Tell me about... The Staple Singers

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"This May be The Last Time" just caused me to swoon. from what i have heard so far im more keen on the gospel tinged stuff rather than the more Motown'y R&B tracks but as you can tell, im pretty clueless.

What should i look out for?

jed_ (jed), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 22:26 (fifteen years ago) link

that's odd, I was just plugging this very stuff on the radio a little while ago. Absolute must have if you can find it: the "Freedom Highway" live album. Make sure it's the LIVE one, cuz hearing the crowd whoop and holler and clap along is a big part of its appeal. And Mavis is in top form.

Personally I think their gospel-folk stuff is some of the greatest music ever made.

Shakey Mo Collier, Tuesday, 4 May 2004 22:44 (fifteen years ago) link

Yeah, "Last Time" is amazing. I like their Stax material a lot myself. A good Stax best-of would be the way to go, I'd say. I liked Roebuck Staples' "Peace to the Neighborhood" pretty well, even given the presence of Ry Cooder and suchlike on several tracks. He was a great guitar player.

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:25 (fifteen years ago) link

vee jay stuff way over stax to these ears. there is a recent two CD Glory It's the Staple Singers on UK label Recall. sound isn't the best but at the moment it's the most complete collection of the Staples at their most hair-raising.

rumple, Wednesday, 5 May 2004 01:16 (fifteen years ago) link

three months pass...
i think they are very hit and miss.

i have to admit not really getting a big kick out of their big stax singles.

"respect yourself"--well, it's a gospel song in that it is addressed to a recalcitrant. but since the subject matter is basically secular, it all feels rather petty. and hectoring. and dumb. especially those lines about the president and air pollution. it's not really a song for people who need to respect themselves, but a song for people who like to feel that other people need to respect themselves. but it's not really about respecting yourself either. it's about behaving in a way that the staple singers find appropriate.

also i find the hooks in those big stax records gimmicky and they wear thin after a while.

a lot of the vee jay stuff is amazing though.

amateur!!!st, Friday, 20 August 2004 19:29 (fifteen years ago) link

seven years pass...

I'm looking for examples of Pops' legendary guitar tone - his spooky tremolo stuff. Not so into gospel shouting and the like, which is mostly the Staple Singers stuff I know. Are there any especially eerie / droney bits?

If Assholes Could Fly This Place Would Be An Airport, Thursday, 5 January 2012 19:43 (seven years ago) link

Have you seen this?

Dan Peterson, Thursday, 5 January 2012 19:47 (seven years ago) link

Completely the opposite direction to what you're looking for, but I've been enjoying this album a lot recently:

questino (seandalai), Thursday, 5 January 2012 19:52 (seven years ago) link

Holy shit, Dan, that's exactly it! How's the album that song is from?

If Assholes Could Fly This Place Would Be An Airport, Thursday, 5 January 2012 20:09 (seven years ago) link

Y'know, he talks about an album called #1, but I don't own it and a quick google isn't finding it, so I dunno... I was looking for Staples' Christmas and gospel songs on youtube a few weeks ago and just stumbled across this one.

Dan Peterson, Thursday, 5 January 2012 20:25 (seven years ago) link

Ah, it's just called Pops Staples. Here it is, review makes it sound mostly misproduced.

Dan Peterson, Thursday, 5 January 2012 20:34 (seven years ago) link

early Staple Singers discography is, tragically, a mess - Vee Jay recordings are the best for the droney/tremelo stuff. Search: Don't Knock, Hammer and Nails, Going Away, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, John Brown, amazing live album "Freedom's Highway"... I have most of this stuff on vinyl so would have to be home at my collection to check for others. This stuff is a bitch to look for/sort through, been compiled many different times in many (usually sloppy) ways

The Silent Extreme (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 5 January 2012 20:46 (seven years ago) link

ooh Last Month of the Year is also killer

The Silent Extreme (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 5 January 2012 20:48 (seven years ago) link

That youtube is pretty cool, thanks.

WATERMELON MAYNE aka the seed driver (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 5 January 2012 20:51 (seven years ago) link

Yr welcome. Love the DN, by the way!

Dan Peterson, Thursday, 5 January 2012 20:59 (seven years ago) link

Shakey, you mean 25th Day of December? That's actually what got my youtube search started, I had never heard it/heard of it.

