singers - "BeAltitude: Respect Yourself" only grows as the years pass - and now with this great new sound quality - needs to be in your home and stereo right quick...
PS: "STAX REMASTERS" Series to 2014 are (all reviewed): 1. Green Onions - BOOKER T & THE M.G.'S (1962) 2. McLemore Avenue - BOOKER T. & THE M.G.'S (1970) 3. Woman To Woman - SHIRLEY BROWN (1975) 4. Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get - THE DRAMATICS (1972) 5. Born Under A Bad Sign - ALBERT KING (1967) 6. I'll Play The Blues For You - ALBERT KING (1971) 7. BeAltitude: Respect Yourself - THE STAPLE SINGERS (1972) 8. Taylored In Silk - JOHNNIE TAYLOR (1973) 9. Do The Funky Chicken - RUFUS THOMAS (1970)
I thought I'd found something with The Staple Singers; something new; but now I realise that they're a little-known classic group. It's just that I seem to recollect everything that they sing. I've been listening to them for years without realising who I was listening-to. They sound so contemporary; it's hard to believe they're not still around.