Staple Singers, The

Band members               Related acts

  line up 1 (1959-71)

- Cleotha 'Cleo' Staple -- vocals (alto)

- Mavis Staple -- vocals (contralto)

- Pervis Staple -- vocals (tenor)

- Roebuck Staple (RIP 2000) -- vocals, guitar

- Yvonne Staples -- vocals


  line up 2 (1971- )

- Cleotha 'Cleo' Staple -- vocals (alto)

- Mavis Staple -- vocals (contralto)

- Roebuck Staple (RIP 2000) -- vocals, guitar

NEW - Yvonne Staples -- vocals




- Cropper, Steve (Albert King and Pops Staples

Mavis Staple (solo efforts)

- Roebuck 'Pops' Staple (solo efforts)



Genre: Gospel

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Company: Vee Jay

Catalog: VJLP 5030

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Year: 1956

Grade (cover/record): G / G+

Comments: skip on first song side one, lots of hiss and pop; cover is actually in surprisingly good shape with minor edge wear and small scratch across Mavis' face

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD

Cost: $1.00


First let me point out that the condition of this LP is G / G+ ...  The album plays through with a single skip on the first side, but it's full of noise and hiss.  We normally don't sell stuff unless it's graded very good, but this is an exception based on relative rarity.  If you're looking for an immaculate copy, don't buy this one.

Ah, The Staple Singers ...  personal favorites!  

Produced by Richard Simpson, 1956's "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" was The Staples' second album for Vee Jay Records.  While it's a true Gospel effort (one look at the cover tells you that), the set's worth investigating for a couple if reasons.  1.) It serves to showcase The Staples' unique, Southern blues influenced musical roots - remember that as a child Pops Staple picked cotton on a Mississippi plantation.  He also knew and played with Charlie Patton.  As a result, this doesn't sound anything like your typical 1950s Gospel album.  2.) You get to hear Pops Staple amazing, reverb propelled guitar.  3.) You get to hear Mavis Staple amazing voice.  All of those factors should make this album a joy for anyone into Southern blues.  With all twelve tracks credited to Pops Staple (geez, we didn't know he'd written the title track), the lyrics may be dedicated to the Lord, but propelled by Pops guitar and the group's amazing harmonies, tracks such as "Swing Down Chariot", "The Old Landmark" and "Good News" simply ooze soul and blues influences.  Elsewhere, "Uncloudy Day" and the title track stand as two widely recognized Gospel classics.  Easy to see how they became major stars ...   


"Swing Low Sweet Chariot" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) I'm So Glad   (Roebuck Staples) - 2:10

2.) Swing Down Chariot (Let Me Ride)   (Roebuck Staples) - 3:23

3.) The Old Landmark   (Roebuck Staples) - 2:46

4.) Good News   (Roebuck Staples) - 2:40

5.) Each Day   (Roebuck Staples) - 2:40

6.) Uncloudy Day   (Roebuck Staples) - 2:53


(side 2)
1.) Let's Go Home   (Roebuck Staples) - 1:30

2.) Pray On   (Roebuck Staples) - 2:36

3.) Help Me Jesus   (Roebuck Staples) - 2:32

4.) Going Away   (Roebuck Staples) - 1:52

5.) Didn't Knock   (Roebuck Staples) - 2:230

6.) Swing Low Sweet Chariot   (Roebuck Staples) - 2:30


Over the next two years Vee Jay pulled at least three singles from the album:


- 1956's "Uncloudy Day" b/w "I Know I Got Religion" (Vee Jay catalog number

- 1957's "Swing Down Chariot" b/w "I'm Coming Home - Pt. 2"  (Vee Jay

  catalog number 846)

- 1958's "Help Me Jesus" b/w "I Had a Dream (Vee Jay catalog number 856)



Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  The Staple Singers

Company: Stax

Catalog: STS-2034

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Year: 1971

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6022

Price: $15.00


Fourteen albums into their recording career (their third studio set for Stax), and The Staple Singers finally hit a commercial goldmine with the release of 1971's cleverly-titled "The Staple Singers".  While the group underwent a personnel shakeup shortly before the album was recorded with Pervis Staples dropping out and younger sister Yvonne joining sisters Cleo and Mavis in the line up, you had to scratch your head and wonder why it took so long for The Staples to break through commercially.  Musically the album wasn't a major departure from the group's earlier blend of gospel and soul, thought this time around new producer Al Bell made a couple of subtle changes.  In addition to taking the group to Muscle Shoals, Bell reoriented the sound from gospel to soul.  Gospel remained a core part of their sound, but it was packaged in a very contemporary soul sound that was well suited for integrated airwaves.  It might not have sounded like monumental changes, but it made a major difference.  The album also engagingly showcased The Stapes activist agenda ('This Is a Perfect World', 'What's Your Thing' and 'I Like the Things About You').  Mind you they were far from the only recording group espousing economic, political, and social change, but they were one of the few who managed to be subtle, deft, and thought provoking about it ... 


- Okay, the opening machine gun sound effects were extremely cheesy, but the rest of 'This Is a Perfect World' was a near perfect blend of activism, gospel, and soul.  A great introduction to Mavis' classic voice and the combination of Pops and his daughters unique harmony vocals.   rating: **** stars

- Showcasing some fantastic dobro guitar (Pops ?), 'What's Your Thing' framed the group with a surprisingly slinky blues feel.  This one was a perfect example of the group's strengths including a thought provoking lyric that managed to avoid the usual stridence that marred most stabs at singing about racial tolerance.  Classic soul track.   rating: **** stars

- Maybe it's just me, but to my ears Mavis Staples has always had one of soul's sexiest voices.  It really didn't matter if she was singing a page out of a telephone book, or a tale of self empowerment like the insidiously catchy 'You've Got To Earn It' ...    rating: **** stars 

- Their cover of O.V. Wright's ''You're Gonna Make Me Cry' was an unexpected change of pace, showing they were quite at home on a bluesy ballad.  You won't forget the Wright original, but this one sure came close.   rating: **** stars

- With Mavis handling the majority of lead vocals, folks overlooked the fact Pops Staples was an accomplished singer.  True, he couldn't compete with his daughters, but his performance had their own charm and that was never as obvious as on the pretty mid-tempo 'Little Boy'.  Okay, this was one where the lyric may have been a bit on the cloying side and Mavis made the song hers when she picked up lead on the second verse.  Still, one of my favorite performances on the collection.   rating: **** stars

- The first disappointment, 'How Do You Move a Mountain' was an okay song that served to showcase the sisters' magical vocal harmonies.  Unfortunately the song was ruined by a hackneyed arrangement.    rating: ** stars

- 'Almost' was another interesting change of pace.  Musically this one sounded like producer Bell had borrowed a page of Norman Whitefield's late-1960s production book.  Imagine those psychedelic-soul records The Temptations recorded with Whitfield and you'll have an idea of what this one sounded like.   rating: *** stars  

- Another Pops lead vocal, 'I'm a Lover' was a charming country-soul number.  Easy going melody and a lyric that put things in the right perspective ... How could you not like this song ?   rating: **** stars

- I don't think The Staples ever cut a rock song, but 'Love Is Plentiful' came awfully close ...  Easily one of their toughest performances and the edge on Mavis voice sounded great.   rating: **** stars

- Geez, I'm old enough to remember hearing 'Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom)' on the radio and being mesmerized by the goofy chorus ...  one of their classic performances and I didn't realize it had been penned by Jeff Barry and the late Barry Bloom.   rating: **** stars

- A cool, slinky, country-soul number, 'I Like the Things About You' had a self-empowerment lyric that should be required listening for every teenager.   rating: **** stars  

- Hum, covering a Bee Gees song ...  Well I liked it better than the original, but 'Give a Hand - Take a Hand' still didn't do a great deal for me.   rating: ** stars


The album also spun off a pair of hit singles:


- 1971's 'Love Is Plentiful' b/w 'Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom)' (Stax catalog number STA-0083)

- 1971's 'You've Got To Earn It' b/w 'I'm a Lover' (Stax catalog number STA-0093)


As much as I like this album, the next couple of releases are even better !


