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This 2007 release of Stax Records,the 50th anniversary celebration,a two disc set(taken from the original four),is a must have for fans of the Memphis Sound,the city from which Stax Records originated.
The label was started by a white country boy/fiddle player by the name of Jim Stewart(not the actor)in 1957.He had no interest in black music per se and originally issued a few rockabilly,country and pop tunes on the label first called Satellite records.A year later his sister,Estelle Axton,became a partner in his business venture.In /59 he temporarily moved the studio out of Memphis only to relocate back in Memphis a few months later.In the meantime he released his first black and biggest selling record to date,called "Fool for Love" by the Veltones.In 1960 he met with a local black DJ and part time singer Rufus Thomas.That year he and his daughter Carla would record "Cause I Love You",then a band the Mar-Keys would come with the next big hit"Last Night".Things were going well for Stewart and from about /61 onward he would release purely all black acts/material.However a lawsuit by a California company with the same name of Satellite Records forced Stewart to change the company name to Stax(culled from STewart and AXton).Stewart also clinched a distribution deal with Atlantic records and Stax finally got national exposure in the record stores.
Stax like other labels created subsidiaries for their record distribution with such names as Volt,Chalice and Hip to name a few.This was to allay fears by radio stations of payola should they be questioned as to why they were playing so many songs from just one label.
The break from Atlantic records as a distributor came in 1968.They had been sold the previous year to Warner Bros and their lawyers pointed out some fine print in the original contract that said after the contract expired all the original masters they had been distributing,would suddenly revert back to THEM!? Some fine print.With that disheartening news Stewart decided to sell out Stax to Gulf & Western and even though he would stick around in a more or less advisory capacity for a while,his sister pulled out completely.With the soured Atlantic split not only would the(about)mid/68 and previous material be pulled out of Stax's control,but also the artists themselves;Sam and Dave,for example,a huge loss.To top this Stax's biggest star Otis Redding,as you know,died in a place crash in/67.
However new artists would slowly but surely fill the void lost by these artists,with such acts as Johnny Taylor,Isaac Hayes,The Dramatics and The Staple Singers,to name a few.
Concord Records today owns the Stax(post/68)catalogue and they join the best of those years with the best of licensed issues from Atlantic for the pre/68 time period in this set,to a get a fuller and more complete picture of just what Stax accomplished.Disc 1 has some greats like,"Gee Whiz",Carla Thomas,""Walking the Dog",Rufus Thomas,"Green Onions",Booker T and the MGs,"Soul Finger",The Bar-Keys,"Soul Man",Sam and Dave and many more.On Disc Two we find "Time is Tight",Booker T,"Do the Funky Chicken",Rufus Thomas,"Respect Yourself"and "I'll Take you There"by the Staple Singers,""Mr Big Stuff",Jean Knight","Theme from Shaft",Isaac Hayes,"What you see is What you get" by the Dramatics,and many others.
This 2 CD set is highly recommended for that unique Memphis Sound Stax created way back in the day and for the unique artists that contributed to it.Motown had the moniker "Hitsville USA",while Stax had "Soulsville,USA" as theirs.Soul is an apt word as there is more of that here than on a size 20 running shoe! Many of these songs are rare and hard to find so I suggest you grab this set up while the getting is good,because what you see is definitely what you get!