Staple Singers – 1973 – Be What You Are

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Mr.Moo kindly offers us another Stax classic.

The Staple Singers enjoyed a brief spell when their popularity reached beyond the Soul fraternity and into the Pop charts and thus they are well known for a few classic singles. One of those appears here, “If You’re Ready(Come and Go with Me)” and it gives you an idea of the quality contained in this album.

With a resolutely Southern Soul feel, this represents the best album the Staples ever recorded. While it seemed the rest of the Stax roster were busy extending the boundaries of Black music, the Staples kept faith with the elements of the music which had elevated the label to pre-eminance in the 60’s. So you won’t find overblown orchestration, or proto-disco here. What you will find are magnificent lead vocals (Mavis Staples has few equals), superb harmonies, and production which lets those voices take centre stage.

The Staples also kept faith with their Gospel roots, and there are a couple of tracks here that fit that profile – “If you’re Ready” is essentially Gospel and “Heaven” has an ambiguous lyric which could be secular, but which in Mavis’ hands must be a hymn to her God.

Stand out tracks are many, their version of Grandma’s Hands for example is excellent and “the aformentioned “Heaven” is exactly that. But I would recommend this in it’s entirety as an example of Soul at it’s 70’s best and as a musical counterpoint to the way some of their contemporaries were developing Black music.

This is a @320 vinyl rip (supplied by Mr.Moo) of the original Stax Records LP including covers

Tracks
A1 Be What You Are 5:03
A2
If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me) 4:29
A3
Love Comes in All Colors / Tellin’ Lies 8:51
A4
Touch a Hand (Make a Friend) 4:04
A5
Drown Yourself 4:38
B1
I Ain’t Raisin’ No Sand 6:33
B2
Grandma’s Hands2:43
B3
Bridges Instead of Walls 4:04
B4
I’m on Your Side 4:00
B5
That’s What Friends Are For 4:16
B6
Heaven 3:36

By Soulmakossa

The smash succes of ‘Be Altitude: Respect Yourself‘ gave The Staple Singers a blueprint from which to work: Muscle Shoals groovin’, gospelfide harmonies and political lyrics.

The optimistic title-track “Be What You Are” picks up where “Respect Yourself” left off: an anthemic, self-empowering song about taking pride in who and what you are; the magazine advertisement for the single showed a black construction worker smiling, staring proudly into the camera. A superb, gospel rock ‘n’ roller with some very Duane Allman-ish guitar hooks.

Reprising their super hit “I’ll Take You There”, “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me” is set to that same irresistible, lazy groove. What sets it apart from its predecessor is the use of folksy, acoustic guitars and simmering strings. A gem.

The scene gets a little more brooding with the 9-minute medley “Love Comes in All Colors/Tellin’ Lies“, a funky bit of testifyin’ wrapped in Alabama country soul. Great arrangements throughout that never get over the top.

Joyful sounds return with the sweet, uplifiting “Touch a Hand (Make a Friend)“, but that slightly menacing, hauntingly bluesy vibe reappears on the solid funker “Drown Yourself” and it reaches a climax on the super political “I Ain’t Raisin’ no Sand“, with its sober string arrangement and Pops’ understated lead vocal.

The overall message of the album remains strongly optimistic; the slightly Carribic “Bridges Instead of Walls” and the insanely funky “That’s What Friends Are For” (NOT the Dionne Warwick song!) are unabashed feel-good tunes.

‘Be What You Are’ is completed with some very touching, gentle, ballad-styled, folksy soul pieces: Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands” fits the family like a glove; “I’m on Your Side” shows the most sensitive side of Mavis and the album’s grand finale, “Heaven“, is simply achingly beautiful, both in its vocal delivery as in its ethereal arrangements.
classic.

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34 Comments
  • Dreamer456
    Posted at 15:14h, 19 June 2010 Reply

    Thanks, Nikos. You can’t go wrong with the Staple Singers.

  • Andreas
    Posted at 15:17h, 19 June 2010 Reply

    Gracias , muy buenos

  • tswift
    Posted at 23:52h, 19 June 2010 Reply

    Man, another album that I never had the chance to own or even listen to until now………..I have all their others except this one……..keep doing it Nikos and all you brothers, you guys are the best!

