Oh look I'll stop waffling.
― Tom, Monday, 9 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
― Michael Bourke, Monday, 9 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
― Simone, Monday, 9 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
― Andy, Monday, 9 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
― Ned Raggett, Monday, 9 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
In any case you're saying Motown, since everything joyful about
disco - the beat (well, a beat for sure), the hysteria, the passion,
the pop, the melodies - pumps out of high-sixties Motown. Then along
came Norman Whitfield and Marvin and it all got way less fun. Still,
Motown, for me, it is.
― Mark Richardson, Monday, 9 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
― Patrick, Monday, 9 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
anyway, stax = soul and sweat. motown is spector played, written,
producd, and sung by african-americans though, and here's the stroke
of genius, your white grandmother probably loves it as well.
which is better? it depends on my mood, i guess, so today it's stax.
of course the only reason they're paired is because they were the big
black labels in the 60s and to lesser degrees in the 70s, but we
don't make the rules, we just play by them. for your average pop fan,
moving from the beatles to the four tops is a smaller, much more
manageable step than from, say, the same fab four to sam & dave. if
you exhaust motown and find yourself quite enjoying levi stubbs,
david ruffin, edwin starr, dennis edwards -- the more unrefined
motown voices -- go give stax a try. you might just like it.
― fred solinger, Monday, 9 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
Frankly, anyone who'd say Casablanca needs a good kicking. ;-)
― Nicole, Monday, 9 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
The appeal of Motown for me was that it was incredible rhythmic
dancepop music married to a superb range of singing. Stax vocalists,
fine though they are, tended to fall within a strict soul genre
definition. Whereas Motown had raw singers, smooth singers, flat
ones, full ones, reedy ones, poppy ones...the one common denominator
being that they all had 'soul': soul (un)defined as a nebulous
emotional quality, not a manner of singing.
Stax released some unbelievable records (and both labels had
marvellous, underrated lyricists, let's not forget) - but ultimately
for me Motown's definition of soul was not whiter, but *wider*.
I own more stuff on Motown than Stax, to be sure, so if that helps
any. And I think I've listened to any of it about as much as I've
listened to the Beatles over recent years -- not at all.
Neither were particularly strong on albums, STAX has Shaft,
Motown has What's Goin' On.
The plus that STAX has is that it died before it got old. Motown
got bought out, moved to the West Coast and has never been the
Edge to STAX for a preserved legacy. Sentimental choice goes to
Motown for singability.
― JM, Monday, 9 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
before i set off on this, a clarification of terms. "whiter," as far
as i'll use it, doesn't mean an eradication of soul, it simply means
a lessening. more mainstream may be a better word, just like
kenny g. is a watered-down version of, say, ornette coleman, though
that's a poor comparison and i'm sure there's someone who occupies
the middle ground between those two and would make for a stronger
comparison and so i defer to those with a stronger knowledge of jazz.
that all said: it's not an insult, as far as i'm concerned, to call
motown's vision a "whiter" take on soul, soul itself, if i may, being
a "whiter" take on gospel, though "secularized" is certainly more
appropriate and dare i say, then, that motown was secularized soul.
at the same time, stax itself was not above going pop: for the best
examination of the motown/stax debate i've ever read, check out peter
guralnick's sweet soul music, recommended for anyone with a
modicum of interest in the music.
but, yes, motown did have a "whiter" take on soul. the
instrumentation, though brilliant, was smoother, more precise, more
indebted to rock & roll. there was also less sweat, less exertion to
be found in a lot of the singing: diana ross would've never made a
stax record, and i'm sure this suits her just fine. berry gordy
wanted to build a brand, something built by african-americans that
could stand with any other label out there. to achieve fame, to sell
records, he knew what he had to do and he did it and did it
brilliantly. there's little shame i think in agreeing that by and
large, in one aspect or another, his was a more streamlined approach
to the soul music practiced by stax.
OK, more seriously, I should have said "not *only* whiter but wider" -
the white/black dichotomy was a real one in music, economically if
not aesthetically, and Gordy certainly smoothed out the music. But I
was talking about the singing, and as you yourself noted Fred Motown
had a fair number of rough, Staxish voices on its roster, as well as
the likes of Ross (who I was thinking of when I dropped the
word "reedy" in). But Ross is a soul singer nonetheless - an uptown,
neurotic soul singer to be sure, but this is what I mean when I say
that Motown was a broad church. Musically they couldn't emulate Stax,
as Guralnick emphasises. But vocally - though lacking prodigies like
Redding - they could incorporate the Stax style and many other styles
My original post was trying to suggest that both labels suffer from
an excess of cliche. Stax is seen as forbidding, difficult, a
connoisseur's 'real soul' label when it put out some lush pop sides
and with Isaac Hayes some of the wildest and most experimental soul
albums too. Motown comes off even worse - seen as too poppy from the
soul end of things (a true criticism, from that perspective, of a lot
of its output, mind you), and seen by rock as good-time dance music,
whereas I'd take Robinson and H-D-H as lyricists and songwriters over
any rock band. Bob Dylan may not actually have said that thing about
Smokey Robinson being America's greatest poet, but he was sure as
Stax has more soul in the singing, but also plenty plenty country.
