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Stax: The Soul of Hip-Hop

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4/28/2009

Review

One of the coolest little labels in the whole history of music, Memphis' Stax Records turned out gritty, greasy soul and blues sides from the late 1950s through the '70s, and the various configurations of the Stax house band through the years always understood that the groove was everything, so it's no surprise that these rhythms and songs have been frequently sampled by the 21st century hip-hop world. It's a kind of a folk process, really, a kind of reaching back to go forward where everything old is new again, and if grooves should be kept alive -- and they should -- then the Stax grooves are going to be immortal because they're that funky and wonderful. This little set from Rounder Records collects some of the songs that hip-hop has also preserved, if you will, as samples in contemporary recording projects. It is, of course, just an excuse to re-release some vintage Stax tracks, but one can't really complain about that, especially when the ones here are on the deliciously obscure side. Among the highlights are the delightful and poppy "Blind Alleys" by the Chicago-based all-female trio called the Emotions, and Rufus Thomas doing what Rufus Thomas always did (but so well!) on the you-gotta-like-it-how-can-you-not "Do the Funky Penguin," but the absolute stunner here is Little Milton's gloriously paranoid and more than slightly creepy "Packed Up and Took My Mind." It's a wonderful recording, and if Ghostface lifting samples of the vocal all these years later draws anyone's attention to the original, then that's music doing what music has always done, building on the sound of what went before, leading and following both at once. OK, forget sampling. This is a fun set of great -- but not usually heard -- Stax tracks. That's it right there. You'll groove. It's Stax. ~ Steve Leggett
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  1. # Track Artist Length
  2. 1 Ghetto: Misfortune's Wealth 24-Carat Black 3:39
  3. 2 Blind Alley The Emotions 3:2
  4. 3 Melting Pot Booker T. & the MG's 3:49
  5. 4 Humpin' Bar-Kays 2:42
  6. 5 Get Up and Get Down The Dramatics 3:10
  7. 6 Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic Isaac Hayes 9:35
  8. 7 Hung Up on My Baby Isaac Hayes 6:15
  9. 8 I'm Afraid the Masquerade Is Over David Porter 4:42
  10. 9 After the Laughter (Comes Tears) Wendy Rene 2:52
  11. 10 As Long as I've Got You The Charmels 2:37
  12. 11 Why Marry? The Sweet Inspirations 6:26
  13. 12 Do the Funky Penguin (Pt. 1) Rufus Thomas 3:4
  14. 13 Packed Up and Took My Mind Little Milton 4:37
  15. 14 I Forgot to Be Your Lover William Bell 2:39

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