Craft Recordings Continues Soul Explosion Celebration with Five Stax Reissues
This fall, Craft Recordings will reissue five albums from the Stax vault on 180-gram vinyl. In stores November 1st, the titles include The Bar-Kays’ Gotta Groove, Melting Pot from Booker T. & The M.G.’s, Delaney & Bonnie’s Home, David Porter’s Victim of the Joke?...An Opera, and Johnnie Taylor’s Who’s Making Love. All LPs have been cut from their original analog tapes by Jeff Powell at Take Out Vinyl and manufactured at Memphis Record Pressing. These reissues are part of a yearlong celebration of Stax, and of the 50th anniversary of the legendary label’s “Soul Explosion”—an era of rebuilding following its separation from Atlantic Records. During this period, the newly independent label not only signed fresh, emerging talent but also released an impressive collection of 27 albums and 30 singles in just a handful of months.
Released in 1969, The Bar-Kays’ Gotta Groove marked a triumphant return by a band reeling from tragedy. Formed in 1966, The Bar-Kays enjoyed success as session musicians at Stax, and soon became the backing group for Otis Redding. In 1967, they released an instrumental debut, Soul Finger, and scored a hit with the title track. Just months later, however, the group’s momentum was cut short, when four members of the band were killed in a plane crash, along with Redding. Channeling their heartbreak, surviving members Ben Cauley and James Alexander rebuilt The Bar-Kays with new musicians, and by 1969 they were back in the studio working with artists like Isaac Hayes. Gotta Groove was their first release with the new members and it stands as a testament to their resilience and talent. AllMusic calls Gotta Groove, “A celebration of life and music that ranks among the funkiest, hardest-driving LPs ever released under the Stax aegis.” Highlights of the album, which makes its return to vinyl after 40 years, include the psychedelic grooves of two-part song "Don't Stop Dancing (To the Music)," the jazz-tinged soul of Marvin Gaye cover, “If This World Were Mine,” and instrumental renditions of The Beatles’ “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude.”
Next up is Melting Pot from Booker T. & The M.G.’s, which marked a turning point for the influential instrumental group. Released in 1971, it was the final studio album to include the original lineup of the longtime Stax house band (Booker T. Jones on keyboards, Steve Cropper on guitar, Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass, and Al Jackson Jr. on drums). Comprised entirely of original material, Melting Pot finds the four-piece digging deep into some expansive jams. Highlights include the eight-minute-long title track, which became an underground hit and drove the album up to No. 2 on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart. The song’s tight drums, upbeat organ, and catchy guitar licks have been sampled in over 20 songs by artists like Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Big Daddy Kane, and Kenny Dope. Other highlights include the poppy “Sunny Monday,” as well as the nearly 9-minute-long “Kinda Easy Like,” which harkens back to “Green Onions.” Praised as one of the band’s best albums by Rolling Stone and AllMusic, among others, this reissue of Melting Pot will be the very first vinyl reissue of the LP since its original release.
1969’s Home is the debut LP from Delaney & Bonnie—a blue-eyed soul duo comprised of married singer-songwriters Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett. Both artists came from impressive backgrounds (Delaney played with acclaimed songwriter Leon Russell in the house band for the TV show, Shindig!, while Bonnie performed with legendary blues guitarist Albert King when she was just a teenager). Their debut album, Home, featured an impressive lineup of talent, including Russell, as well as Booker T. & The M.G.’s and members of the Memphis Horns. Produced by Donald “Duck” Dunn and Don Nix, Home offers a selection of original material from the couple, plus songs by writing duo Isaac Hayes and David Porter, and Steve Cropper. Following the release of Home, Delaney & Bonnie caught the ears of George Harrison and Eric Clapton, who they would soon collaborate with, along with a rotating cast of musicians including Gregg and Duane Allman, Rita Coolidge, and Dave Mason. This reissue marks the album’s first availability on vinyl since its original release, and includes tracks like “Hard to Say Goodbye,” “Just Plain Beautiful,” and “It’s Been a Long Time Coming,” as well as a bluesy rendition of “Piece of My Heart”—as made famous by Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company.
The 1971 concept album, Victim of the Joke?...An Opera is the third solo LP from the acclaimed producer, songwriter, and singer David Porter. This is the first time since the original release that it’s reissued on vinyl. Listed as one of the “100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time” by Rolling Stone, Porter—who has penned hits for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, James Brown, and Céline Dion—established his career at Stax, working alongside writing partner Isaac Hayes. Together, the pair wrote over 200 songs, including Sam & Dave's “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Comin'” and Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y.” Much like Hayes, the songwriter also took time to record as a solo artist, and this ambitious LP stands as a testament to his endless creative spirit. Victim of the Joke pairs original pop-infused soul music and covers (including an infectious rendition of The Beatles' "Help!") with interludes of dialogue to tell the story of a love affair. Porter’s searing rendition of the standard “(I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over” has been sampled in over 35 songs by artists like The Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan and Mary J. Blige.
Available on vinyl for the first time in over 40 years, Johnnie Taylor’s 1968 album, Who’s Making Love, rounds out the collection of reissues. When Stax became an independent entity, it lost its impressive catalog of hits (by artists like Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, and Sam & Dave) to Atlantic. Luckily, Johnnie Taylor came to the rescue, and gave the label its first big post-Atlantic hit with his provocative 1968 single, “Who’s Making Love.” The song peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and helped to bolster the label’s profile (and finances). The album Who’s Making Love was released months later, and not only featured the title track but also an irresistible collection of bluesy songs penned by Booker T. Jones, Bettye Crutcher, Steve Cropper and the inimitable team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Highlights from the passionate singer’s performance include the melancholic “Can’t Trust Your Neighbor,” the hopeful “Hold on This Time,” and single “Take Care of Your Homework.”
This fall, Stax will be releasing an original content series focusing on the label’s seminal influence on the city of Memphis and the music world at large. Shot in multiple locations around Memphis, special guests share their experiences through the lens of Stax. Each segment will feature a different Stax artist and specific vinyl reissues manufactured at the Memphis Records Pressing plant. Featured artists include The Bar-Kays, Johnnie Taylor, Delaney & Bonnie, and David Porter. Details regarding the series title and launch dates soon to be announced.
Click here to pre-order all 5 albums.