Earlier this year CRAFT RECORDINGS announced the upcoming release of a real soul treasure trove… ‘WRITTEN IN THEIR SOUL: THE STAX SONGWRITER DEMOS’. The mammoth set (7 CDs offering 146 tracks!) is finally released this Friday June 23rd and for once the pre-release hype is spot on! The giant collection is indeed a treasure trove – a veritable Aladdin’s Cave that will keep on giving for real soul collectors right through the year.

The set is organized by category. The first three CDs deliver demos that were eventually given a “real” Stax/ Volt/We Produce/Enterprise recording and release… like the Staple Singers’ ‘The Ghetto’ (here hear their simple demo version), the same group’s ‘Respect Yourself’ here delivered by co-writer Mack Rice (pictured) and the original co-writer and Homer Banks demo of the oft recorded ‘If Loving You Is Wrong’. Maybe the most interesting cut is the demo version of Shirley Brown’s  ‘Woman To Woman’ here presented  by one of the writers, Henderson Thigpen. He’s male (of course) but delivers  the song as a woman would, even introducing it with a monologue, which Shirley didn’t alter too much for her “real” take.

The pack’s fourth CD features demos  that were eventually recorded and released by on non-Stax labels. Amongst the 22 cuts is ‘634-5789’ . A 1966 Atlantic hit for Wilson Pickett (with BVs from Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles), here it’s proffered by Eddie Floyd who wrote it with Steve Cropper – so were guessing it’s him on the guitar here!  CDs 5, 6 and 7 feature songs that the Stax writers penned  and demoed but  for all kinds of reasons the songs were never picked up and recorded later. These “uncut” sides offer all sorts of treasures including an unnamed “song” (an instrumental jam really) credited to the MGs and a finger-clicking ‘Walk On Back’ from an “unknown” writer/performer.

It would  be labouring a point to say that this album is rather special. It just is, offering, as it does, a wonderful, in depth portrait of one of soul music’s most important and influential labels. Yes, the music is demo quality but in some ways that make it a tad more soulful. Take as an example Mack Rice’s original demo of ‘It Doesn’t Pay To Get Up In The Morning’. The song eventually appeared on Johnnie Taylor’s ‘Tailored In Silk’ but Rice’s “unpolished”, not so silky demo is remarkable too… just one of countless gems!

This wonderful collection has been compiled by multiple GRAMMY®-winning producer Cheryl Pawelski and restored/mastered by multiple GRAMMY®-winning engineer Michael Graves. Pawelski adds context with her notes  while   there are new essays by Emmy® and GRAMMY-winning writer/producer Robert Gordon and Stax’s original Director of Publicity and 2x Emmy® winner, Deanie Parker. Ms Parker has  served as the founding President and CEO of the Soulsville Foundation, which encompasses the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. She’s also been at Stax since 1962 and by sweet coincidence  three of her songs are included amongst the massive 146 tracks

‘WRITTEN IN THEIR SOUL: THE STAX SONGWRITER DEMOS’ is released Friday June 23rd. It’s unmissable.