(2-CD set) In a career that spanned four decades, Pops, Mavis, Pervis (later replaced by Yvonne) and Cleotha Staples made a lot of remarkable recordings. Happily the majority of these have remained in print, in one form or another, virtually since they were first issued. However, the group recorded for several labels in that time, and thus it's been the case to date that anyone wanting to build a definitive 'Best Of The Staple Singers' collection would have to buy at least five CDs, maybe more, in an attempt to piece together such a thing.
Not any more, thankfully. Ace is now delighted to present the first-ever Staple Singers retrospective that covers virtually their entire recording career as a group, from 1953 to 1984. In the course of 155-plus minutes playing time, A FAMILY AFFAIR takes in repertoire from United, Vee-Jay, Riverside, Vanguard, Epic, Stax, Curtom, Warner Brothers and Private I.
The Staple Singers made their first recordings as a group in the early 1950s, and their final ones together in the mid 1980s. The set presents the best of them in a way that allows the listener a chance to experience the growth and diversification of the Staples as both a group, and as individual vocalists. Not that they ever had much growing to do as singers - when you hear the 15 year old Mavis bursting to cut loose on Won't You Sit Down you will hear that her style is already almost fully formed. However, as well as hearing some great singing it's interesting to study the development of a diverse repertoire that, along the way, incorporates the influences of Blind Willie Johnson, Stephen Stills, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, reggae, Curtis Mayfield and Talking Heads and that still comes out sounding like the Staple Singers, and only the Staple Singers.
As well as first-tier repertoire from beginning to end, A Family Affair boasts a dazzling array of rare label shots, photographs, posters and sheet music, a lot of which will be unfamiliar at best to even the biggest Staples aficionado. The notes are by acknowledged Stax expert Rob Bowman, who interviewed Mavis especially for this project. Rob has also drawn on the library of interviews he conducted in the course of writing his book 'Soulsville U.S.A', and he has been able to thus include commentary from Pops Staples, Al Bell and others who played a vital part in establishing the long career of this amazing group. A Family Affair has been a couple of years in the making, and the end product more than justifies the long wait.
By Tony Rounce/Ace Records