Mavis Staples

Live in London

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Not counting I'll Take You There: An All-Star Concert Celebration, Live in London is Mavis Staples' first live album since 2008's Live: Hope at the Hideout. Since that Chicago date, Staples has made four remarkable studio LPs -- three with Jeff Tweedy, one with M. Ward -- that sensibly form the basis of this, drawn from a two-night stand at Islington's Union Chapel. Her cracking band features many of the players heard on the Chicago recording, and they still bear some likeness to either the spectral or approaching chooglin' modes of Creedence Clearwater Revival. The set list similarly stretches back decades to classic Staple Singers, yet there isn't any overlap in material -- so there's no "I'll Take You There," for instance, but there's an equally authoritative version of "Can You Get to That," an early Funkadelic pearl covered acoustically on One True Vine. Staples celebrated her 79th birthday on one of these two evenings, adding even more joy and gratitude to Benjamin Booker's "Take Us Back" and Curtis Mayfield's "Let's Do It Again" while deepening the resilience and inspiration in Tweedy and Staples' post-November 2016 freedom song "No Time for Cryin'" and Talking Heads' "Slippery People." (Veteran singer Donny Gerard is particularly great in Pops Staples' role on the latter.) Staples sounds more energized and in control here than on the 2008 set. When she beams, "It just ain't no stoppin' me, is it?" there's no evident objection from the appreciative audience.

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