Stax Records (now a division of Concord Music Group) will release Stax Does The Beatles and Stax Sings The Songs of Motown® Records on February 26. Stax, of course, was best known for creating its own songs - classics like "(Sittin' On The) Dock of the Bay," "Knock On Wood" and "Respect Yourself." But in the hands of a Stax artist, a Beatles or Motown song found a new Southern groove, often redefining what would seem improbable to improve upon.
"I was moved by the Beatles," explained Booker T. Jones of Booker T & the MGs, quoted in Rob Bowman's Soulsville USA. "I thought they were doing really great things. Their records didn't sound alike ever." And thus Booker T & the MGs recorded the Beatles covers album titled McLemore Avenue, containing such songs as "Eleanor Rigby," "Michelle" and "Lady Madonna," all included on Stax Does The Beatles. MGs guitarist Steve Cropper called The Beatles "a cool group of superhumans. Hats off to the Beatles and thanks for the music."
But Booker T & the MGs were by no means the only artists to turn to the Beatles as a song source. Isaac Hayes turned in a 12-minute version of "Something," included here, on his 1970 album The Isaac Hayes Movement. Carla Thomas chose Paul McCartney's "Yesterday" as part of her Live at the Bohemian Caverns sessions in Washington, DC. She had met McCartney in 1967 at London's Speakeasy Club. Otis Redding's version of "Day Tripper" became an immediate classic - the Fab Four's riff lending itself famously to Stax's horn section. Other prime Stax Beatles covers, contained here, emanated from David Porter, the Mar-Keys, Reggie Milner and John Gary Williams.
Album annotator Richie Unterberger writes, "While Stax was destined to be primarily remembered for the wealth of original soul classics it generated, Stax Does The Beatles reminds us that its artists were also able interpreters of music first performed outside the Southern soul genre."