There have been several reissues this year celebrating the 50th anniversary of individual projects released in 1968. But Craft Recordings has announced a box set which celebrates an entire year's worth of material with Stax '68: A Memphis Story, due on October 19. This 5-CD set contains the A- and B-sides of every single released under the Stax Records banner in 1968, including the company's sub-labels, for a total of 120 tracks. Some tracks are by soul legends like Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, William Bell, Booker T. & The M.G.'s and Johnnie Taylor and some come from the deeper Stax catalogue, featuring artists such as Linda Lyndell, The Soul Children and The Mad Lads.
Stax began life as Satellite Records in 1957 before adopting its more familiar name in 1961. Based in Memphis, Tennessee, the label was a primary factor in the creation of the southern soul genre. Stax had had considerable success in the 1960s, but things were changing for the label by 1968 when three events happened to change the course of company's future. The first was the death of their biggest star, Otis Redding, in December 1967. In April 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Stax's hometown of Memphis, altering the country as well as the content of the label's music. And finally, in May, Stax's longtime distribution deal with Atlantic Records was terminated. This meant that Stax lost all rights to its back catalogue of material and also lost Sam & Dave, who released their music on Stax but were actually signed to Atlantic.
The box set kicks off highlighting two of these losses with the first singles presented being Redding's iconic "(Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay" and Sam & Dave's "I Thank You." The impact of Redding's death was felt in Eddie Floyd's "Big Bird," written about Floyd's attempt to fly to Redding's funeral, but the song's rock-informed feel foreshadowed Stax's decision to widen its net and expand its aesthetic to embrace everything from psychedelic rock to Motown-style sounds.
Shirley Walton's gospel-tinged "Send Peace and Harmony Home" had been written by Al Bell, Eddie Floyd, and Booker T. Jones, as a dedication to Dr. King, and as a reaction to the escalating tension in the city at the time. In the middle of the recording session, word arrived of his murder, and Walton delivered what became an ode to the man's message in the aftermath of his assassination. "Long Walk to D.C." was conceived as a tribute to King's March on Washington, but by the time The Staple Singers cut it for Stax in '68, it was equal parts Civil Rights anthem and eulogy.
The Soul Children's "Give 'Em Love," was more in pop vein and was evidence of Stax's adoption of some Motown influences. The psychedelia of Dallas rockers Southwest F. O. B.'s "Smell of Incense" (featuring future pop titans England Dan & John Ford Coley) on Stax subsidiary Hip showed more of a rocking side to the label.
Plenty of Stax's biggest names appear on Stax '68, with cuts both known and lesser known. Staff writer/producer/musician Isaac Hayes' first record under his own name included "Precious Precious," a dash of soul jazz. William Bell's often-covered crossover hit "I Forgot to Be Your Lover" and Johnnie Taylor's Pop and R&B smash "Who's Making Love" showed that Stax still had more than enough musical muscle, despite all its tribulations.
Stax would forge ahead with Isaac Hayes becoming the label's biggest star in the years to come. The label also had great success with the Wattstax album and film in 1972 and 1973. But problems loomed on the horizon. A distribution deal made with CBS Records in 1972 would eventually see Stax's cut of profits decrease by 40% which lead to the label being forced into bankruptcy by 1975. Fantasy Records would buy Stax's assets in 1977 and reactivate the label by signing new acts, but it became strictly a reissue concern for the 1968-1975 material by the early 1980s. Concord bought Fantasy in 2004 and thus acquired Stax, reactivating the label again, with reissues being handled by the new Craft Recordings division.
Stax '68: A Memphis Story includes a 56-page book with liner notes by Andria Lisle, Robert Gordon, and Steve Greenberg, as well as rare and previously unseen photos. It will be available as a 5-CD set and as a digital download. If you pre-order the digital download, you receive one preview track a week beginning on September 21 with "Long Walk to D.C." by The Staple Singers. That is followed by "Used to Be Love" by Lindell Hill on September 28, "Send Peace and Harmony Home" by Shirley Walton on October 5th and "Going Back to Memphis" by Billy Lee Riley on October 12.
