Satellite Records was founded by Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton in 1957. By the early ’60s, the company’s name had been changed to Stax Records, a name that became synonymous with the creation of southern soul music. Among the artists who recorded for Stax, and its sister label Volt, were Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, the Mar-Keys, and of course the house band, Booker T. & the MG’s.
In 1975, plagued by economic problems, Stax was shut down. Fantasy Records acquired some of the label’s back catalog a couple of years later, and when Fantasy was acquired by Concord Records in 2004, Stax was reborn. On May 10, Concord will launch its Stax Remasters Series with the release of three seminal albums.
Booker T. & the MG’s: McLemore Avenue
The album was initially released in January, 1970, and was the band’s tribute to the Beatles, albeit with a soulful spin. McLemore Avenue was the Memphis counterpart to Abbey Road, i.e. the street where the album was recorded. The album features three medleys of Abbey Road covers. The reissue also features six bonus tracks, all Beatles covers recorded for other projects, and new liner notes from music historian Ashley Kahn.
The remastering job is, well, masterful. The separation of the instruments brings each of the four players’ contributions to the fore. Steve Cropper’s guitar seems to jump out of the speakers, while Al Jackson provides a drum clinic. Duck Dunn holds down the bottom end as only he can, and Booker T. holds it all together in his inimitably funky fashion.
The Staple Singers: Be Altitude: Respect Yourself
This one was first released in 1972. It found the Staples in their “message music” period, which followed their beginnings as a gospel group in the ’50s, and their association with the folk music tied to the civil rights movement in the ’60s.
Be Altitude includes two of the Staples Singers biggest hits, “Respect Yourself,” and “I’ll Take You There.” The reissue also features two previously unreleased bonus tracks that were recorded in Muscle Shoals in the early ’70s. There are new liner notes from Rob Bowman who says that this album found the Staple Singers “at the very peak of their career.”
Johnny Taylor: Taylored In Silk
Released in 1973, this album found Taylor, working with producer Don Davis, moving in a new direction. Gone were the slow blues that had characterized his earlier work. In their place was a more hard-edged, uptempo attack. Davis was interested in forging a sound that would be a combination of northern and southern soul, Stax and Motown, and he got what he was looking for on Taylored In Silk. Three of the original album’s eight songs were major R&B hits.
The six bonus tracks on the reissue were all released as singles by Taylor in the early ’70s. The new liner notes are by Bill Dahl.
So who wants to own these three CDs? The question should be, who wouldn’t? If you’re reading this column, you want them, and Concord Music Group has been kind enough to offer up the set of three CDs to one lucky Soul Serenade reader.
To win, all you have to do is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word “Stax” in the subject line, and the answer to the following question in the body:
What is Booker T.’s last name?
Easy, right? The deadline for entries is Tuesday, May 10, at 5:00 p.m. eastern time. I will choose one winner from all the correct entries, and that person will get the three CDs. Valid US mailing addresses only please.