"The Staple Singers" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) This Is a Perfect World   (Bettye Crutcher - Mack Rice - Tommy Tate) - 4:20

2.) What's Your Thing   (Mack Rice) - 4:21

3.) You've Got To Earn It   (Smokey Robinson - Cornelius Grant) - 3:28

4.) You're Gonna Make Me Cry   (Don Malone) - 5:04

5.) Little Boy   (Carson Whitsett) - 3:25

6.) How Do You Move a Mountain   (Myrna March - Adam Levy) - 2:34


(side 2)
1.) Almost   (Harold Thomas - Leroy Mason) - 4:16

2.) I'm a Lover   (James Mabone - Charles Bevel) - 3:43

3.) Love Is Plentiful   (Bettye Crutcher - Bobby Manuel) - 2:30

4.) Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom)   (Jeff Barry - Bobby Bloom) - 2:58

5.) I Like the Things About You   (Martha Stubb - Roebuck Staples) - 3:21

6.) Give a Hand - Take a Hand   (Barry Gibbs - Maurice Gibbs) - 3:55



Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Be What You Are

Company: Stax

Catalog: STS-3015

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Year: 1973

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: embossed cover

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 4837

Price: $10.00



Maybe due to the fact "Be Altitude: Respect Yourself" was such a killer album, critics were somewhat lukewarm to 1973's "Be What You Are".  That's unfortunate since this set was every bit as good and in some respects even better than its predecessor.  Musically the album wasn't a major departure from their patented blend of secular and non-secular moves.  The Staples themselves seldom sounded as comfortable with the material - in tracks such as 'Love Comes In All Colors' and 'I'm On Your Side' Mavis' instantly recognizable and highly sexy voice was in particularly good form.  Offering up another patented mix of the family's sincere religious sentiments ('Heaven'), social activism ('Love Comes In All Colors' and 'Bridges Instead of Walls') and slinky soul (the title track and 'Touch a Hand, Make a Friend'), early 1970s soul simply didn't get much better than this one.  In fact the only real misstep was the lone cover - Bill Withers' 'Grandma's Hands'.  Not that The Staples did a bad job on their cover, rather Withers original was simply too good to improve on.  Elsewhere Stax tapped the album for a couple of singles:


- 1973's 'Be What You Are' b/w 'I Like the Things About Me'' (Stax catalog number STA-0164)

- 1973's 'Love Comes In All Colors' b/w 'If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)' (Stax catalog number STA-0179)

- 1973's 'Tellin' Lies' b/w 'Touch a Hand, Make a Friend' (Stax catalog number STA-196)


"Be What You Are" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Be What You Are   (Homer Banks - R. Jackson - C. Hampton) - 5:01

2.) If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)   (Homer Banks - R. Jackson - C. Hampton) - 4:27

3.) Love Comes In All Colors   (Bettye Crutcher) - 

4.) Tellin' Lies   (Carl Smith) - 8:49

5.) Touch a Hand, Make a Friend   (Homer Banks - R. Jackson - C. Hampton) - 4:02

6.) Drown Yourself   (Bettye Crutcher) - 4:39


(side 2)
1.) I Ain't Raisin' No Sand   (Mack Rice - Darryl Carter) - 6:32

2.) Grandma's Hands   (Bill Withers) - 2:41

3.) Bridges Instead of Walls   (Homer Banks - R. Jackson - C. Hampton) - 4:03

4.) I'm On Your Side   (Homer Banks - R. Jackson - C. Hampton) - 3:57

5.) That's What Friends Are For   (Mack Rice) - 4:12

6.) Heaven   (Terry Manning) - 3:35



Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Pass It On

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: BS-2945

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Year: 1976

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5021

Price: $9.00


Moving to Warner Brothers, 1976's "Pass It On" found The Staples continuing their partnership with producer/writer Curtis Mayfield.   (Note they finally got around to abbreviating the old fashioned 'Staple Singers' down to 'The Staples'.)  Their partnership with Mayfield was always somewhat of a hit-or-miss function and that remained the case this time out.  As you probably guessed from the cover photos showing them all 'pimped up', tracks like 'Take Your Own Time' and the title track found Mayfield continued his efforts to wrap the group in a mix of contemporary soul/funk and gospel moves.  Propelled by Mavis' instantly recognizable voice, highlights included the rockin' 'Party' (with a tasty lead guitar from Mayfield himself), 'Sweeter Than Sweet' (easily the most old-school number on the album) and 'Love Me, Love Me,  Love Me' (easily the most Stax-ish number on the set).  Elsewhere who would have ever expected to hear Mavis sing a lyric with a nasty word in it ... check out 'The Real Inside of Me'.  Not exactly their best album, but certainly worth hearing, especially if you can find it on the cheap.  Warner Brothers also tapped the album for a pair of singles:


- 'Love Me, Love Me,  Love Me' b/w 'Pass It On' (Warner Brothers catalog number WBS 8279) R&B # 11

- 'Sweeter Than Sweet' b/w 'Making Love' (Warner Brothers catalog number WBS 8317) R&B catalog # 52


"Pass It On" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) The Real Inside of Me   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:40

2.) Party   (Curtis Mayfield) 

3.) Take Your Own Time   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:55

4.) Sweeter Than Sweet   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:44

5.) Love Me, Love Me,  Love Me   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:46


side 2)
1.) Pass It On   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:00

2.) Making Love   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:06

3.) Take this Love   (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:59

4.) Precious, Precious   (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:10



Genre: soul

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Family Tree

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: BS-3064

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Year: 1977

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5390

Price: $9.00



With his impressive soul credentials, Eugene Record would have seemed liked a wonderful producer to replaced Curtis Mayfield.  Unfortunately while the collaboration had its moments, the overall results were surprisingly bland and forgettable - I still find it hard to imagine saying something like that ...   Judging by the diverse nature of 1977's "Family Tree" part of the problem seemed to have been Record simply didn't know what to do with the Staples.  Clearly given a mandate to return them to the top-40 charts Record responded by trying a little bit of everything including throwaway disco ('Let's Go To the Disco'), Sly Stone-styled funk ('Color Me Higher') and bland top-40 ballads (a needless cover of 'I Honestly Love You').  Surrounded by elaborate production work (check out the extensive liner note credits) the end results were professional, but seldom really caught fire - the Staples themselves seemed detached and uninterested with most of the material.   One of the few performances to capture their unique blend of Gospel, soul, and social activism the title track was probably the standout performance - great tune and wonderful performances by Mavis and Pops Staples.  That's probably why Warner Brothers tapped it as a single: 'Family Tree' b/w 'I Honestly Love You' (Warner Brothers catalog number WBS 8510).  A second 45 was pulled from the album in the form of 'See a Little Further (Than My Bed)' b/w 'Let's Go To the Disco' (Warner Brothers catalog number WBS 8460).  A modest seller the LP hit # 58 on the R&B charts.


"Family Tree" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Hang Loose   (Eugene Record - Jackie Records) - 4:10

