Stax Records continues its 60th anniversary celebration with Stax Singles, Vol. 4: Rarities & the Best of the Rest. The six-disc box represents deep exploration of the Memphis soul label’s archives.
While Stax is famous for soul hits by the Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes and more, this collection is big enough to feature famous Stax artists plus the company’s often obscure rock, pop, blues, gospel and country acts.
Stax Singles, Vol. 4 includes New Orleans singers Jean Knight (Stax released “Mr. Big Stuff”) and Bobby Marchan (he toured with Redding); the famous Delaney & Bonnie; the obscure girl-group the Goodees; and early Southern rock artist and major “Memphis Sound” producer Don Nix.
Disc one includes “Deep Down Inside,” Carla and Rufus Thomas’ downhome R&B ballad duet from 1960; Marchan’s “That’s the Way It Goes,” a feverish example of early funk from 1964; and the Baracudas’ instrumental “Free for All,” an unmistakable example of Stax’s soulful sound.
Disc two delivers “Love-Eye-Tis,” the deep-soul B-side for William Bell and Judy Clay’s international hit, “Private Number.” Little Willie John’s sister, Mable John, a major soul artist in her own right, sings three songs spread over discs one and two.
Disc three moves into the 1970s with the Mad Lads’ smooth yet still soulful “Did My Baby Call.” Jean Knight’s “Pick Up the Pieces” features production by her “Mr. Big Stuff” producer, Wardell Quezergue. And Johnnie Taylor brings funk and soul together for “Stop Teasing Me.”
On disc four, Sid Selvidge’s orchestra-backed “The Ballad of Otis B. Watson” compares favorably with Elvis Presley’s late ’60s comeback recordings. Clark Sullivan’s “Reaching for a Rainbow” and Chuck Boris’ “Why Did It Take So Long” were among Stax’s overtures to the pop audience. Don Nix’s 1973 recording, “Black Cat Moan,” bridges blues and Southern rock.
Disc five includes the campy psychedelia of Southwest F.O.B.’s “Smell of Incense.” Camp appeal also shows up in the Goodees’ “Condition Red,” a spinoff of the Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack” and Wayne Cochran’s “Last Kiss.” There’s no denying the jangling pop charm of Big Star’s “September Girls.”
Gospel comes to the forefront for disc six. Produced for the Chalice and Gospel Truth subsidiaries, the gospel recordings more than hold their own alongside the box set’s secular discs.