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It's A Blessing
on June 20, 2008
I don't listen to music to get lessons in life any more than I read literature to learn how to rebuild automatic transmissions. That said, there is something completely undeniable about the attitude driving every note and word of this music. Ironically, it never comes across as "preachy" - although it often is - it's just that the Staple family - Pops and daughters Mavis, Cleo, and Yvonne, have a philosophy, a point of view - and they talk it, walk it, sing about it, and exude it in everything they do. It's joyful, healthy, righteous, tough-minded, and most of all - loving. Plenty of music makes you feel good; this music makes you feel good about life - and being human.
The CD captures the Staple Singers in the glory days of their career. It has the obligatory hits you must have, Respect Yourself, Come Go With Me, I'll Take You There, and Be What You Are - (the latter sounds as current today as the latest, hippest, self-help seminar held in Aspen for $5,000 a seat). But when you dig a little deeper to the tracks that didn't make it onto jukeboxes across the nation and the world, the news is just as good. There really are no dogs on this CD at all; the closest I found were the remakes of standards - Dock Of The Bay and The Weight. While these covers played a role in keeping the Staples in business, they offer nothing new. Both songs were overexposed and covered by countless others, at this point they are dead horses with "Please Do Not Beat" signs on them.
What the Staple Singers achieved is nothing less than amazing. This music is funky enough to satisfy even the most hardcore James Brown devotee, and yet, there's a lightness and sweetness to it that makes you feel like you just opened a window. The Mississippi jubilee gospel roots are never far away, but they're never too thick either, the balance is always perfect. If you imagine The Original Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi as a hurricane of redemption, ecstasy, and testifying - The Staple Singers are a stroll in the park on a beautiful spring day. The message is the same - you are blessed, and you owe it to yourself and your creator to behave as if you're blessed. But the style is different. An extraordinary CD that puts it all together - and - you can dance to it. Pretty hard to top that.