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Stax Homecoming

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Memphis' year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of Stax Records culminates this week with the "50 Years of Stax" concert at The Orpheum on Friday, June 22nd. The lineup is shaping up to be a super-sized version of the revue that highlighted this spring's South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas.

In Austin, Booker T. & the MGs played a sizzling set then settled in as the backing band for classic Stax vocal stars Eddie Floyd and William Bell. Isaac Hayes introduced the show and then returned at the end for a group rendition of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay."

This week's local celebration will duplicate that lineup and add to it: Vintage Stax stars such as Mavis Staples, The Soul Children, and Mable John will provide some gender balance. Otis Redding will be represented by his sons via their band The Reddings. And a new generation of soul stars will pay homage with performances by Angie Stone, N'dambi, Soulive, and Lalah Hathaway.

This last group of young neo-soul acts will join Hayes as the first slate of artists who will record for the new incarnation of Stax, relaunched by the California-based Concord Music Group, which acquired the rights to the Stax name (and much of the back catalog) a few years ago.

Concord is putting on this week's concert, in conjunction with the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau and Soulsville, which operates the Stax Music Academy and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

Public Enemy rapper and hip-hop activist Chuck D. and American Idol judge and music producer Randy Jackson will host the concert. Proceeds will benefit the Stax Museum. Tickets are $25, $50, and $100, available through Ticketmaster. There are also "Golden Circle" tickets available for $1,000 each. These tickets include VIP orchestra seating, parking, and a pre-show party at the Orpheum Broadway Club, admittance to the after-party at the Gibson Music Showcase, a private celebrity tour of the museum, and a copy of the two-disc 50th-anniversary Stax compilation that Concord released earlier this year. For information on Golden Circle tickets, call Deanie Parker of Soulsville at 261-6385.

Following the "50 Years of Stax" concert Friday will be an after-party at the Gibson Music Showcase, which promises further performances by Stax artists. The after-party starts at 11 p.m. Tickets are $27 and are available at the Gibson. See Gibson.com for more information.

Hopefully, this week's activities will focus more attention on the museum as well. In addition to the museum's fine permanent exhibits, current visitors can take in The Art of Stax: Essential Album Cover Photographs by Stax Photographer Joel Brodsky. To extend your Stax experience past the weekend, return for the museum's Last Mondays in Studio A series, which will host soul singer Toni Green on Monday, June 25th. The concert is from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is $20, or $5 for museum members.

As for Stax on wax: Concord is well into a rich reissue campaign and will get into the full relaunch of Stax as an active label later this year.

In the meantime, Concord is producing a series of digital-only releases exclusively through iTunes. These include a series of "Short Stax" EPs, which pair two of the best-known tracks by individual artists with a "lost gem." The 10 "Short Stax" releases are for the following artists: Booker T. & the MGs, The Dramatics, The Emotions, Floyd, Hayes, Albert King, The Soul Children, The Staple Singers, Johnnie Taylor, Carla Thomas, and Rufus Thomas.

A second series of "Short Stax" releases will follow next month. In addition, Concord is offering digital releases of full Stax albums that have never gotten CD releases, including Floyd's 1969 album You've Got To Have Eddie and David Porter's 1970 solo album Gritty, Groovin' & Getting' It.

Look for much more on this week's Stax concert in next week's edition of the Flyer. And for more information, go to Memphissoul50.com or Soulsvilleusa.com.

Correction: Last week's Local Beat column cited Kat Gore as a producer on the new album from local band Giant Bear. It should have been Kat Sage.

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