Mavis Staples – 1969 – Mavis Staples
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Standout solo work from Mavis Staples, a set that really expands the Stax sound nicely with a bit of strings to sweeten up the groove! Steve Cropper’s at the production helm, and there’s still enough grit in the grooves to remind us we’re down in Memphis but the choice of tunes and range of Staples’ vocals show a growing sense of power that’s really great, a mode that pulls itself up past simple southern soul cliches, and aims nicely at the mainstream!
Yet even in that mode, the album’s never too commercial, and certainly not pop-oriented at all – just proof that Stax was growing wonderfully at the time, and had plenty to offer a great talent like Mavis.
A1 Until I Met You 2:48
A2 Sweet Things You Do 2:38
A3 The Choking Kind 3:24
A4 You’re Driving Me (To the Arms of a Stranger) 3:23
A5 A House Is Not a Home 4:27
B1 Security 2:47
B2 Son of a Preacher Man 2:17
B3 Pick Up the Pieces 3:06
B4 Chained 2:50
B5 Good to Me 3:15
B6 You Send Me 2:56
Mavis Staples, the woman with a voice as gritty and rough as sandpaper and as soulful as the clapping hands and stomping feet at a revival meeting.
Stax Records had signed the Staple Singers to the label, and when Mavis was asked to cut a solo album featuring secular material, the gospel-raised, protest-song singing daughter of Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples had her doubts. With the help of Steve Cropper, Mavis gave herself the green light, eventually stating that only God had music, the devil had none.
While poorly promoted, Mavis’ premier self-titled solo album is a wonderful, at times beautifully arranged soul waxing that delves deep in the Southern Soul tradition of lettin’ it all hang out.
Jubilant, sweet uptempo numbers such as Willie Hutchinson’s “Until I Met You” and a gentle, lovely take on labelmate Eddie Floyd’s “Sweet Things You Do” provide much of the blueprint to the remainder of the LP; deliciously executed mid- to uptempo soul with tastefully arranged strings and catchy backing vocals.
Mavis’ spin on the Bacharach/David classic “A House Is Not a Home” is brilliant, but the most heartstopping of all ballads here undoubtedly is her rendition of Otis Redding’s “Good to Me“, which not only features great, subdued horn- and string arrangements (especially during the finale), but also one of Mavis’ most emotional vocal performances.
Stompers are here as well, though: a smoking version of Joe Simon’s “Chokin’ Kind“, a floorshakin’ reading of Otis’ “Security“, the brooding, funky “Chained” (superb guitar intro there) and the brassy sock-it-to-me gem “You’re Driving Me (To the Arms of a Stranger)“.
Also, hearing Mavis churn out Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” and Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” is a huge treat. The woman sure had a set of lungs and pipes to boot.