Sunday, March 6, 2011

Stax Records - Memphis, TN

A Continuous Lean posted about a video of the 1967 Stax/Volt Revue in Norway - part of their '66-'67 European tour. No doubt, it's one of my all-time favorite live video recordings of any set of musicians, so I thought I'd give a quick blurb.

Booker T & the MG's open, with the Mar-Keys joining them for their own set. From there, this is the Stax Records house band, who backed just about everyone in those days in the studio. Stunning performances by Arthur Conley and Eddie Floyd just about get the all-white Norwegian hipsters moving, but there are Norwegian police there keeping everyone in check throughout the concert - keeping many in the front seated.

This all changes when the final two acts come out. First, the wildly entertaining Sam & Dave. If anyone wants to know where from John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd got the inspiration for their Blues Brothers characters, just watch Sam & Dave shake and scream and shout through their riveting set. They even entertain the other musicians, such as Donald "Duck" Dunn and Steve Cropper (both were also in the Blues Brothers Band). Then comes Otis Redding, and the energy explodes from the stage - matched by the crowd rushing the stage, finally breaking the lines of the policemen. It's sheer joy, and Otis Redding in his prime. It brings chills every time I see it. One of the best performances by anyone, ever.

These guys were uncertain young musicians at the time, and though they did ok back home in the States they were not sure how they would be welcomed when they traveled Europe. They were welcomed with open, loving arms, and when the Stax musicians returned home, many of their careers took off. The Monterey Pop Festival helped the effort ten-fold. Some might like Motown soul, but my heart lies more with the raw feeling I get hearing the old Stax soul.

A supplemental video that should be seen is "Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story", which does a sufficient job at giving a history and context to the artists and music that came out of Memphis. Another one would be "Tom Dowd and the Language of Music", which documents the life of engineer/producer/musician, Tom Dowd. He's interwoven in the story of Stax, and more so Atlantic Records, who owned Stax 1961-67.

Amazing stories branching out all over the place between these three videos - all worth watching immediately.

By the way, if you ever see Stax or Volt Records while at a tag sale, flea market, or junk shop, pick them up. They're not only worth dusting off your old record player for listening, but they are also collectible to many soul/r&b fans.

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