The Staple Singers: Amen! - WHY (CD)
One could make the argument that no gospel group before or since has so successfully straddled the sacred and secular worlds as has The Staple Singers. The enormously influential blues guitar stylings of Roebuck “Pops” Staples, the astonishing, wise-beyond-their-years lead vocals of Mavis Staples, and the exalted harmonies of Cleotha, Pervis, and (later) Yvonne Staples packed a punch whether singing about salvation or civil rights. Now, Real Gone Music welcomes “God’s greatest hitmakers” into the fold with its release of two classic albums by The Staple Singers, their second and third releases and first two studio records for the Epic label, both produced by Billy Sherrill. 1965’s Amen! features the infectious title track along with Pervis’ doleful recitation on the powerful “Be Careful of the Stones You Throw,” while 1966’s Why actually scored a minor hit with the timely “Why (Am I Treated So Bad),” and highlights Mavis at her deep, moaning best on “Move Along Train.” CD debuts for both records, with annotation by Gene Sculatti and remastering by Mike Piacentini at Battery Studios in New York. Two fantastic records…get ready to move and be moved!
Article properties: The Staple Singers: Amen! - WHY (CD)
|Staple Singers - Amen! - WHY (CD) CD 1|
|01||More Than a Hammer and Nail||The Staple Singers|| |
|02||He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands||The Staple Singers|| |
|03||My Jesus Is All||The Staple Singers|| |
|04||This Train||The Staple Singers|| |
|05||Praying Time||The Staple Singers|| |
|06||Be Careful of Stones That You Throw||The Staple Singers|| |
|07||Samson and Delilah||The Staple Singers|| |
|08||Nobody’s Fault but Mine||The Staple Singers|| |
|09||Mary Don’t You Weep||The Staple Singers|| |
|10||As an Eagle Stirreth Her Nest||The Staple Singers|| |
|11||Do Something for Yourself||The Staple Singers|| |
|12||Amen (from Lilies in the Field)||The Staple Singers|| |
|13||Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)||The Staple Singers|| |
|14||King of Kings||The Staple Singers|| |
|15||Step Aside||The Staple Singers|| |
|16||If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again||The Staple Singers|| |
|17||What Are They Doing (in Heaven Today)||The Staple Singers|| |
|18||Will the Circle Be Unbroken||The Staple Singers|| |
|19||I’ve Been Scorned||The Staple Singers|| |
|20||I’m Gonna Tell God (About My Troubles)||The Staple Singers|| |
|21||My Sweet Home||The Staple Singers|| |
|22||Move Along Train||The Staple Singers|| |
The Staple Singers
The Staple Singers
For the first decade-and-a-half of their monumental recording career, The Staple Singers concentrated on serving the Lord with their uplifting melodies, emerging as one of the top black gospel acts around. Then they crossed over to the R&B side of the tracks and embraced prolonged stardom there as well.
“The Staple Singers are nothing but a gospel singing group,” maintained the late Roebuck ‘Pop’ Staples, long after secular fame overtook them. Born December 28, 1915 in Winona, Mississippi, the family patriarch soaked up Delta blues via Charley Patton. “That man could play!” said Staples. Sanctified pursuits ultimately won his heart. He learned how to play guitar and sang with The Golden Trumpets before moving to Chicago following the birth of Cleotha on April 11, 1934 and Pervis in November of ‘35. Future lead singer Mavis Staples came along July 10, 1939. Pop decided to mold his offspring into a family gospel group.
“I really started trying to teach ‘em about 1949,” said Pop. “But (Mavis) was so little that she couldn’t get her voice right. It took me about three years to get it together, and then we started singing about 1953.” Says Mavis,“We had that old Delta Mississippi sound.” The Staple (no ‘s’ on the end) Singers began recording for the Chicago-based United label that year, and in 1954 they waxed This May Be The Last Time, which came out on Savoy’s Sharp logo. They moved to another Windy City concern, Vee-Jay Records, in 1956. “We made a record called ‘Uncloudy Day,’” says Mavis. “That record sold like an R&B. I mean, it went everywhere!”
The quartet made a surprising move to jazz-oriented Riverside Records in 1962, where they made tentative steps toward secular fare. As the civil rights struggle raged, the Staples moved into message songs at Columbia’s Epic subsidiary from ’64 on and traveled with Dr. Martin Luther King, who dug one of Pop’s compositions. “He’d always tell Pops, ‘Now you’re gonna sing my song tonight, right?’” says Mavis. “Pops said, ‘Oh yeah, Doctor, we’re gonna sing your song!’ And we’d sing ‘Why? (Am I Treated So Bad).’ He loved that.” The moving Why? (Am I Treated So Bad) was the Staples’ first pop charter in 1967, followed by a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth.
It took one more label switch to launch The Staple Singers into the stratosphere. “Al Bell brought us to Stax,” says Mavis. “We knew Al Bell before he was at Stax.” The quartet cut its first pair of Stax LPs in Memphis. Pervis had been replaced by sister Yvonne Staples (born October 23, 1938) by the time producer Bell brought them to Muscle Shoals in August of 1971 to lay down the contents of their seminal LP ‘Bealtitude: Respect Yourself.’ One of its centerpieces was the righteous Respect Yourself, written by veteran singers Sir Mack Rice and Luther Ingram. “Luther Ingram and I, we were in my office down at Stax,” says Rice. “We was just talking about life. And he said, or I said, 'You first got to respect yourself out here today.' Luther said, 'That's a hell of a title. Let's write that, man!'”
“We were rehearsing it, and Mack Rice came in. We started it when he came in, and started giving us these little parts, like ‘Dee-de-de-le-de-le-de.’ Mack said, ‘Now Pops, right here, you got to do this!’” says Mavis. “Daddy said, ‘Man, do you think we ought to do that?’ Mack said, ‘Yeah, Pops, you gotta do that! That makes the whole song!’” So did skin-tight backing from Muscle Shoals keyboardist Barry Beckett, guitarists Jimmy Johnson and Eddie Hinton, bassist David Hood, and drummer Roger Hawkins. Respect Yourself proved a #2 R&B/#12 pop smash in late ’71, and I’ll Take You There, waxed at the same dates, proved a universal chart-topper.
- Bill Dahl -