Today, more than 25 years after their final performance together, The Staples Singers are synonymous with gospel and soul music of the highest order. Roebuck "Pops" Staples, daughters Cleotha, Mavis, and (sometimes) Yvonne, and son Pervis raised their voices in song to celebrate the Lord, but also to crusade for civil rights and share musical messages of power and positivity around the world. In the 1960s, the group transitioned from pure gospel and blues to soul and R&B, setting the stage for their commercial breakthrough at Stax Records. Following their tenure at the Memphis label, they recorded for the Curtom and Warner Bros. labels, the latter as The Staples. Now, that curiously overlooked period of the group's history is being reevaluated with a quartet of new reissues from Omnivore Recordings due on June 26.
The Staples Singers' first post-Stax project was the soundtrack to director-star Sidney Poitier's 1975 film Let's Do It Again, co-starring Bill Cosby, Jimmie Walker, Ossie Davis, and John Amos. Poitier tapped Curtis Mayfield to pen the score which the Staples would perform. The pairing of Mayfield with the Staples paid off when the title track went to No. 1 on both the Billboard Pop and R&B charts. The original Curtom soundtrack album has been expanded for Omnivore's reissue with single edits of "Let's Do It Again," "After Sex," and "New Orleans."
The campaign continues with the group's three subsequent Warner Bros. albums as, simply, The Staples. 1976's Pass It On continued the group's association with Curtis Mayfield who wrote and produced all nine tracks. The album was recorded at Curtom Studios in Chicago with Mayfield on lead guitar fronting a band also including Rich Tufo on keyboards, Phil Upchurch and Gary Thompson on guitar, Master Henry Gibson on percussion, and Quinton Joseph and Donnelle Hagen on drums. Pass It On ascended to a top 20 slot on the R&B Albums chart. Single edits of "Love Me, Love Me, Love Me" and "Sweeter Than the Sweet" have been appended.
While The Staples parted ways with Mayfield after Pass It On, they remained in their hometown of Chicago for 1977's Family Tree. Eugene Record of The Chi-Lites produced the LP and contributed three songs. Aretha's sister (and a talented artist in her own right) Carolyn Franklin also penned a trio of key cuts, and the group even reimagined Peter Allen and Jeff Barry's mellow hit for Olivia Newton-John, "I Honestly Love You" into a lengthy, slow-burning epic. Record and co-writer Barbara Acklin's "See a Little Further (Than My Bed)" and a cut-down "I Honestly Love You" were released on 45 and became minor chart entries. Omnivore's expanded edition adds the single edits of "I Honestly Love You" and Carolyn Franklin's "Let's Go to the Disco" (the B-side of "See a Little Further (Than My Bed)").
The Staples decamped to Muscle Shoals, Alabama for their third and final WB album, 1978's Unlock Your Mind. Atlantic Records legend Jerry Wexler co-produced with Muscle Shoals keyboardist Barry Beckett, and the album featured such studio greats as Eddie Hinton (who had played on many of the group's biggest Stax hits) and Jimmy Johnson on guitar, Roger Hawkins on drums, and David Hood on bass. Harrison Calloway arranged the Muscle Shoals Horns. Among the original material, the album boasted covers of Sun classic "Mystery Train" and, of a more recent vintage, Electric Light Orchestra's "Showdown." The first single off the album, title track "Unlock Your Mind," gave the Staples their highest chart entry since "Let's Do It Again" when it reached No. 16 R&B. The follow-up, "Chica Boom," didn't fare as well. The edit of "Chica Boom" has been included as this set's bonus track.
The Staples soon returned to their original billing as The Staples Singers and recorded for labels including 20th Century Fox and CBS' Private I Records; on her own, Mavis Staples notably collaborated with Prince on a pair of albums for his Paisley Park label. She continues to record and collaborate with younger artists today. All four titles in this series, though previously available on CD, have never been properly remastered and annotated. Omnivore has tapped a pair of Grammy winners for those duties: Michael Graves handles the mastering, while new liner notes have been provided by Stax and Staples Singers historian Rob Bowman.
