Wattstax: Music from the Wattstax Festival and Film
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Dec. 14, 2007
Wattstax: Music from the Wattstax Festival and Film(Stax)
The 1972 Wattstax Music Festival brought a bumper crop of Stax Records acts to Los Angeles' Memorial Coliseum for a $1 concert benefiting the riot-torn Watts neighborhood. Additional performances were filmed and recorded at L.A.'s Summit Club and the Friendly Will Church for the Wattstax film. This 3-CD set eschews the studio tracks Stax padded its two original Wattstax double-LP sets with in favor of unreleased live material. Highlights include the Staple Singers' passionate reading of "Are You Sure" and a fully orchestrated version of Fredrick Knight's "I've Been Lonely (For So Long)" that bears little resemblance to the sparse original. Louise McCord's "Better Get a Move On" lays down a soul-affirming gospel groove that transitions nicely into the fleshly funk of Lee Sain's "Them Hot Pants." The superlative Wattstax performances by the Bar-Kays and Rufus Thomas are here in all their excited glory, though one must view the film to see Thomas calmly and masterfully clear the football field after thousands jump the barricades to do the funky chicken. This set's one major misstep was omitting soul philosopher Johnnie Taylor's marathon version of "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone." Otherwise, this is the single most comprehensive Wattstax document to date.