Main Review by Soulmakossa
Rip, posting and additional info’s by Nikos
Recorded in 1969 and released the following year, Only for the Lonely was one of the best LPs Mavis Staples ever recorded. Staples’ energy, delivery, timing, and technique were consistently awesome. Unfortunately, only a few of these songs got much attention outside R&B circles, but their quality shows Staples’ greatness as a soul vocalist.
On Only The Lonely, Mavis Staples hits a newly sophisticated groove that’s set up in full arrangements from the great Horace Ott, and produced with a nicely sweet touch from Don Davis! The sound is a great example of the changes going on at the new Stax at the end of the 60s – a more mature, adult sort of sound that goes way beyond simple soul – especially the too-sweet style that sometimes dominated female acts during the Stax/Atlantic years. Ott’s backings have never sounded better, and at points Mavis almost brings an Aretha-like depth to her vocals – or even better, hits a range that really ranks right up there with some of the best indie female southern soul acts of her generation.
A1 I Have Learned to Do Without You 4:09
A2 How Many Times 3:21
A3 Endlessly 3:08
A4 You’re the Fool 2:36
B1 Since I Fell for You 3:34
B2 What Happened to the Real Me 2:35
B3 Since You Became a Part of My Life 3:30
B4 It Makes Me Wanna Cry 2:50
B5 Don’t Change Me Now 2:25
Mavis’ second solo album for Stax Records, this time produced by Detroit soundsmith Don Davis. A beautifully crafted, tantalizingly sad LP focusing on longing, heartbreak and regret, with a few sparkles of hope nudged in between.
Recorded in Muscle Shoals and ‘sweetened’ in Detroit, ‘Only for the Lonely’ is one of those luminary records that perfectly blends the grit of Southern Soul with the gloss of Detroit and Chicago. “I Have Learned to Do Without You” is a fierce opener, a massive belter that exudes defiance in the face of let-downs and hang-ups. Mavis’ full-throttled gospelfide voice soars on this one.
“How Many Times” sustains the moody atmosphere, with its plodding, wistful pace and delicate lyrics. Nice country-esque guitar fills throughout.
She then churns out a wonderful, gorgeous take on Brook Benton’s “Endlessly“, a bossa nova-styled ballad drenched in delightfully arranged strings. Things get a little funkier with the romping “You’re the Fool“, although the wailing horns and especially the weeping violins considerably smoothen the fatback groove.
Buddy Johnson’s “Since I Fell for You” got little Mavis in trouble back in the day, when as a child she performed this decidedly secular song. She loved it even after the scoldin’, and included a warm version of it on this LP.
But it’s back to the business of love gone wrong once more as she sings the achingly beautiful “What Happened to the Real Me“, an amazing, slightly Latin-tinted soul groove accentuated by the muted horn riffs.
A simmering of hope, however, immediately appears in the guise of the lovely “Since You Became a Part of My Life“, which could best be described as a ‘soul waltz’; a touch of Vienna in rural Alabama. Amazing.
Superbly talented Stax songwriter Homer Banks offered the mid-tempo soul stomper “It Makes Me Wanna Cry“, after which a sensitive, heart melting reading of “Don’t Change Me Now” aptly closes this incredible album.
Maybe not an ‘official’ concept album, ‘Only for the Lonely’ is one of the most consistently appealing and soothing musical experiences for the broken hearted.