Omnivore's Staples Singers reissues will be released on June 26 and are available now for pre-order through the label (with Amazon links to come). You'll find the full track listings and pre-order links below!
Let's Do It Again: Original Soundtrack - Expanded Edition (Omnivore OV-378, 2020) (Omnivore / Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Let's Do It Again
- Funky Love
- A Whole Lot of Love
- New Orleans
- I Want To Thank You
- Big Mac
- After Sex
- Let's Do It Again (Single Edit)
- After Sex (Single Edit)
- New Orleans (Single Edit)
Tracks 1-8 released as Curtom CU 5005, 1975
Tracks 9-10 released as Curtom single CMS 0109, 1975
Track 11 released on Curtom single CMS 0113, 1975
Pass It On: Expanded Edition (Omnivore OV-379, 2020) (Omnivore / Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- The Real Thing Inside Of Me/Party
- Take Your Own Time
- Sweeter Than The Sweet
- Love Me, Love Me, Love Me
- Pass It On
- Making Love
- Take This Love Of Mine
- Precious, Precious
- Sweeter Than The Sweet (Single Edit)
- Love Me, Love Me, Love Me (Single Edit)
Tracks 1-8 released as Warner Bros. Records BS 2945, 1976
Track 9 released on Warner Bros. Records single WBS 8317, 1976
Track 10 released on Warner Bros. Records single WBS 8279, 1976
Family Tree: Expanded Edition (Omnivore OV-380, 2020) (Omnivore / Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Family Tree
- What You Doing Tonight
- See a Little Further (Than My Bed)
- I Honestly Love You
- Hang Loose
- Let's Go To The Disco
- Color Me Higher
- Boogie For The Blues
- I Honestly Love You (Single Edit)
- Let's Go To The Disco (Single Edit)
Tracks 1-8 released as Warner Bros. Records BS 3064, 1977
Track 9 released on Warner Bros. Records single WBS 8510, 1977
Track 10 released on Warner Bros. Records single WBS 8460, 1977
Unlock Your Mind: Expanded Edition (Omnivore OV-381, 2020) (Omnivore / Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Chica Boom
- Don't Burn Me
- (Shu-Doo-Pa-Poo-Poop) Love Being Your Fool
- Unlock Your Mind
- Handwriting On The Wall
- Mystery Train
- Leave It All Up To You
- I Want You To Dance
- God Can
- Chica Boom (Single Edit)
Tracks 1-10 released as Warner Bros. Records BSK 3192, 1978
Track 11 released on Warner Bros. Records single WBS 8748, 1978
For those of us who missed out on the previous CD releases, it is great that Omnivore is reissuing these fine albums from the family Staples. I will be purchasing all of them. I also love the fact that those rapacious secondary market sellers on Amazon will soon have their listings for these titles devalued. One seller has the Pass It On CD listed at $900! Ridiculous.
Robert Lett says
Getting all of these, anything Staples related I’m in. By the way the fabulous “Faith and Grace” box set is still available on Mavis website autographed by Mavis for pretty much the same price (50 dollars) you’d pay anywhere else without the signature. Every key Veejay and Stax track plus more, it’s fantastic.
Larry Davis says
Bought my Mavis signed copy of the boxset on the recent Cayamo cruise (as well as her 2 most recent solo albums) as she was on the ship...as was Jeff Tweedy, never got to meet either...but Mavis was great...
Robert Lett says
I caught Mavis and Yvonne on the way into a show in Charleston South Carolina back in 2012 and got em to sign one of the Stax Volt box sets and got pics with them. I didn’t know Yvonne toured with Mavis still and I said “Oh Yvonne are you singing tonight too?!” and Mavis laughed and said “ SHE BETTER SING IF SHE WANTS TO GET PAID!! They were great, chatted a little bit. Wanted to know where to get the best local shrimp and grits. Mavis said I reminded her of Levon Helm. Huge thrill to meet them that I will always cherish.
that is a great story!
Robert Lett says
It was a wonderful moment. RIP Yvonne.