This is arguably one of the Staple Singers finest, most innovative and most experimental albums. They had been let go by their old label and picked up by Stax Records (their third album with the label), for this one they had a new producer, Al Bell and they recorded with the Muscle Shoals musicians. It was also a major shift from the soul-folk songs they had been doing, to groove heavy message songs; songs that weren't protest songs, rather they had messages and were more uplifting, almost a return back to their roots in gospel music. It is the family of Roebuck "Pops" Staples on his guitar and vocals, and Mavis, Cleotha, and Yvonne Staples on vocals, with Eddie Hinton on lead guitar, Jimmy Johnson on rhythm guitar, David Hood on bass, Barry Beckett handles keyboards, and Roger Hawkins on drums.
It is this synergistic combination of forces that gives this disc the power to lift you up in every way. Mavis does some of her most sensual and at the same time, some of her most spiritual singing that has ever been recorded, and yet it is the power of the group vocals, led by Mavis, that makes this disc the tour de force that it is. And yes this reviewer has no doubt that they could have done this a cappella and done a very worthy job. However, the musicians have such a feel for the grooves and beats of this disc that it is an organic experience. Listen to what is achieved on I'll Take You There, it is almost a reggae beat with some powerful yet controlled drumming by Roger Hawkins, and the power of a gospel chorus supporting and lifting the lead singer as her inspired vocals leads them all to a promised land. Pops was a bluesman before the family and when he had a family with singers like this, particularly with Mavis' god given gift of voice, going to the gospel circuit wasn't even a choice it was providence. The two bonus tracks, which are previously unreleased are not just throw ins but welcome additions. A disc that comes close in excitement to their live performances.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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