2.) Let's Go To the Disco   (Carolyn Franklin) - 7:00

3.) Color Me Higher    (Eugene Record) - 3:50

4.) Boogie for the Blues   (Carolyn Franklin) - 4:03


side 2)
1.) Family Tree   (Nick Uhrig - Clark Piscitelli - Jerry Tawney) - 4:40

2.) What You Doing Tonight   (Carolyn Franklin) - 3:35

3.) See a Little Further (Than My Bed)    (Eugene Record) - 3:21

4.) I Honestly Love You   (Peter Allen - Jeff Barry) - 7:24



Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Unlock Your Mind

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: BSK-3192

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Year: 1978

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: promo stamp

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5391

Price: $9.00


Having spent a couple of years flaying around trying to adapt to popular tastes under the stewardship of producers Curtis Mayfield followed by Eugene Records, The Staples finally found the right production team in the form of Barry Beckett, Jerry Wexler and the cream of Muscle Shoals sessions players.  Released in 1978, "Unlock Your Mind" proved to be their most consistent and enjoyable release since the collapse of Stax.  Exemplified by material like the breezy title track (which should have been a massive hit) and 'Chica Boom' the album marked a welcome return to the Stax sound they popularized - an instantly recognizable mix of Gospel, soul and pop moves. The one difference was that this time out the focus was almost entirely on Mavis Staples.  She handled lead vocals on eight of the ten tracks, sharing leads with Pops on 'Handwriting On the Wall'.  That wasn't a bad thing since her  voice has always been one of the sexiest instruments in music.  On the other hand, with the exception of a bland cover of Sam Phillips' 'Mystery Train' and a second Paul Kelly cover 'God Can' Pops Staples likeable rasp and funky guitar stylings were basically relegated to background vocals.  Side one featured five up tempo numbers with the highlights including a sizzling cover of Paul Kelly's 'Don't Burn Me', the funky '(Shu-doo-pa-poo-poop) Love Being Your Fool', and a strange but cool cover of ELO's 'Showdown'.  The flip side wasn't quite as good, but had a couple of winners in the form of the breezy 'I Want You To Dance' and 'God Can'.  A nice comeback set, the album hit # 34 on the R&B charts. Warner Brothers also tapped the album for a pair of singles in the form of:


- 'Mystery Train' b/w 'Unlock Your Mind' (Warner Brothers catalog number WBS 8669)

- 'Chica Boom' b/w 'Handwriting On the Wall'  (Warner Brothers catalog number WBS 8784)


"Unlock Your Mind" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Chica Boom   (Jimmy Cameron - Velia Cameron) - 3:21

2.) Don't Burn Me   (Paul Kelly) - 3:21

3.) (Shu-doo-pa-poo-poop) Love Being Your Fool   (Jerry Williams Jr. - Charlie Whitehead) - 2:57

4.) Showdown   (Jeff Lynne) - 3:55

5.) Unlock Your Mind   (Roe and Coe) - 3:20


side 2)
1.) Handwriting On the Wall   (Nadine Hopson) - 3:48

2.) Mystery Train   (Sam Phillips - H. Parker Jr.) - 3:53

3.) Leave It All Up To Love   (Anthony Bell) - 4:00

4.) I Want You To Dance  (Roe - Coe) - 3:54

5.) God Can   (Paul Kelly) - 4:58



Genre: soul

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Turning Point

Company: Private I

Catalog: BZ-39460

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Year: 1984

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap, little damage along back bottom edge

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4314

Price: $7.00


The fact 1984's "Turning Point" was released by the Private I label (best know for it's dance catalog), coupled with the glitzy packaging left me dreading this album.  I actually put the album aside for a couple of weeks not wanting to hear it out of fear that it would be a complete disco disaster.  Well my fears were largely misplaced.  With Pervis Staples and Henry Bush co-producing most of the effort, this LP came close to matching their late-1960s/early-1970s creative zenith.  If nothing else, it's the best thing they recorded during the 1970s.  Yes, the Staples were guilty of tarting up their sound with synthesizers and syn drums in an effort to bring it into the mid-1980s.  It didn't always work, but on tracks such as the blazing 'This Is Our Night' (written and produced by Mike Piccirillio and Gary Goetzman they out Emotion The Emoitions ...) and their slinky cover of The Talking Heads 'Slippery People' the results were simply wonderful.  At the same time material such as 'Bridges Instead of Walls' and 'Hate (Don't Live Here Anymore)' demonstrated  they were smart enough to hold on to their Gospel roots.  As for lead singer Mavis Staples; well she remained one of music's forgotten giants - the woman could sing pages out of a phone book and make it sound good.  In case anyone cares, 'Slippery People' b/w 'On My Own Again' (Private I catalog number ZS4-04583) was released as a single.



Thanks to YouTube, here's a link to a Soul Train clip of the group lipsynching 'This Is Our Night':


"Turning Point" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) This Is Our Night   (Mike Piccirillio - Gary Goetzman) - 4:30

2.) Slippery People   (David Byrne - Tina Waymouth - Chris Frantz - Jerry Harrison) - 4:19

3.) Bridges Instead of Walls   (Homer Banks - C. Hampton - R. Jackson) - 3:48

4.) The Turning Point   (L.J. McNally - J. Black) - 3:22


(side 2)
1.) Right Decision   (B. Rush) - 5:30

3.) Hate (Don't Live Here Anymore)   (George Jackson - E. Thomas - M. Franklin) - 4:19

3.) On My Own Again   (R. Bowles - B.L. Eager) - 4:30

4.) That's What Friends Are For   (M. Rice) - 3:30