Every real soul fan knows all about the importance of the legendary Stax label and the magnificent Memphis music it produced in its heyday. Over the years that magnificent music has been re-released and re-issued in all kinds of ways and on all sorts of compilations. Now, using the old Motown Chartbusters series as a template, Universal have just released six brand new Stax budget compilations that really do deserve that ‘magnificent‘ adjective that I’ve already used twice. Each album – which can be bought separately by the way- has a generous 18 tracks, and is arranged on purpose in an haphazard way. That’s to say there’s no particular structure: the music’s not arranged chronologically, by artist, by flavour or indeed by hit status. Rather, we’re presented with a wonderful mixed bag that really does show the variety of music that originated in that old movie theatre down on East McLemore. Naturally there’s steamy southern soul and lots of blues but when they wanted to, the crew could turn out tunes as sophisticated as the big uptown soul labels – witness Carla Thomas’ delightful ‘I Play For Keeps’ (Volume 1) to hear what I mean. Stax were also pioneers of so-called blaxploitation – enjoy Melvin Van Peebles’ ‘Sweetback’s Theme’ on Volume 5, or any of the Isaac Hayes inclusions – though, of course, Ike, like his label, is impossible to pin down accurately. Add to that the sophistication of the Temprees, the passion of the Soul Children, the joys of the Dramatics, the abandon of Johnnie Taylor and top it with the fabulous ‘So I Can Love You’ from the Emotions (featured on Volume 6) and you have a tremendous 6-CD tribute to a great old label.