Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Music Review: We'll Never Turn Back by Mavis Staples
There was a time in my life (long before marriage and children) when I bought LPs every week. I was working in the Stock Room of a new company, Intel, which was making something called an Integrated Circuit. I used to stop by the Record Factory every Friday on my way in to work and would first purchase stuff I wanted, and then perhaps several copies of something I thought would catch on with my co-workers. Then I would sell them from out of the stock room. When I was in A Cruel Hoax, I quit listening to the radio or buying any music (outside of Tom Waits) as I was writing songs for the band and I was trying to keep from being influenced by whatever fad was current. Nowadays, the only way we get new music is if either the Lovely Mona or I stop by Rasputin's in Berkeley during a visit to los estados unidos and pick stuff up; that's how we've kept up with the White Stripes and Killers and the Strokes and stuff.
However, last week I broke down and down-loaded two albumns from iTunes: Stax Profiles: The Staples Singers and We'll Never Turn Back by Mavis Staples. You all know that Stax Profiles: The Staples Singers is great: it's got all the classics; "I'll Take You There;'" "Respect Yourself;" "Heavy Makes You Happy:" nuttin' but the hits! But this albumn by Mavis Staples is really something. It is a collection of Freedom Songs, some that you know, like "Eyes On The Prize;" "We Shall Not Be Moved;" and a very interesting version of "This Little Light Of Mine" a song you all remember from Sunday School. All the songs are moving, and the instrumentation is really incredible, with Ry Cooder, Mike Elizondo, Jim Keltner, Joachim Cooder (son of Ry and member of the Buena Vista Social Club), with Ladysmith Balck Mombazo on several tracks. But it's Mavis Staples and her voice that make the recording. She pours her soul into each line, and it's always wonderful to hear that little laugh at the end of a phrase; that always made the Staples Singer recordings and nothing has changed as far as that is concerned! She has continued in the Freedom Song vein, but now they reflect the perspective of some forty years of experience, knowledge, and contemplation. But the song which really touched me is the penultimate track: I'll Be Rested. This song has a wonderful litany of those we will see again when the Roll is Called, a litany which will bring tears to the eyes of all who care about Civil Rights for all people. Padre says, "Check this album out!"
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