Music » Local Music

The Staple Singers - Be Altitude: Respect Yourself (Stax)

The disc that was a genre signpost signaling the group’s return

by

comment
1186608.jpg

After shifting from true gospel to their own "soul-folk" in the mid-'60s, covering Dylan and hanging with Martin Luther King, the Staple Singers hit a skid until signing with Al Bell's Stax Records in '68. A pair of Steve Cropper-helmed underachievers ensued and it was Jesse Jackson who suggested Bell produce Be Altitude, the group's third LP. 

The record became a genre signpost that also signaled the group's return, rising on the back of self-empowerment ode "Respect Yourself," which was mostly written by Detroiter Sir Mack Rice. It's hard now to imagine a tune with such graceful adianoeta hitting No. 12 on the pop charts: "You the kind of gentleman that want everything your way/ Take the sheet off your face, boy, it's a brand-new day."

The love-is-a-battlefield theme of "I'm Just Another Soldier" nearly equals the beauty of the reggae-scented "I'll Take You There"; album bests "We the People," ("Hot pants in style/ Don't let our world go wild") and "Are You Sure" sweetly reveal positivism and social commentary that aren't appeals to black (or white) resentments — they're humanist sing-alongs and the best the '70s had. The whole album's like that. 

It's beautifully recorded too, with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section and underappreciated guitar hero Eddie Hinton backing Pops, Mavis, Cleotha and Yvonne. 

The remastering is great, not compressed to death, and the two unreleased bonus tracks make this — alongside Booker T. & the MGs' McLemore Avenue and Johnnie Taylor's Taylored in Silk — a killer first set of many forthcoming Stax reissues by the Concorde Music Group. —Brian Smith

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.