Dan Peterson, Thursday, 5 January 2012 21:01 (seven years ago) link

well I meant the song Last Month of the Year - which turns out to be on the album the 25th Day of December, which is composed of songs that were initially issued on other records

The Silent Extreme (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 5 January 2012 21:08 (seven years ago) link

I'm looking for examples of Pops' legendary guitar tone - his spooky tremolo stuff. Not so into gospel shouting and the like, which is mostly the Staple Singers stuff I know. Are there any especially eerie / droney bits?

― If Assholes Could Fly This Place Would Be An Airport, Thursday, January 5, 2012 2:43 PM (56 minutes ago)

the gospel shouting is great though! and Pop's calm, restrained playing is such an effective contrast to all those huge vocal rave-ups.

that said, there's a rumbling, rockabilly-ish instrumental at the end of "I'm So Glad" (from their Vee Jay years) with handclaps and snare hits and some nice stop-start guitar playing from Pops. "Uncloudy Day", "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", "A Dying Man's Plea", "God's Wonderful Love", "I'm Coming Home", "Somebody Save Me", "Too Close" "Stand By Me", and "This May Be the Last Time" are all fairly slow and droney despite the prominent vocals.

cher's missing (unregistered), Thursday, 5 January 2012 21:09 (seven years ago) link

this Charly CD is maybe the best compilation of their Vee Jay sides.

cher's missing (unregistered), Thursday, 5 January 2012 21:15 (seven years ago) link

yeah that looks pretty decent

Born in Bethlehem and Sit Down Servant also both killer tracks fwiw

The Silent Extreme (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 5 January 2012 21:30 (seven years ago) link

The album "Great Day" collects a lot of spooky Pop's stuff. This one always slays me

bendy, Thursday, 5 January 2012 22:09 (seven years ago) link

two years pass...

How did I not know their 1984 take on the Talking Heads "Slippery People"? Just saw Mavis sing this at the Library of Congress in DC Saturday night.

curmudgeon, Monday, 13 October 2014 19:10 (five years ago) link

Twitter-condensation of my take on Marty Stuart's Saturday Night/Sunday Morning:
Marty Stuart SN/SM: 22 tracks/15 keepers, often in Pop Staples' tremolo shadow, recycling shards of light, hydroelectric country soulThink he plays Pops' own guitar; Mavis guests, unmistakably, on "Uncloudy Day" (became Civil Rights War rallying cry, notes Philadelphia MS native Stuart).

dow, Monday, 13 October 2014 19:21 (five years ago) link

Her Prince-produced albums aren't masterpieces, but she more than holds her own in the Purple Dimension.

dow, Monday, 13 October 2014 19:23 (five years ago) link

Their "Slippery People" cover has been a go-to staple of my dj sets for 30 years now!

Dick Clownload (Dan Peterson), Monday, 13 October 2014 19:26 (five years ago) link

I still haven't heard her new albums with Jeff Tweedy production, but they're getting her the Bob Boilen/NPR audience now. She's got a big 75th birthday tribute event coming up in Chicago

curmudgeon, Monday, 13 October 2014 19:53 (five years ago) link

I’ll Take You There – Celebrating 75 Years Of Mavis Staples

To Feature Performances By:
Gregg Allman, Ryan Bingham, Eric Church, Patty Griffin,
Glen Hansard, Taj Mahal, Michael Mcdonald,
Buddy Miller, Aaron Neville, Widespread Panic,
Grace Potter, Mavis Staples and Marty Stuart
Jeff Tweedy and Spencer Tweedy,
Emmylou Harris, Keb’ Mo’ and Joan Osborne

Mavis Staples Set To Take The Stage For Special Performances Throughout the Evening

Not the guestlist I would choose (I'd keep Aaron Neville)

curmudgeon, Monday, 13 October 2014 19:56 (five years ago) link

I saw her at an outdoor show this summer. She did all the hits, plus "Slippery People" and a cover of Funkadelic's "Can You Get To That." I think that was on last year's album, which I haven't heard either. She's still in powerful voice.

That featured artist list is... something.

Dick Clownload (Dan Peterson), Monday, 13 October 2014 20:09 (five years ago) link

She's good w Marty and his band on the xpost album, and Marty's usually better live; could see w Emmylou, Patty Griffin, Taj Mahal working well; Eric Church has a good band, Buddy Miller can provide good guitar accompaniment,esp. for female singers (but don't let him, or maybe Eric, try to sing w her)Aaron, yes: intriguing combination of styles. Could live w out any of the others (came to like Bingham's intro song on The Bridge, but his nasality with her--?)

dow, Monday, 13 October 2014 20:17 (five years ago) link

six months pass...