Motown's rhythm is far more clattery and loud and urban-'latin'-
unwhite: and I personally wouldn't want to call contest between the
blacknuss in the respective basslines (J.Jamerson was a jazzer, tho he
plays like himself alone). Motown also employed the best loudest disc-
cutters (Lennon and Townshend were always complaining to UK disc-
cutters that the sound in the groove they were getting was so WEEDY
compared to Motown's).
― mark s, Monday, 9 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
Motown has damaged the reputation of its own catalogue. All it’s artists’
reputations are still under the company's control and the company has very
strong views about which artist are favoured (compare the reverence
accorded to Diana Ross to the treatment of Smokey Robinson). The
compilations put out by Motown are tacky cash-ins poorly organised. Even
now after all this time Motown treats the "product" as disposable.
Stax - way less successful but emblematic of those southern sounds - is a
well managed history - easier of course because there's far less of it. Stax
records have gravitas. The reissues are packaged to be soulful (original
sleeves, tasteful compilations) in contrast to Motown’s K-tel inspired
compilations. Even very minor Stax figures like Booker T continue to be
valued as part of the lineage. Some way smaller than Motown, that Stax can
even be pitched into this battle of Tom’s is a triumph of curating. It’s an
absurd contest – Motown is a colossal label; Stax simply symbolises a whole
southern soul approach – the very greatest records of this sound weren’t
even on the label (Aretha especially).
So if I had to choose? As an infant I heard Motown on the radio every day. I
know most of the big singles like nursery rhymes. Until recently I haven’t
wanted to own many of them. Stax records were at one point in my life a big,
exciting discovery – The Staple Singers were a massive teenage crush. In
truth there simply isn’t enough material on Stax to give up Motown for it. If on
the other hand the contest was stretched to include Atlantic, King and Hi
(Aretha, James Brown, Al Green for example) then it might be a fairer contest
– gospel soul versus pop soul.
― Guy, Tuesday, 10 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
I'll have to take Stax, just in response to that comment. But
otherwise, motown would win. For Smokey Robinson's "Really Got A Hold
On Me" alone.
― Sterling Clover, Tuesday, 10 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
― Pihkal Boy, Tuesday, 10 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
― gareth, Tuesday, 10 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
And everyone knows that Steps is just plain cooler than S Club 7...
― Nicole, Tuesday, 10 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
― Tom, Tuesday, 10 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
Since I was a hippie in high school, Motown was way too mainstream.
It's not now though.
― Joseph Wasko, Friday, 13 April 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
Speaking of which, I'd take Stax/Volt any day.
Simply because I don't _like_ most of the songs
written by Phil Spector, or his compatriots.
― Jack Redelfs, Saturday, 29 September 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
― Tadeusz Suchodolski, Saturday, 29 September 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link
― k/l (Ken L), Monday, 14 November 2005 06:05 (seventeen years ago) link
― stockholm cindy is in your extended network (Jody Beth Rosen), Monday, 14 November 2005 06:11 (seventeen years ago) link
― Hurting (Hurting), Monday, 14 November 2005 06:30 (seventeen years ago) link
― k/l (Ken L), Monday, 14 November 2005 06:33 (seventeen years ago) link
― k/l (Ken L), Monday, 14 November 2005 06:49 (seventeen years ago) link
Otoh if we're trying to weigh (Booker T & The MG's, Ray Charles, The Coasters, The Drifters, Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, Ben E King, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and Percy Sledge) against (The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers, The Jacksons, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations and Stevie Wonder) then I've probably got to come down in favour of Motown.
― Stewart Osborne (Stewart Osborne), Monday, 14 November 2005 10:36 (seventeen years ago) link
― m coleman (lovebug starski), Monday, 14 November 2005 11:46 (seventeen years ago) link
Only after The Miracles' Shop Around and Mary Wells success proved to be the formula did Motown relegate Barett Strong, Lamont Dozier, and The Hollands as writers (which is a mixed bag because I really like Eddie Holland's records as much as I like his writing).
Needless to say, Stax moved beyond that late 50's ballad sound and found success based around The Memphis Horns and Booker T & The MG's...Motown's echo chamber combined with Benny Benjamin's loose fills gave contrast to the horn heavy Stax once Holland/Dozier/Holland + Funk Brothers was the formula.
