Stax Number Ones

Various Artists

Stax/Concord Record Group, 2010

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


The Stax record label existed between 1961 and 1975 as Motown’s main soul and rhythm & blues rival. Located in Memphis, they produced a grittier, funkier sound than the impeccably produced Motown material. (My apology to Marvin Gaye, as his sound was the big Motown exception to this statement.)

The Stax catalogue has been passed around during the past thirty-five years, but in 2004, The Concord Record Group gained control and began issuing various compilation albums. Stax Number Ones is the latest and the best of the label’s legacy.

The Stax label placed 175 songs on The Billboard Magazine Hot 100 pop charts and an amazing 275 on the R&B charts. This release gathers the fifteen cuts that reached number one on either chart, presenting the elite of ‘60s and ‘70s soul music.nbtc__dv_250

Otis Redding placed dozens of songs on the charts between 1963 and 1967. On December 7, 1968 he went into the studio and recorded “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay.” Three days later, he was killed in a plane crash. His single spent a month on top of the National charts in the United States and rates as on of the top ten soul performances of all time. If you want to explore the history of American rhythm & blues, this is one of the key cuts to visit.

Sam and Dave have two songs on the album: “Soul Man” and “Hold On! I’m Coming” were big crossover hits and had more of a pop feel than the usual Stax fare. The use of brass during “Soul Man” is Memphis soul at its best.

Interestingly, it is Johnnie Taylor who is the only artist to have three number ones included on the album. “I Believe In You (You Believe In Me),” “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone,” and his huge crossover hit “Who’s Making Love” helped define the funky soul sound. His biggest hit, “Disco Lady,” released after the label’s demise, topped the pop charts for four weeks.

Isaac Hayes is represented here by his chart-topping “Theme From Shaft,” which would also win the Oscar for best song. “Green Onions” was the first release by Booker T & The MG’s. They were a rare early ‘60s interracial band featuring keyboardist Booker T. Jones, legendary guitarist Steve Cropper, and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn. This instrumental remains instantly recognizable. When you add such tracks as “Knock On Wood” by Eddie Floyd, “In The Rain” by The Dramatics, “Mr. Big Stuff” by Jean Knight, plus songs by Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers, and Shirley Brown, you have an album with no filler.

Stax Number Ones presents the best of not only Memphis soul but of American rhythm and blues. These songs are an essential slice of American music history.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A


David is right, this some of the best music to ever come out of the radio. For just a few Bucks more you can pick up Stax's 50th Anninersary Collection, which contains, you guessed it! 50 killer Stax recordings. The 2 disc set comes in a nice box with a booklet, my set cost $12.

© 2010 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Stax/Concord Record Group, and is used for informational purposes only.