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Mavis Staples – Live in London – 14 tracks / 56 minutes
This live recording shows that Mrs. Staples still has it – even on her 79th birthday she can definitely bring it.
Mavis has been doing her thing for the better part of a half century, and I won’t lie: I was pleasantly surprised at how much she still has to bring as she approaches 80 years on this Earth. For long-time fans, this recording will fit right in; for those unfamiliar, this is a fine place to start. Her backing band if fantastic, and Mavis is truly enjoying herself here – even before the crowd sings her a “Happy Birthday” tribute (this recording was done on her 79th birthday).
This record starts out strong, with a jazzed-up and energetic take on the classic “Love and Trust”, complete with Mavis ad-lib riffing after the song about how we have all been waiting too long for those very things. She tells us “the judge and the criminal, the sinner and the priest, got somethin’ in common, bring em all to their knees; do what you can, do what you must, everybody’s trying to find some love and trust.”
When Mavis introduces the Chicago blues, she name drops a few who’s who’s of the genre: Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, her own proud papa. This is a fun listen not only to celebrate a magnificent voice of R&B and civil rights, but because it shows that she is still vital (as if her recent work with Jeff Tweedy and Hozier didn’t already prove that). On “Can You Get to That” she sings over a backing barnstorm of a tune, complete with backing vocals that shine, especially at the end.
The highlight of the album, for me, is her earnest and heartfelt cover of Talking Heads “Slippery People”. It starts out nondescript, but by the first line of lyrics, you can hear audience members freaking out. Yes this is pure goodness – Mavis and her crew completely destroy this classic tune, and I mean that in the best way possible. Towards the end of the set, the crowd sings her “Happy Birthday”, which she eagerly joins in on. This was clearly a mutual joyfest, and it’s heartening to get to listen to someone as experienced as she is still having a blast doing what she does.
Key Tracks: “Can You Get To That”, “Love and Trust”, “Slippery People”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/4BfLqEBgeWe4JTrUQ0O2mX?si=lcVDY_FtSAiewh2rTX2vTQ
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