thestaxman | Jackson, MS United States | 06/18/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It took over twenty years and a trip to France to bring together a Stax Records reunion of some of Memphis, Tennessee's biggest stars. This DVD will warm the hearts of many Soul fans. This is excellent footage with excellent sound (especially lined up through your stereo speakers - the MGs in particular oughta be played with the sound ALL the way up) and is the best, if not only, footage available for the artists involved.
Booker T. & the MGs, Stax's house band, grace us with their inimitable greatness throughout the disc's entirety. The MGs' drummer, Al Jackson, Jr., was murdered in 1975 and can absolutely never be replaced, but Jazz drummer Danny Gottlieb more than admirably fills in. He, organist Booker T. Jones, guitarist Steve Cropper, and bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn provide many of the DVD's highlights, playing some of the MGs' most loved instrumentals. Trumpeter Wayne Jackson and saxophonist Andrew Love (the world renowned Memphis Horns) come on, and with the MGs, burn through a couple of numbers they succeeded with in the '60s under the name The Mar-Keys. The sounds Love and Jackson made graced records by, among others, Otis Redding and Al Green, and they are still the best around. To support the singers, Carla's brother and Stax veteran Marvell Thomas joins in on keyboards.
Of the vocalists, Eddie Floyd steals the show. Getting the audience on their feet from the beginning to the end, Floyd performs several songs including "Knock On Wood", a cover of "Stand By Me", and closes with an outstanding performance of "Big Bird" which he co wrote with Booker T. Jones after label mate Redding's plane crash. Not only does he sound great, he hasn't lost a step physically. His energy is contagious, and the European crowd loves it.
Carla Thomas, who with her father Rufus (who was still alive and inexplicably absent here) helped put Stax on the map, rocks her heart out. Before she sings her signature tune "Gee Whiz" she says softly, "Stax is back", and man, it brings chills to your spine. She has a lot of fun, even doing both her and Redding's parts on their great duet "Tramp".
Sadly, the great Sam Moore of Sam & Dave (Dave Prater died in a car accident in 1988) is not the ball of fire he once was. His timing is off, and although his voice is still fairly strong, he doesn't punch those lines like he used to. Maybe he needed producer David Porter, who co wrote with Isaac Hayes most of Sam & Dave's output, there to spur him on. Sam & Dave were known as Double Dynamite, and their live performances are as legendary as Redding's and even James Brown's. It is obvious that it's not just the years, but the mileage that has hindered Moore.
A couple of technical notes: This DVD is double sided. One side formatted for American DVD players, the other for European. Mine plays both sides, and the European is much better visually, and perhaps sound wise as well. The whole concert is really filmed quite well. The contents and track listings are not correct, but one should be able to figure things out and navigate easily. For some reason, there is a "lyrics quiz" from songs recorded from 1980-89 - nothing to do with Stax or Soul. Also, Chicago guitarist Phil Upchurch makes an appearance and performs his "You Can't Sit Down" with the MGs. What makes this somewhat perplexing is that he had no association with Stax, and there were two alive and performing Stax greats that weren't a part of this show. Super performer Johnnie Taylor, who recorded "Who's Making Love" with the MGs, and the greatest Blues guitarist of them all, Stax's Albert King! Both have since passed, and it would have been great to see and hear them with the MGs and the Memphis Horns behind them.
What truly makes this DVD a treat is to witness how brilliant Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, and Booker T. Jones still are. Their version of their 1971 single "Melting Pot" is orgasmic. If I had just one example to make the case for the MGs being the greatest band of all time, it may be what they do here with the Gershwin/Heyward classic "Summertime". Jones floats across the keys of his B-3 organ and Cropper will literally bring you to tears. I don't know if it's what he plays, or that this group is just so damn good, but the experience is breath taking. For their musicianship alone, this DVD should be sought out."
Do You Like Soul Music ?
peterfromkanata | Kanata, Ontario Canada | 01/04/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I gave this DVD 3 stars, based on the following--the music is fabulous and rates 5 stars--the picture and sound quality of the disc is bad and rates 1 star.This concert was recorded ( poorly ) in Cannes, France around 1990. As the other reviewer notes, it features Booker T. and the MGS, Sam Moore ( of the legendary Sam and Dave ), Carla Thomas , Eddie Floyd and Phil Upchurch. The MGS, of course, have Steve Cropper, the guitarist's guitarist, and the whole band really cooks, especially when the Memphis Horns join them. There are super sets from Carla, Eddie and Sam--they may be older than their 1960s heyday, but all three can still sing up a storm. Eddie Floyd was the surprise for me--a really dynamic showman.
If you like truly great American music--and the Stax brand of gritty soul--this is a fine concert indeed.With this talent all on one stage, what a pity that the sound is only a big, fat mono--and that the picture quality is so fuzzy. The image is at its worst during Sam Moore's set--he wears a blue suit and the background is blue--with the smeared picture, there are moments when only Sam's head is visible. For a 90s concert, I find this inexcusable.So--bottom line--if you are mainly interested in these artists and the fine music they make, go for it--but if you are equally, or more, interested in perfect sound and picture, you have been warned !"
Memphis Soul Men Still Have It!
peterfromkanata | 07/01/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is basically Booker T & the MG's with Eddie Floyd and Carla Thomas and Sam Moore on vocals recorded live somewhere in Europe in the 1990's. The video quality is a little blurry, the packaging is horrible, and the presence of Phil Upchurch on guitar on a few tunes is hard to explain, but it's great to see these cats in action again and amazing to find that, thirty-some years after their heyday, they can play and sing with the same fire. In particular, the MG's are tighter than ever. Stax fans will love this. And, until the cool B&W footage shot during the Europe tour of the late 60's is made commercially available (some of it showed up on the "Remembering Otis" DVD), this is the closest we'll get to a live Stax soul revue with the original Memphis musicians."