If you would like to explore this dramatic year in Stax's history, we've got the preorder links and tracklisting below for the box set due on October 19th.
Various Artists, Stax '68: A Memphis Story (Craft Recordings, 2018) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Otis Redding: "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"
- Otis Redding: "Sweet Lorene"
- Sam & Dave: "I Thank You"
- Sam & Dave: "Wrap It Up"
- The Memphis Nomads: "Don't Pass Your Judgement"
- The Memphis Nomads: "I Wanna Be (Your Lover & Your Honey)"
- Shirley Walton: "I Was Born to Love You
- Shirley Walton: "I'm so Glad You're Back"
- Otis Redding & Carla Thomas: "Lovey Dovey"
- Otis Redding & Carla Thomas: "New Year's Resolution"
- Ollie & the Nightingales: "I Got a Sure Thing"
- Ollie & the Nightingales: "Girl, You Have My Heart Singing"
- Eddie Floyd: "Big Bird"
- Eddie Floyd: "Holding on with Both Hands"
- Bar-Kays: "A Hard Day's Night"
- Bar-Kays: "I Want Someone"
- Johnnie Taylor: "Next Time"
- Johnnie Taylor: "Sundown"
- William Bell: "Every Man Oughta Have a Woman"
- William Bell: "Tribute to a King"
- Mable John: "Able Mable"
- Mable John: "Don't Get Caught"
- Rufus Thomas: "The Memphis Train"
- Rufus Thomas: "I Think I Made a Boo Boo"
- Jeanne & the Darlings: "What Will Later on Be Like"
- Jeanne & the Darlings: "Hang Me Now"
- Derek Martin: "Soul Power"
- Derek Martin: "Sly Girl"
- Linda Lyndell: "Bring Your Love Back to Me"
- Linda Lyndell: "Here I Am"
- Carla Thomas: "A Dime a Dozen"
- Carla Thomas: "I Want You Back"
- Kangaroo's: "Groovy Day"
- Kangaroo's: "Every Man Needs a Woman"
- Isaac Hayes: "Precious Precious"
- Isaac Hayes: "Going to Chicago Blues"
- The Mad Lads: "Whatever Hurts You"
- The Mad Lads: "No Time Is Better Than Now"
- Otis Redding: "The Happy Song (Dum-Dum)"
- Otis Redding: "Open the Door"
- Albert King: "(I Love) Lucy"
- Albert King: "You're Gonna Need Me"
- Johnnie Taylor: "I Ain't Particular"
- Johnnie Taylor: "Where There's Smoke There's Fire"
- Eddie Henderson Quintet: "Georgy Girl"
- Eddie Henderson Quintet: "A Million or More Times"
- Shirley Walton: "Send Peace and Harmony Home"
- Shirley Walton: "The One You Can't Have All by Yourself"
- Booker T. & The MG's: "Soul Limbo"
- Booker T. & The MG's: "Heads or Tails"
- Eddie Floyd: "I Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)
- Eddie Floyd: "I'm Just the Kind of Fool"
- Delaney & Bonnie: "It's Been a Long Time Coming"
- Delaney & Bonnie: "We Just Been Feeling Bad"
- Linda Lyndell: "What a Man"
- Linda Lyndell: "I Don't Know"
- Harvey Scales & The Seven Sounds: "Broadway Freeze"
- Harvey Scales & The Seven Sounds: "I Can't Cry No More"
- Johnny Daye: "Stay Baby Stay"
- Johnny Daye: "I Love Love"
- Bobby Whitlock: "Raspberry Rug"
- Bobby Whitlock: "And I Love You"
- Judy Clay and William Bell: "Private Number"
- Judy Clay and William Bell: "Love-Eye-Tis"
- Jimmy Hughes: "I Like Everything About You"
- Jimmy Hughes: "What Side of the Door"
- The Delrays: "Lollipop Lady"
- The Delrays: "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me"
- Lindell Hill: "Remone"
- Lindell Hill: "Used to Be Love"
- The Aardvarks: "Subconscious Train Of Thought"
- The Aardvarks: "Unicorn Man"
- Fresh Air: "Somebody Stole My Gal"
- Fresh Air: "Somebody Stole My Gal" [Instrumental]
- Judy Clay: "Bed of Roses"
- Judy Clay: "Remove These Clouds
- The Staple Singers: "Long Walk to D.C."
