Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Mavis Staples - What Happened to the Real Me

Mavis Staples' sexy, emotive contralto on the Staple Singers' hits are an ingrained part of R&B and pop history (just think of the intro to "I'll Take You There" with her "uh huh" and her phrasing of the first line in the song proper); however, an under-represented portion of Mavis' career is her solo work. She released two albums on Volt, "Mavis Staples" (1969) and "Only for the Lonely" (1970), hitting the R&B charts with "I Have Learned to Do Without You" and "Endlessly." Although both albums were plagued with marginal material, Mavis' performances were fantastic and the albums are a great contrast to the Staple Singers' "message music." Despite her talents, the success of the Staple Singers (and, accordingly, Stax's promotional attention being focused on the group) and some conflicts with Stax over her desire to sing her own compositions and own the publishing rights thereto scuttled Mavis' solo career with the label.

Today's selection comes from "Only for the Lonely" and features a great Don Davis production. Davis's work with Mavis pushed her toward a Detroit soul sound as opposed to the usual Muscle Shoals groove of the Staple Singers' hits. The powerful orchestra backing (I don't recall offhand if Detroit arranging genious Dale Warren had a hand in that) fit well with Mavis' strong vocal.

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