Stax legends’ cache of classics gets reassessed – and few of them updated – to stress their undiminishing shock factor.
One can’t get enough of this duo – just ask Paul Rodgers who gave a new meaning to their evergreen “I Thank You” on "The Royal Sessions" a decade ago, Bruce Springsteen or Phil Collins. Sam and Dave’s influence might seem less obvious than that of the venerable Cooke and Redding, yet the songs Messrs. Moore and Prater used to brace the charts with throughout the ’60s, combining the silk of the former and the grit of the latter, became a vital part of rhythm-and-blues vocabulary. There’s a smattering of their classics on “Soul Man Explosion” – penned mostly by David Porter and Isaac Hayes – which demonstrate how fresh the patinated material still is despite the sonics which render every number a delicious period piece, but though updating a few of the tracks wasn’t really necessary, their music retains magic to make recent additions work.
Of course, Steve Cropper, who overdubbed this disc’s titular cut with his tasty funky licks that are so prominent on its instrumental variant appended to stellar vocal performances, can also be heard on the pair’s other perennials – for instance, the guitarist delivered a punchy solo on “Hold On, I’m Comin'” which is present here in both original version and the one where THE M.G.’s backing has been replaced by THE COURETTES’ garage vibrancy to provide the familiar melody with an excitingly raw edge. However, nothing should move the focus from the two captivating voices, Prater’s husky baritone and Moore’s tremulous tenor, easily propelling beyond the stratosphere such proverbial songbook staples as “Summertime” or “(What A) Wonderful World” and such contemporary smashes as “Gimme Some Lovin'”; but if the last tune sees the brass play organ parts, “I Thank You” finds Brian Auger, who shared the stage with Sam and Dave back in the day, hook his cosmic Hammond into their double-shot euphoria.
The singers sound equally triumphant on the old chestnut which is “Another Saturday Night” as well as on “Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody” that swings in style, but their socially charged, effervescent “Soul Sister, Brown Sugar” picks up where Holland–Dozier–Holland’s romantic “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” left off, and, thus emphasizes the continuity of soul Sam and Dave contributed to. One can’t get enough of this duo – a pity there’s only a smattering of their classics here.