For almost 50 years, between 1948 and 1994, The Staple Singers stood at the crossroads of gospel and soul, preaching messages of peace and positivity through music. In April 1965, The Staples – “Pops,” Mavis, Yvonne and Pervis – were joined by drummer Al Duncan and bassist Phil Upchurch at Chicago’s New Nazareth Church to record the album that became Freedom Highway. The LP, originally released on Epic Records, recognized that year’s historic civil rights marches from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama. Now, some fifty years later, Legacy Recordings has remixed, remastered and expanded this landmark recording as Freedom Highway Complete – Recorded Live at Chicago’s New Nazareth Church. On Tuesday, March 3, the reissue will be available as a single CD, a 2-LP set or a digital download.
The recording of Freedom Highway followed a tumultuous, important month in American civil rights history. Three landmark marches were held in March 1965 along the 54 miles connecting Selma, Alabama with the state capital of Montgomery. The March 7 march became known as “Bloody Sunday” when 600 marchers were violently confronted by state and local police forces. The March 9 event, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., likewise reached a standoff between police and protesters. The climactic March 21 protest found the marchers protected by a staggering 2,000 U.S. Army troops, 1,900 Alabama National Guard members, and other law enforcement personnel. In the years since, the marchers’ route has been proclaimed the “Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights Trail” and deemed a U.S. National Historic Trail. The acclaimed, new motion picture Selma, which opens nationwide tomorrow, January 9, dramatizes these dramatic events which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Preacher, guitarist and singer Roebuck “Pops” Staples, along with his children Pervis, Cleotha, Yvonne and Mavis, was inspired by Dr. King and the actions of the protesters. On April 9, 1965, his group took the opportunity afforded by its status on the Epic Records roster to record a service inspired by the actions of the marchers. The set preserved on Freedom Highway features familiar civil rights anthems (“We Shall Overcome”), traditional gospel melodies (“When the Saint Go Marching In”) and religious pleas (“Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” “Help Me, Jesus”) along with the Staples’ newly-written “Freedom Highway.” Pops plays his six-string guitar throughout the service – the same sound that made the passionate preacher an unlikely soul music star. The original album was produced by country music superstar producer Billy Sherrill, who signed the Staples to Epic.
After the jump: we have more details including the full track listing and pre-order links!
Whereas the original Freedom Highway included eleven tracks, the new edition features seventeen. More than 30 minutes of material is newly issued, including previously unreleased performances of “Jesus is All” and “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” Produced by Nedra Olds-Neal and Steve Berkowitz, this deluxe reissue has been newly remixed by Steve Addabbo and remastered by Battery Studios’ Mark Wilder from the original analog multi-track tapes.
Freedom Highway Complete – Recorded Live at Chicago’s New Nazareth Church, from Grammy Lifetime Achievement winners and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Staple Singers, arrives on March 3 from Legacy Recordings. It can be pre-ordered below!
The Staple Singers, Freedom Highway Complete – Recorded Live at Chicago’s New Nazareth Church (Epic LP BN 26163, 1965 – reissued Epic/Legacy, 2015) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. TBD)
- Intro by Pops Staples
- When The Saints Go Marching In
- The Funeral
- Build On That Shore
- We Shall Overcome
- Freedom Highway
- What You Gonna Do?
- Precious Lord, Take My Hand (unreleased)
- When I’m Gone
- Help Me Jesus
- Rev. Hopkins/Offering
- Jesus Is All (unreleased)
- Samson and Delilah
- View The Holy City
- Tell Heaven
- He’s All Right
- Pops Outro/Benediction