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We'll Never Turn Back

4.6 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 24, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples possesses one of the most recognizable and treasured voices in contemporary music. From her early days sharing lead vocals with her groundbreaking family group, The Staples Singers, to her powerful solo recordings, Mavis is an inspirational force in modern popular culture and music.

As musical activists in the 1960s civil rights movement, the Staple Singers were powerful voices for equality and change. And more than 40 years after Pops's daughter Mavis spent a night in a West Memphis, Arkansas, jail at the behest of a racist cop, she still remembers the terror of the experience, as well as the counsel of Dr. Martin Luther King. That episode is at the centerpiece of "My Own Eyes," one of the most moving offerings on this collection of songs of racial struggle in the '50s and '60s, produced by guitarist Ry Cooder and featuring backing from the original Freedom Singers and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Throughout, the album proves both emotionally chilling and spiritually uplifting. On J.B. Lenoir's "Down in Mississippi" and Marshall Jones's "In the Mississippi River," for example, Cooder makes fine use of pounding percussion and snaky electric guitar to capture the danger and fear inherent in the Deep South at the time, while the title song and "Jesus Is on the Main Line" draw on gospel and the traditional framework of church hymns to promise positive solutions. Staples, who adlibs on several cuts, connecting the injustice of yesterday to the continuing marginalization of blacks in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, remains a remarkable performer, employing a throaty sensuality that rises from a deep well of tremulous emotion. If her album is musically uneven at times, her artistry and strength continue to shine as undimmed beacons. --Alanna Nash

More from Mavis and the Staple Singers

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The Staple Singers: Greatest Hits

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 24, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Anti
  • ASIN: B000MR8SZU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,094 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
It saddens me that there is a negative cabal giving this beautiful CD negative votes. They have not listened to this CD. This CD is one to savour.

"This is a soulful, soulful album. Mavis Staples has a voice that is so full of faith and conviction that it just pours right out of the speakers and into your ear. About halfway through the album, you want to stand up and scream, "THANK YOU, JESUS!!! THANK YOU!" And, really... it doesn't get much better than that. Any album that can make me like a version of "Jesus Is On the Main Line" as much as the Bad Livers` is a standout in my book." Thom Jurek

Mavis Staples with the assistance of Ry Cooder has produced a CD that is ageless. It is a CD that will be revered and listened to through the next millineium. She, is of course, a memeber of the Staple Singers, most often rememmbered for Pop Staples and his guitar and leadership. But, this CD, even at the age of 67 has given Mavis Staples a new life.

'We'll Never Turn Back' is a CD of songs associated with the 1960s civil-rights movement. "It's 2007, and there are still so many problems in the world," she writes of why she's revisiting songs such as 99 and ½ and Eyes On the Prize. Mavis has the Freedom Singers, join her. We'll Never Turn Back`s opening song 'Down in Mississippi' "As far back as I can remember," Staples sings, "I either had a plow or a hoe...", working in the hot Black Belt sun. Danger was everywhere--someone would go to jail for shooting a rabbit out of the hunting season, but "the season was always open on me...". Water fountains were segregated; so were "washaterias". The traditional "Eyes on the Prize" is a spiritual with Ladysmith Black Mambazo's backing vocals.
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I almost wish I could think of something negative to say about this album, just to be different. But it is transcendent. No longer the angel-voiced young girl of her early years in gospel or the sassy soul sister of the "Respect Yourself" days, Mavis is a mature woman who's seen a lot in her 60-odd years ("With My Own Eyes"). Her burnished contralto is all mid-range and lows, but if the instrument itself isn't what it once was, like Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and more recently Joni Mitchell, what's lost in vocal range is more than made up for in expressiveness and nuance. No filler here, every cut is a gem. My two favorite moments in an album filled with great moments: Mavis' spoken anecdote about inadvertently integrating a Mississippi "wash-a-teria" in "Down in Mississippi" (it had been a long while since I'd last heard the term "wash-a-teria" -- that's laundromat for those of you who don't know the South); and in "I'll Be Rested", her personal vision of heaven, a combination gospel jam session and civil rights movement reunion including Dr. King and Emmett Till, Clara Ward and Marion Williams, and Mavis' own father, Pops Staples, guitar in hand. Mavis has been one of my favorite singers since the Staple Singers' epochal "Hammer and Nails" album back in 1962 (Is that album EVER going to be released on CD?); and my only hope is that this amazing collection brings Mavis a bit of the popular acclaim she so richly deserves. Better forty-five years late than never.
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Format: Audio CD
What Mavis has chosen to do in this album is to reinterpret a number of classic anthems from the Civil Rights movement as well as including several compositions of her own, all of which are impeccably rendered by an extraordinary voice which may have lost some of its youthful shine but has gained a weary wisdom and lost none of its fierce commitment to tell it like it is, without frills but plenty of class.

Whether or not you share Staples' beliefs or consider yourself a long time fan of the Staples Singers, this is a phenomenal set of songs. If Mavis' voice wasn't enough the album is permeated by the magic of Ry Cooder's production who could not have been a better choice to give these songs, both, their gravitas and their groove. His guitar work in "Down In Mississippi" alone can justify buying this record. This is Cooder at his best, laying a sound as dense and ominous as a Louisiana swamp or as angelic as Gospel longings, as the songs require.

Another musician worthy of note is drummer Jim Keltner, Ry's compadre for so many years, who inhabit these songs with a powerful beat that will resonate in your chest even after the album's over. Along with his work in aforementioned "Down In Mississippi"--my pick from this album for one of the best songs of 07--he's exceptional in "Eyes On The Prize" or the slow shuffle of "In The Mississippi River."

All in all, this is not only a great album but a necessary one. What these songs may reawaken or introduce you to are words that have not lost their significance nor their relevance. Listen to Mavis sing those tracks already spoken for or "I'll Be Rested," "We'll Never Turn Back" or "On My Way." She'll show how much she knows about moving your soul and your body.
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Format: Audio CD
If you're of a certain age, this CD is an invitation to time-travel back to the 1960s. Not the `60s of war protest. Or the `60s of sex, drugs and music. This is the `60s that came before that, when Bob Dylan was too young to shave, and Southern blacks stood up to fire hoses, and white kids rushed South to stand and die with them. Freedom. Equality. "Black and white together." That long ago, oh so innocent time.

I try not to go back there. It's too depressing. As with so many issues, my generation made a promise and kept about half of it. And the result is that for all the "progress" that's been made, not a single one of us would trade our troubles to be poor and black in rural Mississippi.

So let's go to the music. Roebuck "Pops" Staples was Bob Dylan when Dylan was still Zimmerman --- from the earliest days of the Civil Rights Movement, his lyrics thundered from the mountain like Martin Luther King's sermons. And his music was irresistible. Pops wrote songs that, along with his stinging guitar, made you want to jump up to testify with your body. And in his daughter Mavis, he had an incomparable asset: a gospel shouter with the firepower of Aretha Franklin.

To hear the Staple Singers was to know that there wasn't anybody who would turn you `round. That it's a slow train, but it's definitely moving on. That like a tree planted by the water we shall not be moved.

Now Mavis Staples has revisited that music. And the dozen songs she's selected for "We'll Never Turn Back," make for the most passionate CD of her long career.
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