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A vinyl record box set celebrates The Staple Singers’ Stax years

A 7-LP box set celebrating The Staple Singers’ Stax years will be released on December 6 of this year via Concord.
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Los Angeles, CA—Craft Recordings is thrilled to announce the release of a vinyl box set celebrating one of music’s greatest gospel and soul groups, The Staple Singers. Set for a December 6th release date, Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection presents all of the group’s studio albums released on the iconic Memphis label, spanning 1968–1974, and features the Staples’ biggest hits, including “I’ll Take You There,” “Respect Yourself” and “If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me).” The six studio albums were cut from the original analog masters by Jeff Powell at Take Out Vinyl. The final, seventh disc offers rarities, non-album singles and several live recordings from the legendary 1972 Wattstax music festival. The seven discs come in heavyweight 180-gram vinyl pressed at Memphis Record Pressing. Housed in a slipcase, the collection also includes a deluxe booklet with archival photos and new liner notes from American music specialist and curator Levon Williams (formerly of the Stax Museum and the National Museum of African American Music), and folklorist, ethnomusicologist and writer Dr. Langston Wilkins. The complete collection will also be released digitally, and the six studio albums will be available in hi-res 24-bit/192 kHz and 24-bit/96 kHz formats for the first time.

By the time that the Staple Singers signed to Stax in 1968, the family quartet—helmed by patriarchRoebuck "Pops" Staples, with daughters Cleotha and Mavis, and son Pervis (later replaced by his sister Yvonne)—had long graduated from the gospel circuit. The Chicago group had become well known in the counterculture and folk scenes and were performing alongside major rock acts like Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Grateful Dead. The Staples had also become formidable voices in the Civil Rights movement, and many of their songs preached a message of empowerment and racial equality.

In the fall of ’68, the group went into the studio to record their first album for Stax, Soul Folk in Action, working with producer Steve Cropper and songwriter Homer Banks. The sessions were set against a backdrop of social and political turmoil, which climaxed with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis. The Staple Singers were known for writing politically charged “message songs,” and the year’s events certainly inspired many of the tracks on this album, including “Long Walk to D.C.” and “The Ghetto.” In their liner notes, Levon Williams and Langston Wilkins write that both of these songs “Truly tapped into the experiences and emotions of Black America at the close of the ’60s. The former is a tribute to the 1963 March on Washington told from the perspective of a poor yet hopeful African American person willing to use their last dimes to make it to the rally … Conversely, the somber and haunting ‘The Ghetto’ takes listeners deep into the isolation and despair of inner-city life.” Also notable to this album are stunning covers of The Band’s “The Weight” and Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” recorded in tribute to the fallen Stax star, who died tragically just a year earlier in a plane crash. The Staple Singers returned to the studio with Cropper the following year to record We’ll Get Over (1970). Highlights include the standout message song “When Will We Be Paid,” as well as covers of tracks like Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People” and Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “The End of the Road.”

Though both Soul Folk in Action and We’ll Get Over carried powerful messages and tight-knit harmonies, neither had commercial success. And so, for the band’s third album, Stax co-president Al Bell (who signed the band) took the helm as producer. Williams and Wilkins note that “As a long-time DJ, Bell’s ear for what moves Black listeners, both literally and metaphorically, had been keenly crafted over several years. Bell hosted shows that had both sacred and secular followings and had amassed a wealth of experience from watching, noting and deeply understanding the impact music has on varied audiences. His ear was essentially priceless.”

 Photo Courtesy of Stax Archives. Front: Pops, Back (L-R): Cleotha, Yvonne, and Mavis Staples.

Photo Courtesy of Stax Archives. Front: Pops, Back (L-R): Cleotha, Yvonne, and Mavis Staples.

With support from the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (also known as “The Swampers”), the Staple Singers found a winning team with Bell, and the resulting album, 1971’s The Staple Swingers, would be their first charting record, peaking at No. 9 on Billboard’s top R&B albums. The LP offered a funkier sound from the group, with high-energy singles like “Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom)” and theSmokey Robinson cover “You’ve Got to Earn It.”

