The Staples Singers had a very distinguished career prior to signing with Stax, but it was with the famed Memphis label that they obtained far wider notice than simply gospel singers. Concord’s latest Stax Remasters includes the Staples classic Be Altitude: Respect Yourself, an album that extended their musical reach from gospel to message songs with an uplifting messages. This was the third album on Stax for the Staples and the first produced by Al Bell who had signed the group to Stax. After two albums with Booker T and the MGs, Bell decided to take them down to Muscle Shoals and used that famed studio band and then later mixed at Ardent Studios as opposed to Stax’s own McLemore Avenue studio.
Be Altitude: Respect Yourself is the album that produced two of the songs they are most identified, Respect Yourself and I’ll Take You There, which one trusts many are familiar with. These still are part of Mavis Staples’ live performances and were the heaviest hitters of the many chart records the Staples had for Stax. There are so many pleasures on this besides the great vocals by Mavis and family members, the stellar studio bands and Pops Staples guitar.
Rob Bowman in the booklet notes the origins of Respect Yourself, a collaboration between Sir Mack Rice and Luther Ingram, and how Bell made some changes most notably the tempo. In any event, the recordings still resonate four decades later and for those who passed on the album when it cam out can savor other delights like the Covay-Stevenson-Pickett groover, This Old Town (People In This Town), as the message of We The People, have to make the world go round and better and get let things get wild, the Sweet Inspirations This World, and Pops Staples Who Do You Think You Are (Jesus Christ the Superstar), a slow number which obviously alludes to the famous musical of the time. Two rarities are added to make a strong reissue of the Staples at what rob Bowman rightfully suggests was their peak.
My review copy was provided by the record label or a publicist for the release.