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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Recorded in the early '60s for the Riverside label, these 27 songs mark the move toward a more folk-based sound for the Staple Singers. The bass and drums throughout anchor the group's etheral tendencies but still keep them floating heavenward. On the two-part "I'm Willin,'" Pops's liquid, echoing guitar lines and the high-pitched, clipped group backing vocals play off the simple, jazzy drumming and subtle bass playing. This formula provides both Mavis's rumbling, muscular voice and Pops's celebrated tenor a secure setting from which to fully explore their vocal ranges. The arrangements of traditional spiritual material are innovative, sparse, uncanny, from the rousing "Swing Down, Chariot" to the laconic "My Dying Bed" and the chilling "Will the Lord Remember Me." Dylan's "Masters of War," the sole song without the gospel theme, presages the Singers' move toward more secular protest and "message" songs. A percussively strummed guitar lays down a marching rhythm, the backing vocals are subtle, incorporeal "whoohs," and Pops's croon is the very definition of "wizened." --Mike McGonigal

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