The group reunited with the Swampers and Bell for 1972’s Be Altitude: Respect Yourself, an album that transformed the Staple Singers into mainstream stars. Peaking at No. 19 on the Billboard 200, the groove-filled album featured the Staples’ first No. 1 hit—the infectious “I’ll Take You There,” and “Respect Yourself,” a song which Williams and Wilkins declare “Encapsulates the Staple Singers’ entire career.” The powerful message song not only resonated with African Americans but also with many women across the country as they, too, fought for equal opportunity.

The group’s 1973 follow-up, Be What You Are, featured the Top Ten hit “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me),” popular single "Touch a Hand, Make a Friend” and the sweetly harmonized “Love Comes in All Colors,” while the Staple Singers’ final album with Stax—1974’s City in the Sky—includes such highlights as the politically charged “Washington We’re Watching You,” “Back Road into Town” and “Who Made the Man,” which marked a return to the group’s gospel roots.

The final disc in Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection offers a selection of live tracks from the Staple Singers’ energetic performance at Wattstax, as well as B-sides like “Stay With Us,” non-album singles like “Oh La De Da” and rarities that include “Walking in Water Over Our Head” and “Trippin’ on Your Love.”

Following their time at Stax, the Staple Singers continued to tour and record throughout the ’70s and early ’80s. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and received a GRAMMY® Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. In recent years, Mavis Staples has been back in the spotlight—headlining tours and reaching a new generation of fans with her solo records. In 2016, she was the subject of a documentary (Mavis!) and ended the year as a Kennedy Center Honoree.

Click here to pre-order Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection

Track List

Soul Folk in Action

A1. We’ve Got to Get Ourselves Together

A2. (Sittin’ On) the Dock Of the Bay

A3. Top Of the Mountain

A4. Slow Train

A5. The Weight

B1. Long Walk to D.C.

B2. Got to Be Some Changes Made

B3. The Ghetto

B4. People, My People

B5. I See It

B6. This Year

We’ll Get Over

A1. We’ll Get Over

A2. Give a Damn

A3. Everyday People

A5. The End of Our Road

A6. Tend to Your Own Business

A7. Solon Bushi (Japanese Folk Song)

B1. The Challenge

B2. God Bless The Children

B3. Games People Play

B4. A Wednesday in Your Garden

B5. The Gardener

B6. When Will We Be Paid

The Staple Swingers

A1. This Is a Perfect World

A2. What’s Your Thing

A3. You’ve Got to Earn It

A4. You’re Gonna Make Me Cry

A5. Little Boy

A6. How Do You Move a Mountain

B1. Almost

B2. I’m a Lover

B3. Love Is Plentiful

B4. Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom)

B5. I Like the Things About You

B6. Give a Hand – Take a Hand

Be Altitude: Respect Yourself

A1. This World

A2. Respect Yourself

A3. Name the Missing Word

A4. I’ll Take You There

A5. This Old Town (People in This Town)

B1. We the People

B2. Are You Sure

B3. Who Do You Think You Are? (Jesus Christ the Super Star)

B4. I’m Just Another Soldier

B5. Who

Be What You Are

A1. Be What You Are

A2. If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me)

A3. Medley: Love Comes in All Colors/Tellin’ Lies

A4. Touch A Hand, Make a Friend

A5. Drown Yourself

B1. I Ain’t Raisin’ No Sand

B2. Grandma’s Hands

B3. Bridges Instead Of Walls

B4. I’m on Your Side

B5. That’s What Friends Are For

B6. Heaven

City in the Sky

A1. Back Road Into Town

A2. City in the Sky

A3. Washington We’re Watching You

A4. Something Ain’t Right

A5. Today Was Tomorrow Yesterday

B1. My Main Man

B2. There Is A God

B3. Blood Pressure

B4. If It Ain’t One Thing It’s Another

B5. Who Made The Man

B6. Getting Too Big for Your Britches

Bonus Disc: Singles, Live & More

A1. Stay With Us

A2. Brand New Day (Theme from The Landlord)

A3. Walking in Water Over Your Head

A4. Oh La De Da

A5. I Got to Be Myself

A6. Trippin’ on Your Love

B1. Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom) (Live at Wattstax)

B2. Are You Sure (Live at Wattstax)

B3. I Like the Things About You (Live at Wattstax)

B4. Respect Yourself (Live at Wattstax)

B5. I’ll Take You There (Live at Wattstax)