- Staple Singers: "Stay With Us"
- The Soul Children: "Give 'Em Love"
- The Soul Children: "Move Over"
- Johnnie Taylor: "Who's Making Love"
- Johnnie Taylor: "I'm Trying"
- Rufus Thomas: "Funky Mississippi"
- Rufus Thomas: "So Hard to Get Along With"
- Carla Thomas: "Where Do I Go"
- Carla Thomas: "I've Fallen in Love "
- The Mad Lads: "So Nice"
- The Mad Lads: "Make Room"
- Charmells: "Lovin' Feeling"
- Charmells: "Sea Shell"
- Jeanne & the Darlings: "It's Unbelievable (How You Control My Soul)"
- Jeanne & the Darlings: "I Like What You're Doing to Me"
- Southwest F. O. B.: "Smell of Incense"
- Southwest F. O. B.: "Green Skies"
- The Village Sound: "Sally's Got a Good Thing"
- The Village Sound: "The La La Song"
- Eddie Floyd: "Bring It on Home to Me"
- Eddie Floyd: "Sweet Things You Do"
- Booker T. & The MG's: "Hang 'Em High"
- Booker T. & The MG's: "Over Easy"
- Ollie & the Nightingales: "You're Leaving Me"
- Ollie & the Nightingales: "Showered with Love"
- The Pop Corn Generation: "Kitchy Kitchy Koo"
- The Pop Corn Generation: "Shake It"
- Bar-Kays: "Copy Kat"
- Bar-Kays: "In the Hole"
- Dino & Doc: "Mighty Cold Winter"
- Dino & Doc: "A Woman Can't Do (What a Man Do)"
- William Bell: "I Forgot to Be Your Lover"
- William Bell: "Bring the Curtain Down"
- The Goodees: "Condition Red"
- The Goodees: "Didn't Know Love Was so Good"
- Mable John: "Running Out"
- Mable John: "Shouldn't I Love Him"
- Billy Lee Riley: "Family Portrait"
- Billy Lee Riley: "Going Back to Memphis"
- Judy Clay and William Bell: "My Baby Specializes"
- Judy Clay and William Bell: "Left Over Love"
- The Soul Children: "I'll Understand"
- The Soul Children: "Doing Our Thang"
- The Staple Singers: "The Ghetto"
- The Staple Singers: "Got to Be Some Changes Made"
- Albert King: "Blues Power"
- Albert King: "Night Stomp"
- The Epsilons: "The Echo"
- The Epsilons: "Really Rockin"
- Rufus Thomas: "Funky Way"
- Rufus Thomas: "I Want to Hold You"
- The Generation: "The Children Have Your Tongue"
- The Generation: "Give Her What She Wants"
- Daaron Lee: "Who's Making Love"
- Daaron Lee: "Long Black Train"
- Johnnie Taylor: "Take Care of Your Homework"
- Johnnie Taylor: "Hold on This Time"
Luigi Facotti says
Happy happy joy joy. So Concord's Craft division is now going to gradually replace the 3 Stax/Volt Singles Boxes with a year by year account of Stax's A and B sides? No doubt the remastering will provide better sound but like the 4th boxed set and the truly awful "Stax Country" CD it all reeks of scraping the barrel to make money.
William Keats says
Any guesses on how many of these tracks are new to CD?
And I would guess that a large percentage of these B sides were never on an LP, especially the minor artists. A quick look at the Stax Singles box 2 (which contains many of the '68 releases) seems to confirm this. I suspect hidden gems await.
A year by year set would be a fantastic complement to the Complete Motown sets. Fingers crossed.
Robert Lett says
I pre ordered the bundle with the box and the poster, that poster is really nice! I wonder if this will be a year by year thing that will continue like the Complete Motown Singles, that would be so great. Mavis Staples is playing here the week before it's released ugh I'd love to get her to sign that sucker. (She and Yvonne signed one of the Stax boxes for me a few years ago, they were so friggin nice.)