James Jammerson is a subject unto himself. Good God.
But aside from the hits/mid 60's, the early stuff form both were great and very very different from one another.
― PappaWheelie, Olives, Red Wine, Coffee, Scotch, and Me (PappaWheelie 2), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 16:38 (sixteen years ago) link
Stax had a great rhythm section and (like Motown) several excellent singers, but the song material didn't hold up.
― Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 20:12 (sixteen years ago) link
actually, i really call it a tie. they were both great factories and i can't see any real difference in quality, except that stax never did a "city of angels," which is the greatest album ever made. (except for genesis' "foxtrot," of course.)
― edd s hurt (ddduncan), Wednesday, 30 August 2006 03:17 (sixteen years ago) link
Stax v. Motown... is there a difference? Christ, what next, the great Steps v. S Club 7 dialectic?
― Pihkal Boy, Monday, April 9, 2001 8:00 PM (7 years ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink
― harry s tfuman (and what), Saturday, 21 February 2009 20:04 (thirteen years ago) link
Yes there is a difference. Stax is grimier and darker. Spontaneous. Motown more processed and thought out. Motown dictatorship- Stax a democracy (cept maybe in the last few years) Staxers could choose their own clothes. More about individuality as opposed to the production line from Motown. Stax wins.
This is my impresssion.
― Hinklepicker, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 11:18 (thirteen years ago) link
Thread of missing Bob Babbitt and Duck Dunn.
Just now wanted to hear "Ball of Confusion" for some reason. Spotify led me to Motown Complete Number 1's. As I listened I realized that it was one of Bob's signature tunes and then the next tracks up were "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," "War" and "The Tears Of A Clown," which were all his too. Didn't react strongly to the news when I heard about him passing, I guess now is the delayed reaction hitting.
― My Elusive Memes (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 20 July 2012 00:43 (ten years ago) link
Is this thread about rockism?
― Will Chave (Hurting 2), Friday, 20 July 2012 00:47 (ten years ago) link
Probably. On the off campus Motown side, that service does not have a decent version of BB's masterwork "Band of Gold," only some remix rerecords. Finally, I had never known or had forgotten he had played on "Smiling Faces Sometimes" and all those Spinners records.
― My Elusive Memes (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 20 July 2012 00:52 (ten years ago) link
Just bumping this thread to say that the new William Bell album, released on Stax (whatever that means in 2016), is very nearly as good as his original Stax albums.
― Ⓓⓡ. (Johnny Fever), Thursday, 7 July 2016 01:42 (six years ago) link
Some good songs on it and his voice is still strong, although on one number he sounds kinda like Van Morrison (I forget the title of that one).
― curmudgeon, Thursday, 7 July 2016 18:03 (six years ago) link
Been listening to the new William Bell one again. Very good, despite my minor nitpicks.
― curmudgeon, Monday, 25 July 2016 17:14 (six years ago) link
One of Bell's better new songs is nominated for a Grammy
Best Traditional R&B Performance:
"The Three Of Me" — William Bell
― curmudgeon, Wednesday, 7 December 2016 19:23 (five years ago) link
― Ⓓⓡ. (Johnny Fever), Wednesday, 7 December 2016 20:20 (five years ago) link
Came across this old RIP/Remembrance thread about Stax/Ardent engineer Ron Capone, a link to which I am placing here: https://repforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php?topic=11362.0
― Spirit of the Voice of the Beehive (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 17 December 2018 00:39 (three years ago) link
RIP Ron Capone. I don't know much about him, but I'm currently working my way through the Stax Singles box set in chronological order, picking out my favorites, and the consistent warm sound makes it a comfortable task.
― Karl Malone, Monday, 17 December 2018 00:41 (three years ago) link
He’s been dead for over a decade, just thought of him because of his association with James Burton, who was super-tight with Joe Osborn, who did just pass, and played on tons of records although no Memphis recordings I am aware of.
― Spirit of the Voice of the Beehive (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 17 December 2018 01:06 (three years ago) link
I saw a Marshall Crenshaw email note to Bob Lefsetz that mentioned bass player and one time guitarist Joe Osborn's death. His little obit didn't mention any Memphis work.
― curmudgeon, Monday, 17 December 2018 03:43 (three years ago) link
Yes, these guys had a Shreveport connection, not a Memphis connection.
― Spirit of the Voice of the Beehive (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 17 December 2018 10:43 (three years ago) link
Did Charles Lloyd play on any Stax releases? Saw a William Bell interview where he said they used to hang together.
― curmudgeon, Monday, 17 December 2018 16:28 (three years ago) link
Profile of now 83-years old William Bell
― curmudgeon, Wednesday, 16 November 2022 21:05 (two weeks ago) link