Throughout the distinct phases of their recording career, from straight rhythmic gospel to Civil Rights protest anthems, to what might be called soul folk to the funky grit of their Stax years, the Staple Singers always delivered songs that said something, and even when the grooves of songs like 1971's "Respect Yourself" or 1972's reggae-tinged "I'll Take You There" were sending people to the dancefloors, the lyrics were hopeful, message-driven missives of support for a better self, a better community, and a better world. Stax Profiles is a fine anthology which collects tracks recorded between 1968 and 1975 during the Staple Singers productive stay at Stax Records, and includes both "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There," as well as the powerful "City in the Sky," "Touch a Hand, Make a Friend," "Are You Sure," with its brilliantly staggered vocals, and the Steve Cropper produced "Long Walk to D.C." There isn't a single lame track here, and while there are lengthier collections of the Staple Singers' Stax years on the market, this one has a wonderful flow.
"Barbarabae" gets things off to a very fast and jazzy start. A bossa nova returns to its samba beginnings with grunts (and some words from Graciela) and Walter Wanderley-esque organ. Almost the same formula plus flute continues the attack in a pachanga. The last track on side one, Ray Santos' "Azulito," really sets things aflame. This is jazz horn-blowing worthy of much earlier Machito with Dizzy Gillespie. Graciela gets carried away with "Tocame." Whether it is cha cha cha, mambo, bossa nova, pachanga, or latin jazz, in this album it cooks.