UMGI / Concord will release the first-ever comprehensive, career-spanning overview of The Staple Singers, one of the most important American musical acts of the 20th century. Due out November 20th, this limited edition 4-CD box set--titled Faith and Grace: A Family Journey 1953-1976--also includes a very special bonus: the earliest known recording of the gospel, soul and R&B group, housed on a 7” vinyl record, marking the first time that this track has been available in any format since the Staples’ self-released edition of 500.
Housed in a deluxe, old-school “45-folio” package, the accompanying book features new liner notes by Mavis Staples, James Miller, Opal Louis Nations and compilation producer Joe McEwen, as well as rarely seen photos of the family band taken over the course of their career.
The long-lost recordings embodied on the 7” record, “Faith and Grace” and “These Are They,” are the earliest known recordings of The Staple Singers and were made in a friend of Pops Staples’ basement in Chicago in 1953. These have never before been commercially available in any format except the 500 or so copies the Staples pressed themselves on 78 RPM records. The box set also contains the live recording: “Medley: Too Close/I’m On My Way Home/I’m Coming Home/He’s Alright (Live).” This live performance from 1960 Clarksdale, Mississippi has never before been available in its entirety.
The music of the Staple Singers--best known for their 1970s hits "Respect Yourself," "I'll Take You There," "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)," and "Let's Do It Again"--is richly embedded into American history and culture. As James Miller writes in the liner notes:
“The Staple Singers are American originals. Like Elvis Presley in the fifties, they took the country gospel sounds of the Mississippi Delta and turned them into a brand new kind of music, a fusion of blues form and raw feeling that was sui generis. Like Bob Dylan in the sixties, they created their own kind of folk music, in part to hymn the progress of the civil rights movement in America. Like Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield and Aretha Franklin, they took the music of the black church and made that soulful sound matter to anybody with ears and an open mind in a series of exceptionally popular recordings that made them well-known to a wide audience. And afterwards, even after their belated moment of fame in the early 1970s, their principal members survived into a dignified old age, becoming venerated solo troubadours, performing vernacular American music that sounds as fresh today as it did a half-century ago…The consistency with which this family made rapturous music–as documented on this box set–becomes ever more impressive with the passage of time.”
Explaining The Staple Singers’ special dynamic, notes Miller, “The group had two primary leads: Pops, a tenor, and Mavis, a skinny girl with a thundering voice. When the Staples harmonized, their blend was high and keening, with Pops singing falsetto alongside his daughter Cleotha, a soprano, and Pervis, a high tenor like his dad, making them sound more like the Carter Family than a conventional black gospel group. Equally unusual was the instrumentation; instead of performing a capella or with keyboard accompaniment, the Staples featured the electric guitar playing of Pops. That’s the first thing you hear on their classic early recordings: finger-picked arpeggios, amplified in a wash of reverb and tremolo, anchoring the bottom of the sound. (‘Pop Staples and his nervous guitar,’ quipped rivals on the gospel circuit.)”
The box set is aptly titled Faith and Grace: A Family Journey 1953-1976 as these qualities are hallmarks of The Staple Singers. Their music remains soul-stirring and relevant – these songs bring hope in uncertain times. As always, The Staple Singers take us there.
7” track listing:
Faith and Grace
These Are They