A young Australian singer, Guy Sebastian, has taken on that Herculean task with his fourth album, The Memphis Album. I know what you're thinking: A whole album of covers? Can't he write some material of his own? How can you improve upon or even equal music of such historic weight? Well, to start, to help him with the task are several men who were instrumental in originating the sound when it first got cut on vinyl, including Donald "Duck" Dunn and Steve Cropper (who I recently mentioned here), two original members of Booker T. and the MG's (and of the Blues Brothers' band). Steve was not only a member of the monumentally important house band of Stax Records, but was also clutch in producing much of the music that other groups put out under the Stax name. Consequently, he also was responsible for producing Guy's album. That says a lot about Guy's artistic prowess when the original musicians come along for the ride.
All of the songs on the album are ones that you're familiar with if you've listened to any soul music from the period. They've got the signature Stax organ sound behind them, the tight horn section making themselves heard, with a new voice in front, one that's noticeably different from the originals. Although his vocals are of a different tone, it's clear that Guy has taken much of his style from the period's artists, and he does a very fine job of filling some very large shoes. I'm not going to lie to you, there are a couple of interpretations that don't quite stack up to their predecessors, but as a whole, the album really is a wonderful tribute to some classic music.
It very much reminds me of Marc Broussard's album from earlier this year, S.O.S.: Save Our Soul, albeit with much more well known songs and a somewhat updated feel to it (whereas Broussard feels closer to the original). Right now it's only available as an import from Australia, but hopefully it will get a release here in the States. While you're waiting for it, enjoy the following:
Guy Sebastian - Knock On Wood (Eddie Floyd cover) : The Memphis Album
Eddie Floyd - Knock On Wood : The Complete Stax/Volt Singles: 1959-1968 (Disc 6)
Buddy Guy - Knock On Wood (Eddie Floyd cover) : Vanguard Visionaries
Guy Sebastian - Respect Yourself (The Staple Singers cover) : The Memphis Album
The Staple Singers - Respect Yourself : The Best Of The Staple Singers
Marc Broussard - Respect Yourself (The Staple Singers cover) : S.O.S.: Save Our Soul
Visit his website, his label Sony/BMG Australia, and become his friend on MySpace.
The Blues Brothers - Rubber Biscuit : Briefcase Full of Blues