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Stax Classics (Rhino)

Jul. 11, 2017
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In the 1960s the Stax R&B label was often described as closer to the roots than its Motown rival, yet listen to “Green Onions” by Booker T. & The MGs. It’s the sound of the inner city on a hot summer night—funky, organ powered, solid as the toughest rock band. “Green Onions” is the lead track on the latest compilation from Booker T., whose MGs, Stax’s house band, were heard on many tracks from a new series of CD and LP reissues.

In a reversal of the usual American order of the day, Stax’s stars were African American but behind them stood integrated ensembles such as The MGs. The music pushed from the roots to define the soul sound of the ’60s. The “Stax Classics” series offers a cross-section of hits by leading artists including the quietly seductive yet sometimes sassy Carla Thomas; the magisterial Otis Redding, capable of profound tenderness as well as forceful assertion; and the mighty, joyful singing duo Sam & Dave.

“Stax Classics” is a good way of assembling a well-curated collection of soul music essentials.

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