The Staple Singers
Faith & Grace: A Family Journey 1953-1976
Not for gospel buffs only, the Staple Singers could make even a confirmed heathen feel blessed by the Holy Spirit. Featuring Roebuck “Pops” Staples and his children Mavis, Cleotha, and alternatively Pervis or Yvonne, the quartet evolved from local Chicago favorites to worldwide soul superstars over the course of a two-decade-plus run. Their sound drew its breathtaking beauty from the shimmering tremolo- and reverb-drenched guitar of Pops—a style his peers dubbed “nervous”—and the exuberant high harmonies of the four, with Mavis’ powerhouse voice adding a thrilling jolt to the mix.
The earliest recordings on this fabulous four-disc set capture the Staples Singers at their most visceral. The live 16-minute medley “Too Close/I’m on My Way Home/I’m Coming Home/He’s Alright” is downright hair-raising in its primal intensity. Curiously, the group’s interaction with the like-minded folk movement of the early ’60s resulted in some of their milder efforts in the form of a handful of Bob Dylan covers, although the lull was only temporary. Joining Stax Records in the late-’60s, they scored a series of secular-but-uplifting hits with foot-stomping songs like “Respect Yourself,” “I’ll Take You There,” and “If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me).”
Pops passed away in 2000, but Mavis is still going strong today. In any case, Faith & Grace testifies to their illustrious achievements.