Los Angeles, CA - When it comes to soul, Stax Records owned the '60s. Classic records from Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus & Carla Thomas, and a legion of others helped transform what was once known as rhythm 'n' blues into rugged, emotionally bare "soul" music. This made Stax one of the decade's most influential labels of any genre. It all crescendoed in 1968, a tempest-tossed year when the label redefined its own sound and, in the process, channeled a larger historical zeitgeist.
Stax '68: A Memphis Story
, out on October 19th via Craft Recordings, captures this crossroads in stunning, beautiful detail. The five-disc box set contains the A- and B-sides of every single released under the Stax banner in 1968, including the company's sub-labels. With a 56-page book including revelatory, in-depth liner notes by Andria Lisle, Robert Gordon, and Steve Greenberg, as well as rare and previously unseen photos, the set presents more than 120 songs from this unprecedented creative period in American music. Some tracks are by soul legends (Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, William Bell, Booker T. & The M.G.'s, Johnnie Taylor) and some come from the deeper Stax catalog, and are equally incredible artists (Linda Lyndell, The Soul Children, The Mad Lads).
The collection will also be released digitally, and in the four weeks leading up to the release, one instant grat single download will be offered per week, with all digital pre-orders. The first instant grat single, "Long Walk to D.C." by The Staple Singers, will be available on September 21st. The second instant grat, "Used to Be Love" by Lindell Hill (available digitally for the first time), will be available on September 28th. "Send Peace and Harmony Home" by Shirley Walton becomes available as an instant grat on October 5th. The final instant grat track, "Going Back to Memphis" by Billy Lee Riley (available digitally for the first time), will be available on October 12th.
featuring a limited edition Stax '68: A Memphis Story poster, letter-pressed using authentic vintage materials from the Globe Collection and Press at MICA, are available at the Stax Records online store.
to pre-order the exclusive deluxe bundle at
to pre-order the Stax '68: A Memphis Story 5-CD set or digital album.
The Stax '68: A Memphis Story box set release coincides with two extraordinary exhibits presented by the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, Tennessee; The Sound of '68 and Give A Damn! Music+ Activism at Stax Records. More details on each of these below.
The Year's Defining Moments in Relation to Stax:
Three earth-shattering events altered the state of Stax in '68. America reeled following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose death occurred practically in Stax's back yard. The resulting social, political, and cultural cataclysms profoundly affected the label's direction. Stax was also working overtime to reinvent itself in the wake of Otis Redding's untimely December '67 passing and the dissolution of a deal with Atlantic Records that gave the label perpetual rights to Stax's back catalog. When the deal ended, Stax also lost one of their leading artists, Sam & Dave, who were signed to Atlantic, but released their music on Stax.
's iconic "(Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay" and Sam & Dave's "I Thank You" were the label's first singles of '68. The former showed how much Redding was evolving and how much Stax (along with the rest of the world) had lost with his passing. The latter, like "Dock of the Bay," was a huge hit on both the Pop and R&B charts, underlining Sam & Dave's crossover potential. Both were essentially the artists' Stax swan songs.
Without Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and all the fruits of their labor up to that time, Stax could easily have folded. Instead they bore down, found a way forward, and followed it to further glory. The impact of Redding's death was felt even in Eddie Floyd's "Big Bird," written about Floyd's attempt to fly to Redding's funeral, but the song's stomping, rock-informed feel foreshadowed Stax's decision to widen its net and expand its aesthetic to embrace everything from psychedelic rock to Motown-style sounds.
's shimmering, gospel-tinged "Send Peace and Harmony Home" had been written by Al Bell, Eddie Floyd, and Booker T. Jones, as a dedication to Dr. King, and as a reaction to the escalating tension in the city. In the middle of the recording session, word arrived of his murder, and a teary-eyed Walton delivered what became an ode to the man's message in the aftermath of his assassination. "Long Walk to D.C." was conceived as a tribute to King's March on Washington, but by the time The Staple Singers cut it for Stax in '68, it was equal parts Civil Rights anthem and eulogy.
The Soul Children
's "Give 'Em Love," with a propulsive vibe more pop-friendly than funky, was emblematic of Stax's new openness to Motown influences. The paisley-patterned psychedelia of Dallas rockers Southwest F. O. B.'s "Smell of Incense" (featuring future pop titans England Dan & John Ford Coley) on Stax subsidiary Hip showed the R&B hub's willingness to rock a bit.
Plenty of Stax's biggest names appear on Stax '68, with cuts both unexpected and classic. Staff writer/producer/musician Isaac Hayes' first record under his own name included "Precious Precious," a surprising, swinging dash of soul jazz. William Bell's often-covered crossover hit "I Forgot to Be Your Lover" and Johnnie Taylor's Pop and R&B smash "Who's Making Love" showed that Stax still had more than enough musical muscle to ascend, despite all its tribulations.
The whole world was changing in 1968, but Stax's powerful portion of that evolution/revolution is captured step by soulful step in Stax '68: A Memphis Story.
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music Exhibits:
The Sound of '68
at The Stax Museum of American Soul Music
documents life inside Studio A at Stax Records as seen by Don Nix, an early member of the Stax family who later became a songwriter, producer, and solo artist for the label, and Alan Copeland, the drummer for a Memphis garage band, The Poor Little Rich Kids. Nearly 40 black and white and color images of Steve Cropper, Jim Stewart, Isaac Hayes, and The Staple Singers show a vibrancy, determination, and spirit of teamwork that would launch the company into an era of great success.
The exhibit opens September 4th and closes November 30th.
The Give A Damn! Music+ Activism at Stax Records
is hosted by, and located at, Crosstown Arts in Memphis. The exhibition is
the culmination of a year-long examination of Stax Records and its commitment to political activism, community engagement, and social justice in the years following Dr. King's death. It features never-before-seen artifacts, including Isaac Hayes' 14-foot long, custom-made office desk, stage clothing worn by Johnnie Taylor and Isaac Hayes, rare photos and documents, short films, music, and original artwork contributed by Shelby County students. The exhibit opens September 28th and closes November 25th.
About Craft Recordings:
Craft Recordings is home to one of the largest and most prestigious collections of master recordings and compositions in the world. Its rich and storied repertoire includes legendary artists such as Joan Baez, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Vince Guaraldi, John Lee Hooker, Little Richard, Nine Inch Nails, Thelonious Monk, Otis Redding, R.E.M. and Traveling Wilburys, to name just a few. Renowned imprints with catalogs issued under the Craft banner include Concord, Fania, Fantasy, Milestone, Musart, Nitro, Prestige, Riverside, Rounder, Specialty, Stax, Sugar Hill, Vanguard and Vee-Jay Records, among many others. Craft creates thoughtfully curated packages, with a meticulous devotion to quality and a commitment to preservation-ensuring that these recordings endure for new generations to discover. Craft Recordings is the catalog label team for Concord Music. For more info, visit CraftRecordings.com and follow
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For museum enquiries, please contact Soulsville Foundation