PBS Showing Film On 1967 Stax European Tour

Motown may be fifty years old this year but in those formative years of soul, there was another musical dynasty taking shape 700 miles to the south.  Raw and hardworking, yet dapper too with influences rooted deeply in gospel and blues, the brash Southerners at Stax Records that forged Memphis soul were song-and-dance men who knew how to bring an audience to its feet.  Stax stars like Otis Reading oozed sensuality while the band that backed them (Booker T. and the Otis ReddingMG's plus the horns of the Mar-Keys) was racially integrated and musically unstoppable.  The shock waves that this new sound transmitted were felt far beyond the shores of the USA and when in 1967 the Stax / Volt Revue tour headed for Europe the event was captured on film.  The black-and-white concert footage of ‘Sweet Soul Music: Stax Live in Europe 1967' which was videotaped for television in Oslo, Norway on April 7, 1967 will be shown across the USA on PBS in March of this year.  (Check http://www.pbs.org/ for listings).  It will provide a welcome opportunity to see the Stax soul men at their youthful peak as, although things were destined to rapidly change; this for Stax was truly a golden era.

Stax Records did not choose timid singers and the 1967 tour lineup reflected this and then some.  Redding, Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd and Arthur Conley were R&B troupers from an era when performers didn't need to lip-sync when they danced.  They commanded the stage with moves no choreographer could ever teach and worked tirelessly to build a rhythmic connection with the audience that endured long after the final curtain.

The film showcases hits such as Sam & Dave's ‘Soothe Me' and ‘Green Onion's' from Booker T and the MG's.  They blend perfectly with other blockbusters of the time that include ‘Sweet Soul Music' by Arthur Conley and Eddie Floyd's ‘Raise A Hand' yet the star of the show is undoubtedly Otis Reading.  During an on-screen interview, trumpeter Wayne Jackson remembers the energy that was a key component of such live performances.  He recalls that "Redding would slosh through puddles of Sam & Dave's sweat to get out to the stage and then he would add a gallon of his own perspiration to the lake."  Indeed the film comprehensively chronicles Redding's contribution to the show.  Included are renditions of his biggest hits such as his sorrowful ‘Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)', the wonderful ‘My Girl' and the funk laden ‘Shake'.  Pressing on with ‘Satisfaction', he matches Al Jackson's rat-a-tat drumming with his own stamping footwork and carries ‘Try a Little Tenderness' from tender beginnings to a seismic conclusion.

Only months later Redding would die in a plane crash and we began to understand that our heroes were not, after all immortal.  Nevertheless the soundtrack to our lives remains and, if only briefly, this up coming PBS special offers the chance to rewind to simpler times when it really did seem to be all about he music.

In fact the film is a shorter version of a DVD, ‘Stax/Volt Revue: Live in Norway 1967' that is available from the Stax Museum in Memphis.  For more information go to www.staxmuseum.org

By Denis Poole www.smoothjazztherapy.com

 

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