The five-disc milestone anniversary box set Stax '68: A Memphis Story will be released on October 19 via Craft Recordings. The collection celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of the most memorable and momentous years in the distinguished history of Stax Records, during which the label redefined its sound and in the process channeled a larger historical zeitgeist.
Three earth-shattering events particularly altered the state of Stax in 1968. The first was the resulting social, political and cultural upheaval that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and profoundly affected the label's direction. The second was the label's need to reinvent itself in the wake of its star Otis Redding's untimely passing on December 1967. The third was the dissolution of a deal with Atlantic Records that gave the label perpetual rights to Stax's back catalog. Rather than folding, Stax bore down and found a way forward by making the decision to widen its net and expand its aesthetic to embrace everything from psychedelic rock to Motown-style sounds.
Stax '68 includes over 120 songs - the A and B sides of every single released under the Stax banner in 1968, including the company's sub-labels. These are both songs by the most widely-recognized Stax artists, such as Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, William Bell, Booker T. & The M.G.'s and Johnny Taylor, and deeper catalog material by the likes of Linda Lyndell, The Soul Children and The Mad Lads.
The box set also comes with a 56-page book including revelatory, in-depth liner notes by Andria Lisle, Robert Gordon and Steve Greenberg, plus rare and previously unseen photos. Deluxe Editions featuring a limited Stax '68 poster, letter-printed using authentic materials from the Globe Collection and Press at MICA, will also be available. In addition, the collection will also be released as a digital set, and in the first four weeks leading up to the release of Stax '68, one instant free single will be offered per week with all digital pre-orders, beginning with "Long Walk to D.C." by The Staple Singers on September 21.
The release of Stax '68 coincides with two exhibits presented by the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, Tennessee. The first, "The Sound of '68," runs September 4 through November 30 and documents life inside Studio A at Stax Records through nearly 40 black and white and color images that show a vibrancy, determination and spirit of teamwork that would launch the company to great success. The second, "Give a Damn! Music + Activism at Stax Records," runs on September 28-November 25 and is the culmination of a year-long examination of Stax and its commitment to political activism, community engagement and social justice in the years following the death of Dr. King, featuring never-before-seen artifacts, rare photos and documents, short films, music and original artwork contributed by Shelby County students.
Feature photos provided by: Craft Recordings
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