Title: Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection
Artist: The Staple Singers
Format: 7CD Box Set
Release Date: September 23, 2020
Released last year as a vinyl box set, Craft has now issued the seven disc deluxe CD edition of Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection. Celebrating one of the most influential gospel and soul groups of all time, the box set features all of the Staple Singers’ studio albums recorded for Stax Records from 1968–1974: Soul Folk in Action (1968), We’ll Get Over (1969), The Staple Swingers (1971), Be Altitude: Respect Yourself (1972), Be What You Are (1973), and City in the Sky (1974). These albums were released after the Staple Singers had already transitioned from the gospel circuit to the stages of folk and rock music festivals, and they were well on their way to becoming musical icons of the Civil Rights Movement with albums such as Freedom Highway (1965) that preached a message of empowerment and racial equality.
New liner notes by Dr. Langston Collin Wilkins, an ethnomusicologist, and Levon Williams, former Interpretive Specialist at the Stax Museum (both are former writers for Black Grooves), do a fabulous job of placing these albums in context against the backdrop of social and political turmoil immediately following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis on April 4, 1968. For example, the writers discuss how songs such as “Long Walk to D.C.” and “The Ghetto” from Soul Folk in Action “truly tapped into the experiences and emotions of Black America at the close of the ’60s. The former is a tribute to the 1963 March on Washington told from the perspective of a poor yet hopeful African American person willing to use their last dimes to make it to the rally … Conversely, the somber and haunting ‘The Ghetto’ takes listeners deep into the isolation and despair of inner-city life.” They also note the importance of Stax co-president Al Bell, a former DJ who originally signed the Chicago group and produced The Staple Swingers. Bell’s ear for both sacred and secular music as well as his keen knowledge of “what moves Black listeners” led to the Staple Singers’ first hit when the album reached No. 9 on Billboard’s top R&B albums. The following year, Be Altitude would produce the group’s first No. 1 hits, “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself,” a powerful message song that the writers declare “encapsulates the Staple Singers’ entire career” and still resonates just as strongly today.
The final disc of this set includes five tracks recorded live at Wattstax, capturing the Staple Singers in all of their glory, as well as various B-sides including “Stay With Us,” non-album singles such as “Oh La De Da” and rarities that include “Walking in Water Over Our Head” and “Trippin’ on Your Love.” All of the discs are housed in sleeves replicating the original album jackets.
Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection is a tremendously valuable release for those who do not have these original Stax albums by the Staple Singers.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss