Top positive review
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A Must Buy Work
on June 9, 2007
Mavis Staples says of her early days singing with the Staple Singers: "When we started our family group, The Staple Singers, we started out mostly singing in churches in the south. Pops saw Dr. Martin Luther King speak in 1963 and from then we started to broaden our musical vision beyond just gospel sings. Pops told us, "I like this man. I like his message. And if he can preach it, we can sing it."
This album focuses on songs in that spirit. The songs take us back to the 1960s, but they remain relevant today. Indeed, Staples says: "With this record, I hope to get across the same feeling, the same spirit and the same message as we did with the Staple Singers--and to hopefully continue to make positive changes."
The backing group includes some estimable veterans, such as Ry Cooder and Jim Keltner. "Down in Mississippi" features good rhythm and is well and expressively sung. The focus of this song is the problems in Mississippi, including blacks being able to drink only at water fountains labeled "For colored only." The story of the singer helping to integrate Mississippi and the pride her grandmother feels in her.
"We Shall not Be Moved" begins with the repetitive phrase "We shall not be moved." Each verse, a new line is added and the cumulative effect is profound. Key lines:
"We shall not be moved
Like a tree planted by the water
We shall not be moved
The union is behind us
We shall not be moved
We're fighting for our freedom"
The power of repetition, propelled by the smooth and expressive voice of Staples makes this a riveting tune. The beat is simple and instrumentation is spare.
"In the Mississippi River" tells the tale of Civil Rights activists being thrown into the Mississippi River. Key line:
"Into the river they go,
They don't get out alive."
The backing vocals weave together with Mavis Staples' voice to powerful effect. One fragment remains in my memory, as the agents of death noted that killing these people "ain't no crime."
Finally, as one additional example, "We'll Never Turn Back."
"We've been mute and we've been scorned
We've been talked about. . . .
But we'll never turn back
Until we walk in peace."
A simple song, but with a powerful message, well sung by Staples.
This is a wonderful, powerful CD that hearkens back to the grim days of the 1960s, when the forces of reaction and racism met the voice of equality and civil rights. The songs testify to what was at stake and the price sometimes paid for fighting for equality (note the roll call of martyrs and those "who put their lives on the front line and died just trying to live and breathe" in "I'll Be Rested"). A must buy recording, in my view.