17 October 2018 (released)
25 November 2018
One label, one year and 134 R&B singles releases.
Looking at the list of artists that were part of the Stax family in that tumultuous year you see names such as Booker T, Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Albert King, even Delaney & Bonnie as well as a whole load of not so obvious ones.
As a collection of all the artists, it isn’t complete – so many of the biggest hits were not released in ’68 – but from Albert King’s ‘Blues Power to William Bell’s ‘Bring The Curtain Down’ I cannot remember a greater collection of classic R&B.
There are artists I have never heard before – Memphis Nomads were never released in Europe although they were a massive influence on British bands like Amen Corner – and others who are represented by tracks that are unfamiliar – Booker T & The MGs ‘Heads Or Tails’ for example – but there is a feeling that flows all through. Stax surely was a family for its many artists.
The styles and forms span everything from pure electric Blues through heavy Funk, string laden sweet soul and Gospel and I was struck by just how deeply embedded into the music are some of the finest bass lines I’ve heard collected.
Some of this music just brings you up out and dancing around the room – Harvey Scales & The Seven Sounds is irresistible – while other tracks are just so sugar sweet it is difficult to avoid finding a partner to slow dance with – just listen to Jimmy Hughes ‘I Like Everything You Do’.
The recording quality all through the collection is superb and unlike Motown – their biggest R&B competitors – the musicianship shines through rather than just featuring the vocals.
1968 was a seminal year in the history of the US what with the Civil Rights marches, changes in law against discrimination and the greatest mobilisation of youth for causes across the US. This represents the soundtrack to that year. It is also a great selection for a night of soul & R&B with just enough unfamiliar material to really boost your creds at a party.