Monday, January 18, 2016


It's not a coincidence that very few musical blockbusters are ever released around the holiday season (2014's Black Messiah by D'Angelo is one of the exceptions that proves the rule). It makes sense. Everyone is on a plane home and/or spiking the eggnog, and even greedy record executives take a break from trying to convince you how good the latest vanilla pop-tart tastes.

But that doesn't mean we should sleep on their holiday release schedules. Case in point: Epic/Legacy has quietly made some crucial, long out-of-print albums by The Staples Singers available as digital downloads via your favorite online stores. And while the very mention of The Staples Singers is likely (and rightly) to conjure the immediate recollection of major hits like "I'll Take You There", the less-fussy early material here is not only beautiful, but a necessary precursor to a legendary story.

Several albums are available, my favorite being 1965's Amen!
No magic production here, just Pops Staples' belief in his family's gift, unwavering faith in a higher power, and the earthy sounds that would catch the ears and the imaginations of contemporaries like Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead. There's an authenticity captured in standards like "Samson And Delilah" and " Nobody's Fault But Mine" that is equal parts eerie and uplifting; seeing the evil but never fearing it.

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