The Staple Singers

The Best of the Vee-Jay Years

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Since the Staple Singers are best known for their hits as a secular soul act on Stax in the late '60s and the 1970s, general fans should be advised that The Best of the Vee-Jay Years includes only gospel material, released for Vee-Jay (in 1956-1961) long before they moved to Stax. If you're aware of this and are simply looking for a good single-disc overview of their early years on disc, however, this fills that bill well. Their two most well-known songs from this period, "Uncloudy Day" and "This May Be the Last Time" (speculated as a possible source for the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time"), open and close the 17-track CD, respectively. Between those cuts are both Pops Staples originals and covers of traditional tunes like "Swing Down Chariot" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." It's been said before, but it can be said here again: these are among the most accessible gospel recordings for rock-oriented listeners, owing to Pops Staples' distinctive tremolo-heavy electric guitar, the frequent use of light rhythmic drums, and the obvious connections to the soul music the Staples would make in their later incarnation. It's not necessarily going to be to the taste of every Staple Singers fan who loves them for their soul recordings, but it's first-rate, well-harmonized gospel with obvious links to the R&B and soul idioms.

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