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Craft Recordings Sets Off Stax’s 50th Anniversary ‘Soul Explosion’

The collection is part of Craft’s ‘Made In Memphis’ campaign and features many of Stax’s biggest stars and songs of the era, such as Eddie Floyd, the Staple Singers and Albert King.

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Stax Soul Explosion album cover

Craft Recordings is continuing its celebration of the year of classic 1969 releases on Stax Records that came to be known as Soul Explosion with a 2LP version of the compilation album of that name on 31 May. The collection is part of Craft’s Made In Memphis reissue campaign and features many of Stax’s biggest stars and songs of the era, such as Eddie Floyd, the Staple Singers and Albert King.

Keeping the project appropriately local, the lacquers for the discs were cut by Jeff Powell at Take Out Vinyl and pressed at Memphis Record Pressing. It marks the first the album has been available on vinyl since its first release, and the second disc now features rare Stax tracks, many exclusive to this set. Among them are the Bar-Kays’ ‘Hot Hips,’ the Ollie & the Nightingales track ‘Heartache Mountain’ and Eddie Floyd’s ‘It’s Wrong To Be Loving You.’

Soul Explosion will also be available digitally for the first time and will include hi-res 96/24 and 192/24 formats. From today (7), Johnnie Taylor’s celebrated 1968 smash ‘Who’s Making Love’ is released as an instant grat single with all pre-orders of the digital album.

The collection marked, and now marks, the year in which Stax rebuilt a new catalogue, effectively as an independent label, after the end of its relationship with Atlantic Records. Under Al Bell’s direction, the company released 27 albums and 30 singles in a matter of months to begin a new heyday.

Its sales summit of 1969, which had the theme of “Getting It All Together,” confirmed Stax’s new period of creative and commercial preeminence. Craft is marking the 50th anniversary of the Soul Explosion period with many physical and digital reissues as well as new playlists, original content, contests and other attractions.

Ms. Deanie Parker, who was head of publicity for Stax at the time and has continued to be one of its greatest ambassadors, recalls of the rebuilding period: “Day and night, we planned marketing and sales efforts, and produced powerhouse songs. For weeks we worked 24/7 — moulding and refining both raw and veteran artists’ recording material…we worked our way to the top of our game with the Soul Explosion created at Stax Records.”

Bell has vivid memories of the sales summit itself. “We were multimedia before multimedia was even a thing!” he reflects. “During that one weekend in Memphis, we had large projections on the walls the size of movie theatre screens and we had video interspersed with live performances by all of our top acts: Carla Thomas, Booker T. & the MGs, William Bell, Albert King, the Bar-Kays, Isaac Hayes solo and Isaac Hayes and David Porter doing Sam & Dave songs. And the energy during that weekend was like nothing the music industry had seen before.”

Albert King Born Under A Bad SignThe 1969 roster featured both the established Staple Singers, breakout names such as Taylor and Hayes, and new signings that captured the changing landscape of soul music such as the Emotions and the Soul Children. Stax authority and music historian Robert Gordon wrote in his 2013 book Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion: “It was a huge and glorious effort, interweaving the grand themes of salesmanship, civic responsibility, and the recording arts.”

The record industry, says Bell, “began to forget that we didn’t have a catalogue…we [were now] a viable independent record company. It accelerated from that point forward.”

The Soul Explosion campaign began with the exclusive vinyl reissues for Record Store Day (13 April) of Albert King’s Born Under A Bad Sign, the duets collection Boy Meets Girl: Classic Stax Duets and the Stax Does The Beatles compilation.

Craft will mark Black Music Month in June with the release, one per day throughout the month, of 30 Stax titles on digital formats for the first time. The full list can be seen below; eleven of the albums came from the 1969 Soul Explosion sessions.

The 2LP Soul Explosion compilation is released on 31 May. Scroll down for the full list of Craft Recordings’ digital album releases for Black Music Month, and pre-order Soul Explosion here.

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Black Music Month Digital Releases

Artist: Booker T. & The MGs
Album Title: Soul Limbo
Release Date: 6/1/19

Artist: Various
Album Title: Boy Meets Girl
Release Date: 6/2/19

Artist: Johnnie Taylor
Album Title: Rare Stamps
Release Date: 6/3/19

Artist: Soul Children
Album Title: Soul Children
Release Date: 6/4/19

Artist: Carla Thomas
Album Title: Memphis Queen
Release Date: 6/5/19

Artist: Ollie & The Nightingales
Album Title: Ollie & The Nightingales
Release Date: 6/6/19

Artist: Johnnie Taylor
Album Title: The Johnnie Taylor Philosophy Continues
Release Date: 6/7/19

Artist: The Mar-Keys
Album Title: Damifiknow
Release Date: 6/8/19

Artist: JJ Barnes & Steve Mancha
Album Title: Rare Stamps
Release Date: 6/9/19

Artist: The Mad Lads
Album Title: The Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Lads
Release Date: 6/10/19

Artist: The Goodees
Album Title: Candy Coated Goodees
Release Date: 6/11/19

Artist: The Knowbody Else
Album Title: The Knowbody Else
Release Date: 6/12/19

Artist: Eddie Floyd
Album Title: California Girl
Release Date: 6/13/19

Artist: Rufus Thomas
Album Title: Crown Prince Of Dance
Release Date: 6/14/19

Artist: Mel & Tim
Album Title: Starting All Over Again
Release Date: 6/15/19

Artist: William Bell
Album Title: Phases Of Reality
Release Date: 6/16/19

Artist: The Sweet Inspirations
Album Title: Estelle, Myrna & Sylvia
Release Date: 6/17/19

Artist: The Dramatics
Album Title: A Dramatic Experience
Format: Digital album

Artist: John KaSandra
Album Title: Color Me Human
Release Date: 6/19/19

Artist: The Bar-Kays
Album Title: Do You See What I See?
Release Date: 6/20/19

Artist: David Porter
Album Title: Victim Of The Joke? An Opera
Release Date: 6/21/19

Artist: The Rance Allen Group
Album Title: A Soulful Experience
Release Date: 6/22/19

Artist: The Temprees
Album Title: Love Maze
Release Date: 6/23/19

Artist: Frederick Knight
Title: I’ve Been Lonely For So Long
Release Date: 6/24/19

Artist: Barbara Lewis
Title: The Many Grooves Of
Release Date: 6/25/19

Artist: Little Milton
Album Title: Waiting For Little Milton
Release Date: 6/26/19

Artist: Inez Foxx
Album Title: At Memphis
Release Date: 6/27/19

Artist: Melvin Van Peebles
Album Title: Don’t Play Us Cheap
Release Date: 6/28/19

Artist: Kim Weston
Album Title: Kim Kim Kim
Release Date: 6/28/19

Artist: Various
Album Title: Wattstax
Release Date: 6/30/19

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