2 key solo albums by Mavis Staples
– back to back on a single CD, and with a bonus track too! First up is the self-titled Mavis Staples
record – a set that really expands the Stax sound nicely with a bit of strings to sweeten up the groove! Steve Cropper's at the production helm, and there's still enough grit in the grooves to remind us we're down in Memphis – but the choice of tunes and range of Staples
' vocals show a growing sense of power that's really great – a mode that pulls itself up past simple southern soul cliches, and aims nicely at the mainstream! Yet even in that mode, the album's never too commercial, and certainly not pop-oriented at all – just proof that Stax was growing wonderfully at the time, and had plenty to offer a great talent like Mavis. Titles include a funky version of "Son Of A Preacher Man", plus "Pick Up The Pieces", "You're Driving Me", "Security", "Until I Met You", "Sweet Things You Do", "Good To Me", and "Chained". 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. Titles include "Don't Change Me Now", "It Makes Me Wanna Cry", "I Have Learned To Do Without You", "You're The Fool", "What Happened To The Real Me", and "How Many Times". CD also features the bonus track "That's The Way Love Is" – a duet with Johnnie Taylor.