Various Artists

Soulsville Sings Hitsville: Stax Sings Songs of Motown Records

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This delightful and often revelatory collection features Southern soul makeovers of Motown hits by the musicians and producers at Stax Records, a sort of Memphis meets Detroit knock down that pretty much reveals that soul is soul wherever it's found, whether north or south. Here the elegant pop veneer of several Motown hits are given a layer of grit, grease and gospel fire, and while these renditions don't replace the classic originals, they certainly augment them, revealing new grooves and pockets. Among the highlights are the Staple Singers' 1971 version of the Temptations' "You've Got to Earn It" which morphs the song into revival meeting territory, a blistering "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" by the Mar-Keys, also from 1971, a sparse and striking (and brief) take on "I Hear a Symphony" by Booker T. & the MG's, a country soul make over of "I Wish It Would Rain" by O.B. McClinton, and an epic, 12-minute horn-driven instrumental (and previously unreleased) rave-up of the ominous riff and rhythm of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by the Bar-Kays from 1973. The end result of all this is the sound of Motown plunged into deep soul territory, and it underscores the solid, brilliant songwriting that Motown Records stood for in its prime, because nothing here suffers one bit for the restructuring. Oh, and it makes for one hell of a party record.

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