Various Artists

Stax Breaks

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There are two ways to approach this collection of relatively obscure tracks released by Stax Records between the mid-'60s to the mid-'70s. One is as a document of some sources for samples in records of subsequent generations: parts of these 19 songs have been sampled by numerous artists, including De La Soul, the Wu-Tang Clan, the Chemical Brothers, Brand Nubian, Public Enemy, Grandmaster Flash, and others. Another is just as a collection of off-the-beaten-path Stax tracks with a good groove, whether you like hip-hop or not, or even if you don't know what a sample is. Because the cuts were chosen on the basis of being sampled by other artists, they're naturally heavy on distinctive funky beats, and particularly on distinctive assertive drum patterns. And while none of these numbers is extremely familiar to the general public, there are a lot of popular Stax artists represented -- the Mar-Keys, the Emotions, the Mad Lads, William Bell, the Dramatics, Albert King, Booker T. & the MG's, Rufus Thomas, the Bar-Kays -- as well as more obscure ones. Whatever angle you bring to listening to the disc, it's a good though not great grouping of decent and varied vintage Stax soul. Cuts of special note include William Bell's "I Forgot to Be Your Lover," later covered by Billy Idol (and still later a hit as a remake by Jaheim); the Dramatics' "The Devil Is Dope," which is heavily influenced by the socially conscious early-'70s soul-funk of Marvin Gaye and the Temptations; Booker T. & the MG's' "Sing a Simple Song," which as instrumental soul isn't that much less effective than their well-remembered hits; Steve Cropper's sharp, jazzy 1969 instrumental "Crop Dustin'"; Jim Ingram's "Drumbeat," a spoken word slab of black consciousness funk; 24-Carat Black's "24-Carat Black (Theme)," subdued but tense instrumental jazz-funk; the Charmels' fine 1967 rendition of a classy Isaac Hayes-David Porter song, "As Long as I've Got You"; and Wendy Rene's sad girl-group-style "After Laughter (Comes Tears)," which with a 1964 release date is the earliest recording on the set. Dean Rudland's liner notes give track-by-track rundowns of both the individual cuts' histories and where they've been most prominently sampled.

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