New Releases

The Funkiest Family


In 1972, The Staple Singers released perhaps their most definitive record, Be Altitude: Respect Yourself, a diverse reflection of their sound which traces the Staples family's gospel roots but more boldly draws on the group's acute identification with the soulful sounds of Stax Records, which became its home between 1968 and 1975. The collection was recently reissued as part of the Stax Remasters series.

The album features The Staple Singers' first number-one hit, "I'll Take You There" (recorded at the label's world-famous Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama and backed by the Memphis Horns), a funky chant bubbling over with groovy optimism which eventually topped both the pop and R&B charts. Meanwhile, the Luther Ingram and Mack Rice-penned "Respect Yourself," which had enough crossover appeal to reach number 2 on the R&B charts and number 12 on the pop charts, is a Stax classic but also clearly resonates as a testament to the civil rights struggle and social upheaval of the '60s and early-'70s.

The Staple Singers showed a distinctive talent for pairing the spiritual and the secular. Opening track "This World" captures the band's still-powerful gospel vocalizing, packing the harmonies into a funky jam, while "Who Do You Think You Are (Jesus Christ The Superstar)?" has enough heavenly singing and downbeat pulse to keep listeners waving their arms from the pews and from the dance floor.

This Stax reissue also contains two previously unreleased numbers: "Walking In Water Over Our Head" and "Heavy Makes You Happy (Alternate)," the former an upbeat church-house rocker and the latter a playful version of the band's first hit on Stax, which round out what is essentially an inspirational album no matter what god you pray (or dance) to.