Stax Does the Beatles

Various Artists

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Stax Does the Beatles Review

by Steve Leggett

The influence of the Beatles is and has been pervasive, but in the latter half of the 1960s their music was everywhere, unavoidable even if one wanted to dodge it, and few wanted to do that anyway. Beatles songs were so well constructed, so full of brilliant melody lines and dynamic rhythms, and so adaptable that other artists constantly covered them, including the folks at Stax Records in Memphis, home of deep Southern soul. This 15-track set collects some of those Stax versions, and while nothing here really makes one forget the originals by the Beatles, it makes for a fun and at times revelatory listening experience. Among the highlights are a previously unreleased studio take of "Day Tripper" by the late, great Otis Redding, whose driving, drastic reconfiguration of the song turns it into a gritty, greasy soul sermon on the merits of love, a trick Isaac Hayes also pulls off with his epic, nearly 12-minute rendition of George Harrison's "Something." Also worth noting are Booker T. & the MG's pulsing instrumental version of "Lady Madonna" and the Bar-Kays' sweet, chiming, and nearly wordless take on "Hey Jude." It's all a lot of fun, and for those who doubt that the Beatles had soul, the proof that they did is here. Nobody made soul music better than the musicians at Stax Records, so they ought to know. Case closed.

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