  • Anna Maria
    Posted at 01:49h, 20 June 2010 Reply

    This is the fantastic music I grew up on. It is as relevant today as it was back then. Plus, Pops Staples was the MAN. And Mavis. Well, she could sing, just a little bit. Thank you so much for loading this.  You have made my day.

  • whoknows
    Posted at 20:48h, 20 June 2010 Reply

    thanks for this one! Only heard they’re hits, looking forward to hearing their lesser known tracks…which usually tend to be just as good or better! thanks again Nikos!

  • Alexandros
    Posted at 09:32h, 21 June 2010 Reply

    Great pleasure with this post from Mr.Moo.A very beautiful album with delicate vocals.

  • Roger
    Posted at 09:59h, 22 June 2010 Reply

    You’re really in the mood these days, keep up the good work;
    Thanx

  • hooch
    Posted at 14:45h, 22 June 2010 Reply

    Many thanks my good friends Mr Moo & Nikos!

  • brotherpete
    Posted at 15:48h, 22 June 2010 Reply

    Thanks !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Reall nice !!!!

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 19:35h, 22 June 2010 Reply

    Totally excellent soul music at its best the way i like to hear it

  • Aurélie
    Posted at 23:45h, 22 June 2010 Reply

    Great blog ! Thanks good vibes !

  • Aurélie
    Posted at 23:46h, 22 June 2010 Reply

    Great blog ! Thanks for good vibes !

  • Liam
    Posted at 01:02h, 23 June 2010 Reply

    This is an album that I was curious to hear, it was worth it.

  • Trevor
    Posted at 12:53h, 23 June 2010 Reply

    One of my favorite Staples! It’s good to see it here…

  • Pavlos
    Posted at 21:42h, 23 June 2010 Reply

    Whoa— this looks good. Thanks.

  • Igor
    Posted at 12:33h, 24 June 2010 Reply

    Thank you very much,Nikos for the “new-old” LP’s.

  • juan
    Posted at 15:05h, 24 June 2010 Reply

    Otro buen disco.
    Gracias

  • Ben
    Posted at 10:03h, 25 June 2010 Reply

    Great post. wanted to listen to this for a long time Thanx

  • Pietro
    Posted at 22:00h, 25 June 2010 Reply

    Thanks for expanding my Staple singers collection.

  • Eugene
    Posted at 23:09h, 25 June 2010 Reply

    Nikos, thank you for posting this record and giving me the opportunity to enjoy the Staples Singers afresh.

    Respect to you and the crew,

    Eugene

  • janny
    Posted at 00:20h, 26 June 2010 Reply

    Thanx for this gem.
    A nice weekend to all.

    Cheeers janny

  • Pedro
    Posted at 09:43h, 01 July 2010 Reply

    Gran disco. Muchas gracias

  • onejazzyman
    Posted at 03:11h, 02 July 2010 Reply

    Been seeking this great album for some time. Thanks for putting it up.

  • Mark
    Posted at 09:43h, 02 July 2010 Reply

    Thank you, I have one of their albums on vinyl, I look forward to hearing some more.

  • Senor Pocopico
    Posted at 13:55h, 10 July 2010 Reply

    Solid sound, strong voices, nice and simple orchestrations. A work of maturity. Staples could be funky without being raw or crude. Nice choice guys! Thank you again

  • Nicolas
    Posted at 14:03h, 13 July 2010 Reply

    Classic!

  • cleffdeadly
    Posted at 10:32h, 16 July 2010 Reply

    great choice as usual, cheers!

  • juan
    Posted at 12:18h, 25 July 2010 Reply

    Fantastic group.

  • Gustavo
    Posted at 23:44h, 01 August 2010 Reply

    Classic!!!!

  • Veau
    Posted at 18:16h, 03 August 2010 Reply

    Another great album i discovered thanks to that awesome blog ! Merci 🙂

  • chronwell
    Posted at 14:54h, 01 November 2010 Reply

    Be what U are my friend! Great message in this beautiful music! Thanx!

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 16:28h, 16 December 2010 Reply

    Thank you!

  • Mafu
    Posted at 19:54h, 25 February 2012 Reply

    i love mavis staples expressions when she sings thank you muchly for this classic

  • MCR
    Posted at 04:26h, 28 July 2018 Reply

    thank you! god bless you from Argentina

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