Not a Jeff Tweedy production. It's Son Little (AKA Aaron Livingston who has sung on albums from the Roots and RJD2)

curmudgeon, Thursday, 16 April 2015 15:25 (four years ago) link

two months pass...

New movie doc Mavis! is showing in W. DC Sunday night, and will be out on HBO after a theatre run.

I saw it and mostly liked it, although parts of it bugged me (as well as things that were left out). Director Jessica Edwards’ Mavis! is more than just singer Mavis Staples’ story: It’s about her father (guitarist Pops Staples), their family band (the Staple Singers), the civil rights movement, and “I’ll Take You There.” The movie largely follows the standard procedure of mixing archival photos and film alongside new interviews with musicians (Bob Dylan, Chuck D, members of the Band), journalists (biographer Greg Kot, gospel historian and producer Anthony Heilbut), and friends. To keep the film contemporary, Edwards says she consciously tried to only include archival footage that features Mavis. This approach captures the still-vibrant seventysomething’s personality, but it also means her current producer, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, gets more screen time than, say, her longtime colleague, activist Julian Bond. Still, the film displays Mavis’ skillful vocal chops, warmth, and tenacity from her days as a booming, deep-voiced teen gospel singer on through her family’s freedom songs period, Stax Records soul years, and solo Prince-produced efforts, plus Tweedy ones. Mavis and her father are eloquent throughout. She recounts him saying, “If Dr. King can preach it, we can sing it,” and later pays homage to her dad: “You laid the foundation. I’m still working on the building.”

So even though Mavis signed off on having Tweedy and his son add their musicianship to a release of old Pop recorded material, I still wish Tweedy said no and just either left the tapes as is, or got others to record. Perhaps I am not giving Tweedy or his drummer son enough credit.

curmudgeon, Friday, 19 June 2015 17:18 (four years ago) link

eight months pass...

^^^doc is great, everybody watch it

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 2 March 2016 16:26 (three years ago) link

I was shocked to see actual footage of her and Prince in the recording studio, with Prince behind the mixing board, talking her through a take

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 2 March 2016 16:28 (three years ago) link

plus: footage of her at Levon Helm's home, singing "The Last Time" with him, p intense

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 2 March 2016 16:29 (three years ago) link

will def check this out; sounds great

dc, Wednesday, 2 March 2016 18:30 (three years ago) link

is it on dvd? or just making the rounds in theaters?

tylerw, Wednesday, 2 March 2016 18:32 (three years ago) link

it's on hbo now

dc, Wednesday, 2 March 2016 18:32 (three years ago) link

I admit I kinda teared up watching Mavis cry while listening to the raw, unaccompanied tracks of Pops' last album

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 2 March 2016 18:44 (three years ago) link

i still haven't heard that pops solo album ...

tylerw, Wednesday, 2 March 2016 19:13 (three years ago) link

I've only heard clips of that and the recent Mavis stuff, but it all sounded p good tbh.

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 2 March 2016 19:19 (three years ago) link

yeah i should check it out ... that recent staples box set is a total pleasure

tylerw, Wednesday, 2 March 2016 19:24 (three years ago) link

Given all the musical artists passing away recently, I was more than a little hesitant to click on this thread.

Retro novelty punk (Dan Peterson), Wednesday, 2 March 2016 19:55 (three years ago) link

she looks like she is in great shape tbh, still working/motivated, she is really inspirational.

was also surprised by Dylan's appearance (feel like he never appears as a talking head in *anything*), and by the fact that apparently he had quite a crush on/flirted with Mavis in the early 60s

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 2 March 2016 22:44 (three years ago) link

three years pass...

wasn't too into the last one from mavis (it didn't seem bad but), the new album with ben harper is sitting right, though

j., Friday, 12 July 2019 03:55 (five months ago) link

RAZ: Pops, I think I want to marry that Mavis.
R”P”S: Tell her that, not me.

Vini C. Riley (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 12 July 2019 04:02 (five months ago) link

X-post- will have to check out the effort with Harper. Something about Jeff Tweedy’s work with her rubbed me the wrong way. The whole we need an indie rock guy to market and present her thing. Kinda like Bettye Lavette and her Dylan and Who covers

curmudgeon, Friday, 12 July 2019 12:28 (five months ago) link

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