The Staple Singers - 1971 – The Staple Swingers
While The Staple Singers’ first two albums for Stax were superb, they didn’t prove to be huge commercial hits. Everything changed when the singing family began recording in Muscle Shoals, starting with the joyously titled ‘The Staple Swingers’.
It gave them their first hit on Stax with the Bobby Bloom, Jeff Barry song “Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom) ” as well as their second with the Smokey Robinson song “You’ve Got To Earn It“. In fact the 12 track album is full of great songs from the likes of Betty Crutcher, Mack Rice and even the brothers Gibb as well as a great cover of Bobby Bland’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry“‘ At this stage the line up was still sisters Mavis, Cleo &Yvonne with ‘Pops’ motivating the whole thing with his highly distinctive and indeed underrated guitar playing to create their startling blend of gospel rooted soul with blues guitar.
A1 This Is a Perfect World 4:21
A2 What’s Your Thing 4:22
A3 You’ve Got to Earn It 3:30
A4 You’re Gonna Make Me Cry 5:07
A5 Little Boy 3:27
A6 How Do You Move a Mountain 2:38
B1 Almost 4:17
B2 I’m a Lover 3:45
B3 Love Is Plentiful 2:32
B4 Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom) 3:08
B5 I Like the Things About You 3:19
B6 Give a Hand-Take a Hand 5:01
By Andre S. Grindle
Dealing with the departure of brother Pervis didn’t derail the Staples of their success at Stax as they made the addition of sister Yvonne and turned out their third release for the label. It’s the 70’s now,1971 to be exact and they’ve decided to make more changes than just personel. While the gospel/soul sound they’d always made famous is very much intact on this album there’s a certain broadening of sound here that truly paved the way for the big successes yes to come for them. The beginning of the new decade found gospel,soul,funk,pop,psychedelia and rock into many unique combinations and the Staples were more than willing to embrace them in order to go forward musically and conceptually. The result is one of their finest Stax releases and one of the best examples of their early 70’s sound while on that label. “This Is A Perfect World” is about as great a way to open the album,a fiercly uptempo funk/soul rave up with some mild psychedelic echo on some of the vocal harmony parts and it would be hard pressed to find yourself not clapping and/or singing along while your getting into this groove. “What’s Your Thing” and “You’ve Got To Earn It” dig deep into that bluesy Southern styled funk that Pops, Cleotha, Mavis and Yvonne really had allowed to come into it’s own during this are and keep the first part of this album weighty,meaty and meaningful all the way.
There is also a good helping of breezier soul numbers here such as “Little Boy“,”Love Is Plentiful” and “Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom)” that owe more to some of the more orchestrated funky soul sounds than coming out of the family’s native Chicago. It’s fitting they were hearing the words of what Curtis Mayfiend was doing at that time and heeding the call with their own spin on a similar flavor of music. There’s some deep,darkly effecting slower grooves here such as the almost spooky emotionalism of “Almost“,a song many people could easily relate to and “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry“. The album is rounded off with the bonus cuts-two more gospel drenched soul rave ups in “I Like The Things About You” and “Give A Hand Take A Hand“,both of which feature much of Pop’s blues flavored guitar licks. Not quite as well remembered as their next album this is one of the Staples most creatively and musically satisfying releases and trust me;everything they did at Stax fit into that catagory.
If you love the Memphis/Chicago flavored combo of gospel/funk/soul-pop than you really can’t go wrong with this album.