The Staple Singers
Faith & Grace: A Family Journey 1953-1976 (Stax/Concord)
Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, Fri., Dec. 18, 2015
Fed up with his band's habitual lack of punctuality in the late Forties, Roebuck "Pops" Staples replaced them with his own children: Mavis, Pervis, Cleotha, and later Yvonne. Two voices rose above the chorus in Pops' rich tenor – never hurried, always warm, embracing – and Mavis' alternately powerhouse cry and caramel croon. First comprehensive Staple Singers compilation, the 4-CD Faith & Grace arcs gospel into folk and soul with unconstrained humanity. Early on, the trembling vibrato of Pops' guitar and church standards dominate (1956 breakout "Uncloudy Day"), before sublime 1962 single "Hammer and Nails" bridges the sacramental into the self-dubbed "soul-folk" that fills the second CD. Disc three walks hand-in-hand with the Civil Rights movement ("Freedom Highway," "Long Walk to D.C."), and by the time the Staples hit their stride on Stax Records in the early Seventies, the hits are rolling in ("I'll Take You There," "Heavy Makes You Happy"). At close, the box makes room for rarities like a bare-bones demo of "Respect Yourself" by Stax songwriter Mack Rice, and "The Weight" from the Band's Last Waltz in 1976.