V.A. - The Complete Stax & Volt Singles 1959-1968 (1991) [Reissued 2016, 9CD Box Set]
When it comes to '50s and '60s R&B, there's a lot of competition in terms of which label delivered the best stuff, but there's no question that any and every list of possible contenders would feature Stax Records. But you can't talk about Stax without talking about two other labels: Satellite and Volt. Satellite came first, then the label changed its name to Stax in honor of its two owners (Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton). Volt, meanwhile, was Stax's sister label, but at a certain point the two labels became so synonymous that people started referring to them in the same breath.
At nine discs and 244 tracks, The Complete Stax-Volt Singles: 1959-1968 is far too exhaustive for casual fans, but that's not who the set is designed for - it's made for the collector. Featuring every A-side the label released during those nine years, as well as several B-sides, the set is a definitive portrait of gritty, deep Southern soul. Many of the genre's major names - Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Booker T. & the MG's, William Bell, Rufus Thomas, the Bar-Kays, Albert King - plus many terrific one-shot wonders are showcased in terrific sound and augmented with an in-depth booklet. For any serious soul or rock collector, it's an essential set, since Stax-Volt was not only a musically revolutionary label, its roster was deep with talent, which means much of the music on this collection is first-rate. But if you only want the hits, you'll be better off with a smaller collection, since too much of this set will sound too similar, and sorting through the nine discs will be a monumental task if you only want to hear Otis, Rufus, Carla, and Sam & Dave.
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