Various Wattstax: Highlights from the Motion Picture

Wattstax, the 1973 movie of Stax Records' staging of a massive concert in Los Angeles, has recently been reissued on DVD. Despite its great cross section of life in Watts and superb performances by most of the Stax roster at the time, it has seldom been seen since its first run. This CD presents full performances of almost all the songs in the movie, wherein artists were edited to two or three segments. There had been several compilations available of this incredible event, but none so concise as this one. There is a real sense of purpose to these performances: everyone is aware of the historic nature of this affair, and all bring their "A" game to some the best material in their repertoires. This is a diverse 77 minutes, with jazz, gospel, and blues tracks underlining getting equal time with soul and funk. A good half dozen of these tracks are top quality workouts: Rance Allen’s "Lying on the Truth” is a wild, uninhibited trio setting a history lesson to a James Brown groove. The Bar-Kays "Son of Shaft” will have you both calling and responding in your living room. The Emotions profoundly moving "Peace Be Still” is sizzling gospel. And of course, Isaac Hayes, the biggest star on Stax, reclaims "Theme from Shaft" from a million karaoke bars with a performance that rivals the original. Unfortunately, given the calibre of the peak performances, certain artists (Carla Thomas, Kim Weston) can't measure up, but this disc is a very solid introduction into Stax during the ’70s. (Stax)