STYLE: R&B RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 123871-19023 LABEL: SoulMusic SMCR5038 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1
Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Among the soul music cognoscente it's generally felt that the Staple Singers' golden years were their recordings (from 1968-1974) for Stax Records and that their later albums, as they moved away from the Southern soul flavourings of their Muscle Shoals recordings to more sophisticated R&B arrangements they creatively lost their way. But such a view isn't strictly true, as this 1984 album proves. For although I'd be the first to admit that there aren't any tracks on this 1984 album, lovingly re-issued and expanded by Soul Music Records, which are quite on a par with stone classics like "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)" there are indeed one or two superb tracks here. The absolute prime cut is the Staples' version of Talking Heads' "Slippery People". Mavis' breathtaking gasping, whooping, growling voice when heard over a delicious funk groove (with Heads' David Byrne himself providing the guitars) makes this denouncement of the ducking and diving of some people essential listening if you like dance funk. Possibly thinking of the barrage of criticism some churchgoers gave the Staples for recording "a rock song" Pops Staples once said in an interview that "Slippery People" was "nothing but a gospel song [that talks] about church people." The Staples clearly had a liking for the best songs penned by David Byrne. They recorded another one, "Life During Wartime", on their 1985's 'The Staple Singers' (again, now re-issued and expanded by Soul Music Records). Alongside the "Slippery People" gem 'Turning Point' also contains tracks like "Bridges Instead Of Walls", penned by the group's old Stax compatriots Homer Banks and Carl Hampton, which delightfully blends the old Memphis sound with new wah wah guitars and Fairlight programming while "Right Decision" features downhome philosopher Pops pondering the meaning of life. Overall, this album stands up well 28 years on from when originally released. The Expanded Version brings to light some more tracks of which the full 12 inch version of "Slippery People" is essential and the radio edits unnecessary while the 'B' side single "Can You Hang" is pretty good. With excellent, informative sleevenotes this is well worth getting as long as you're not expecting the raw gospel of their Vee Jay years or their Stax-vintage soul tracks.
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