The Staple Singers

The Gospel According to the Staple Singers

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This collection of Staple Singers material far precedes their hit period in the late '60s through the early '70s, focusing instead on a number of studio and live recordings from as far back as the late '50s, such as "Uncloudy Day" and "Let Me Ride," when the band was merely a quartet with Pops playing his snaky, reverb-heavy guitar and a trio of vocalists behind him, including David Staples (who left the group shortly thereafter) on the aforementioned cuts. The rest is early live material with the quartet accompanied either solo by Pops or by an unknown bassist and drummer (after all, this is on Dressed to Kill). Given the label, it's a shock that most of this material sounds as good as it does, since an assortment of these tracks were audience rather than soundboard recordings. There is some classic material here, including a steaming live read of Pops' "Pray On" (with a stunning performance by Mavis Staples), "I'm Coming Home," and "So Soon." Remember to put in context that most of these cuts were recorded during the heat of the civil rights movement and carry within them -- despite their gospel origins -- the feel of that struggle. For the money, this is an excellent sampling of the early Staples work: raw, haunting, profound.

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