Sunday, May 8, 2011

CD Review: Stax Remasters Coming From The Concord Music Group

Concord Music Group returns once again, this time launching the Stax Remasters Series. The series begins with three classic soul/R&B albums receiving the remaster treatment with bonus songs added for good measure. The Stax record label was one of the top music labels producing some of the biggest R&B, soul and gospel albums in the 1960s and 1970s. The three albums presented here all have that right combination that made Stax records so popular.

The first album in the series is the 1970 "McLemore Avenue" from Booker T. & the MGs. The album was a tribute to The Beatles album, "Abby Road". Keyboardist Booker T. Jones, explained that it was his "fascination and admiration" for The Beatles that was the premise for this album. The four original tracks produced for the album have been sonically upgraded using 24-bit remastering and the sound is just phenomenal. The R&B spin that Booker T & the MGs put on these Beatles' classic only add to the song's already strong following. This new remastered album also includes six bonus tracks. All of them are Beatles songs performed by Booker T & the MGs at different times in their career. The bonus songs "You Can't Do That" and "Day Tripper", recorded in the mid-1960s , features more of a balance between guitar and keyboards. Other bonus tracks like "Michelle" and "Eleanor Rigby" are heavy on the keyboards and lack the punch of the original album, but definitely deserve to be recognized on this release. The 12-page booklet also features a new write-up from famed music author Ashley Kahn.

The second album in this series is The Staple Singers' "Be Altitude: Respect Yourself". After becoming iconic gospel singers in the 1950s, The Staple Singers turned toward R&B in the 1970s dubbing their sound as "message music". Originally released in 1972, this album became an R&B blueprint for success. The way The Staple Singers take the songs "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There" and have made them special all these years is just outstanding. The album sounds great as you hear each of their voices in perfect pitch. The 24-bit remastered album adds two bonus tracks, the previously unreleased "Walking In Water Over Our Head" and an alternate take of "Heavy Makes You Happy". The 12-page booklet includes a recent write-up from the Grammy Award Winning author Rob Bowman.

Last, but not least, the third album in this series is from R&B hit-maker Jonnie Taylor. "Taylored In Silk" was released in 1973 and entered the Billboard album charts at #54 and the Billboard R&B albums chart at #3. The combination of producer Don Davis and Jonnie Taylor helped shape Tayor's career in the early 1970s creating a harder edge, more up-tempo approach to his music. The original eight-song album gets garnished with five additional bonus tracks all released as Stax singles in 1971 and 1972. The 12-page booklet also gets a new write-up from Bill Dahl.

Hopefully this is only the beginning of a wonderful series as each of these new releases show us the highest quality was put into reproducing these classic albums. It's also good that fans will not be disappointed with repurchasing these albums with all these great bonus songs added on. For more information on these new releases, please visit the Concord Music Group website (concordmusicgroup.com).

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