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Daily Record 1/10/11: The Complete Stax/Volt Singles 1959-1968, Vol. 9 (1991)

In 1960s, 1967, 1968, Atlantic Records, Memphis music, rhythm and blues, soul, Stax on January 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm

One of the best birthday presents my wife Donna ever gave me was The Complete Stax/Volt Singles 1959-1968, an exhaustive nine-disc collection of some of the finest music created in the United States during the 1960s (and, really, some of the finest music created ever). Today’s Daily Record is the collection’s final disc, which covers the last batch of singles released in late 1967 and through April 1968 by Stax/Volt under its distribution deal with Atlantic Records.

While the box set is beautifully packaged, with a wonderful photo-filled book (truly an excellent birthday present, let me tell you…), the star of the collection is the music. Nearly all of the classics recorded by Sam and Dave, Booker T. and the MG’s, Carla Thomas and her father, Rufus, and, of course, Otis Redding are here. There are well over 200 songs here, many of them classics, and nearly all of them just plain great.

In my recent entry on the Atlantic Records R&B anthology, I mentioned that I spent nearly as much time absorbing older music in the 1980s as I did new stuff. The music of Stax, particularly that of Otis Redding, was certainly part of that learning curve.  That particular Atlantic volume contained a few singles (including Booker T. & the MG’s legendary “Green Onions”) from the earliest days of Stax and the beginning of its association with Atlantic, while Vol. 9 focuses on the end of the Atlantic partnership.

1967 had been a triumphant year for Otis Redding, but it ended with his tragic death (along with most of the Bar-Kays, the Stax band that was backing Otis up) in a plane crash in early December. His death, along with the termination of Stax’s distribution agreement with Atlantic, had to have had some kind of adverse effect on the label, though you can’t really hear that in the quality of the songs on Vol. 9, which include Redding’s posthumously released classic “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay);” “I Thank You” and “Wrap It Up,” both by Sam and Dave; and a typically diverse lineup of songs by the likes of Albert King, Eddie Floyd, the Bar-Kays, William Bell (who offers a heartfelt song about Redding, “A Tribute to a King”) and others.

I should mention at this point that “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” is my absolute favorite song and I really don’t see that changing anytime soon.

The first time I visited Memphis, I asked about where I could find Stax Studio, just to take a look at it. I was told I didn’t want to wander into that part of town; the next time I was there, Stax was gone and the lot it had been on was vacant; now it has been rebuilt and houses a museum of soul music and a revitalized label. One of these years I’ll get back to Memphis to see it.

Stay tuned for more Stax later this week.

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