Stax Records and Craft Recordings have announced a range of titles in celebration of the famed Wattstax benefit concert, which took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 20, 1972.
The upcoming releases include Soul’d Out: The Complete Wattstax Collection, Wattstax: The Complete Concert, and The Best of Wattstax, alongside 2-LP reissues of the original soundtrack albums Wattstax: The Living Word and The Living Word: Wattstax 2. All of the titles will be released on February 24 and are available now for pre-order.
In additional recognition of the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Columbia Pictures music documentary, Sony Pictures will reissue Wattstax at participating Alamo Drafthouse locations throughout the US from February 24. Buy tickets here.
The celebrated concert was created in conjunction with the annual Watts Summer Festival, which marked the seventh anniversary of the Watts uprising in Los Angeles. The Wattstax benefit concert attracted an audience of over 100,000 people, and captures many of Stax Records’ greatest artists at the height of their performing powers. These included sets by Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, the Bar-Kays, and many others.
The forthcoming sets are the first complete audio collections of Wattstax, described by event creator and then-Stax president Al Bell calls the “most jubilant celebration of African American music, culture, and values in American history.”
Soul’d Out: The Complete Wattstax Collection is a lavish 12-CD boxed set featuring the entire concert as well as recordings from the Summit Club. Fully 31 tracks in the collection are previously unreleased, and the package is housed in a folio with a 76-page, full-color book featuring an introduction by Bell and new essays by Rob Bowman and A. Scott Galloway. Soul’d Out is launched today with a previously unreleased Wattstax version of Hayes” timeless “Theme From Shaft.”
Wattstax: The Complete Concert includes the full show and is available in both 6-CD and 10-LP formats. It includes not only all of the music performances but all of the speeches and other stage banter from the occasion. Among these is event MC, the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s oft-quoted “I Am Somebody” speech. Both formats of the set include the full-color book.
The 1-CD The Best of Wattstax is the perfect introduction to the event and its stars, offering a handpicked selection of 20 outstanding performances from the concert. These include tracks by Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, the Bar-Kays, Kim Weston, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Albert King, Eddie Floyd, and more.
The reissues of the two original soundtrack albums Wattstax: The Living Word and The Living Word: Wattstax 2, which feature highlights from the concert and the subsequent documentary film, will be available on 2-LP formats on the same date. Both have been newly cut from the original analog tapes.
In his notes, Bell writes of the Watts uprising and the racial tension that Stax did so much to temper with its unerring policy of artistic integration: “I believed then that soul music is an art form born of the African American culture, and that Stax should support the people who supported us. I also wanted to garner more recognition for our roster of Southern Soul artists by taking them to Hollywood for a performance that no one would ever forget.”