Funky. Emotional. Raw. Powerful. That was soul music in the Civil Rights era; and Stax Records did it like no other. Stax quickly became a hit-making machine, producing a massive catalog of Top 100 records that defined the "Memphis Sound;" such as "Soul Man," "(Sittin On) The Dock Of The Bay," "Green Onions," "Midnight Hour," "I'll Take You There," "Respect Yourself," "Theme from Shaft" and many more. Stax also launched the careers of a who's-who of soul music greats: Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, The Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd, Carla and Rufus Thomas, Albert King and Booker T. and the MGs, to name just a few. Now, with the release of this exciting new DVD, Grammy-nominated filmakers Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville ("Muddy Waters Can't Be Satisfied") present the first comprehensive look at Stax, the greatest soul label of all time.
The rise and fall of Memphis-based Stax Records remains one of the more compelling sagas in American popular music history. Founded in 1957 as Satellite Records, renamed in 1961 by blending the surnames of brother-sister co-founders Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, Stax was Motown's funky Deep South counterpart. From its loose atmosphere came giants, including Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas and daughter Carla, Booker T and the MGs, Eddie Floyd, Sam & Dave, Albert King, Isaac Hayes, and the Bar-Kays. Recording in a converted movie theater, the earthy results were often as stunning and transcendent as anything from the equally loose Sun Records across town or Motown itself. While celebrating Stax, its triumphs and the genius of its artists and musicians, the documentary doesn’t shy away from the label's woes, like unexamined fine print that gave Atlantic Records, who distributed Stax, the rights to classic Stax masters. While it resurged following its sale, through the successes of Isaac Hayes, the Shaft soundtrack and legendary Wattstax show, those triumphs were a prelude to the label's final, ugly collapse. The redemption comes by detailing Stax's legacy into the 21st century. The DVD extra consists of rehearsal footage from the rehearsals for a Stax reunion show. --Rich Kienzle