Can Craft Recordings' Vinyl Reissues Challenge Original Stax Pressings?

AR-CraftRecordings225.JPGCraft Recordings, the more audiophile-centric imprint from Concord Music, has been reissuing a number of fine titles from the legendary Stax Records catalog on long playing records. In general these reissues have been made at very high level to appeal to collectors and audiophiles alike. The pressings are solid, standard weight, well-centered and quiet dark black vinyl. The packaging is frequently true to the original editions complete with period accurate labels and other tasteful production details. 

On Record Store Day the label issued a fine compilation of Beatles songs interpreted by Stax artists called, appropriately, Stax Does The Beatles. A first time vinyl edition, the collection is a fun listen pulling together album cuts, live versions as well as rarer single tracks. Packaged to mimic The White Album, the producers even went to the expense of printing the title in raised lettering -- using the same font! -- just like the Beatles' record! 

AR-StaxDoesBeatlesLettering225.JPGThe Beatle's songs hold up transformed into Rhythm 'n Blues Soul jams on Stax Does The Beatles.  My personal favorites thus far include Steve Cropper's take on the Sgt. Pepper opener "With A Little Help From My Friends." Issac Hayes' version of "Something" is also pretty epic.  But perhaps my favorite is Reggie Milner's take on "And I Love Her" which makes me want to find more music by this artist I'd not really heard of before (he only released a handful of singles and apparently, sadly, was hit by a train in 1980).  

Stax Does The Beatles is a handy compilation which initially came out on CD about ten years ago and included some previously unreleased songs and rare singles including "Got To Get You Into My Life" by Booker T & The MGs, an alternate take of "Day Tripper" by Otis Redding and a live version of "Yesterday" by Carla Thomas.  

If you have a subscription to Tidal, you can find Stax Does The Beatles streaming there in CD quality by clicking here.

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Soul Explosion is a fine two-disc sampler from 1969 and this too gives you a sweet taste of what Stax Records was all about. This is the first time this compilation has been reissued which is a nice thing because finding clean used copies of this isn't quite so easy. I have a pretty nice original copy and this new edition compares very favorably, made in Memphis from lacquers cut by Jeff Powell at Take Out Vinyl and pressed at Memphis Record Pressing.

Soul Explosion includes some non-soul surprises such as the psychedelic paisley pop of "Smell of Incense" by a group called Southwest F.O.B. (an early single by "England" Dan Seals & John Ford Coley!). But for the most part Stax' sounds were soul-centric so across the 28 tracks here you get many hits and also deeper album tracks including "Private Number" by Judy Clay & William Bell, "Who's Making Love" by Johnnie Taylor and "I've Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)" by Eddie Floyd. 

AR-StaxSoulExplosionHypeSticker225.JPGAs I listen to Soul Explosion, I'm thinking that while original delivers the music with an ever so slightly warmer presentation the crisper brightness on the new remastered edition holds up with repeated plays and doesn't feel unnatural. Turning up the volume to a good clip doesn't denigrate the music at all. As with many vintage soul and R 'n B albums, these vinyl records were primo party jams back in the day and thus finding real clean copies is not easy.  Again, if you have a subscription to Tidal you can stream Soul Explosion in CD quality by clicking here.

This new edition of Soul Explosion is a welcome restoration which sounds really nice. Actually, this one sounds so nice I'm going to get rid of my original pressing simply because this is solid and sounds at least as good if not better than my original which is not quite in the sort of condition I would ideally like.  On the new reissue, the bass is fat and the highs are crisp without being harsh. Its quite good. 

OK, I'm in... 

Perhaps the only difference I can see is that they used the black & white version of the Stax logo vs. the blue one on my original album's labels and sleeve (and it is entirely possible that it is not a mistake and that perhaps my copy was a later edition, I don't know).  

Whatever, it is a small difference I can live with... This new edition of Soul Explosion is a keeper. 

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