Listen, I'm not the first kid from the suburbs to lay this record down and start nodding "Right-On" in rhythm. Trusty Uncle David gave me this record, 10 years ago and it's been a go-to for many late night smoke sessions. It's also taken me deeper into the Stax and helped craft a soulful soundtrack for just about any gathering.
Recorded as a live album for the movie soundtrack, "WattStax: The Living Word" captures the raw energy & soulful power rolling through the aisles of the L.A Coliseum in August of 1972.
Birthed as a benefit concert, in support of the Watts neighborhood of L.A, still working to rebuild the community following the Watts Riots of 1965. A massive concert billing & logistical undertaking the whole production is captured through the lens of Director Mel Stuart and released as a documentary in February 1973. Check it here: (Wattstax)
Stax Records, the preimenint Soul, Funk & Gospel label based in Memphis, TN curated the 7 hr. set-list. While I'd love to wax poetic on each one of these tracks, lemme highlight a few sets that find the deeper groove for me.
- The Staples Singers lead off the LP version with a full 21-minute set, complete with Pops preaching to his congregation of 110,000 strong.
- Carla Thomas, "The Queen of Memphis" soul closes her set with the Gospel love song, "I Have a God Who Loves."
- Rufus Thomas' "The Breakdown > Do The Funky Chicken > Do The Funky Penguin" is a Dallman Family dance party favorite. Just try to resist it.
- The Bar-Kays version of "Can't Turn You Loose" written by Otis Redding, bring the funk-filled bass lines & Memphis Horn section on home.
- Albert King's "Killing Floor" kicks in the Blues the door with a set by the larger than life Mississippi guitar man.
Check out the 2007 reissue (Spotify) and you'll get some real gems with Johnnie Taylor's "Steal Away" and Lee Sain's "Hot Pants."