Staple Singers – Be altitude: Respect Yourself (Concord Music) CD review
Stax Records was the king of all soul music, boasting a roster that included stalwarts like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, Sam & Dave, and Booker T & the MG’s, while helping define the very meaning of the word soul. The Concord Music Group has acquired the Stax back catalog and has just released several more in their Stax Remasters series – all including excellent liner notes, photos and unreleased bonus tracks.
Prior to the release of Be altitude: Respect Yourself in 1972, the Staple Singers were primarily known as a gospel act. After signing with Stax records in the late Sixties, the group began working on expanding their audience. This was their third attempt for Stax, and it was the one that finally hit pay dirt.
There was a significant change in their lineup as brother Pervis exited, being replaced by sister Yvonne. Another key factor was producer Al Bell choosing to relocate recording down in the funkier Muscle Shoals studio, already famous for countless stone-cold soul classics. The extensive liner notes shed light on just how much effort was put into the leadoff single, “Respect Yourself.” That track, with its contagious groove and uplifting message still stands as one of the greatest funk singles in history. They quickly followed that success with another smash, the reggae-tinged “I’ll Take You There.” Father Pops Staples gets to show off his assured vocals on “Who Do You Think You Are (Jesus Christ the Superstar)?” But, the real star here is his daughter Mavis – she’s got a monster of a voice capable of wrenching emotion and fury at the same time – just listen as she begs on “Who.” The drums and bass are upfront, big and fat – giving every track a danceable immediacy. Be altitude: Respect Yourself was where things changed for the Staple Singers – their message of peace and spirituality remained the same, but the way they delivered it was transformed forever. –Tony Peters