Although the Bar-Kays stuck with the Stax Records until its demise in 1976, the label stopped releasing the group's recordings after 1973. However, when they re-emerged as a success on the Mercury label with hits like "Shake Your Rump to the Funk," some unreleased recordings they made between 1974 and 1976 were released as an album entitled Money Talks. Although this repackaging was obviously designed to cash in on the group's success, Money Talks stands up as a solid and consistent album in its own right. This material lays the groundwork for the Bar-Kays' post-Stax style by trading live-in-the-studio jams for a carefully produced sound and blending in standout pop hooks into the funky grooves. The best example is "Holy Ghost," a hard-grooving monster of a jam where elaborate horn arrangements dance around a thick synthesizer bassline as Larry Dodson lays down a salacious vocal about his lover's otherworldly romantic skills. It became a big R&B hit when released as a single in 1978 and was later sampled by M/A/R/R/S on their club classic "Pump Up the Volume".
Although the ' membership had once topped ten members, by 1987 only , , and remained. The band's sound had completely transfigured, too, leaving behind most of their early funk trappings for the synth pop sounds of the day, a style which actually was well-suited to 's unique vocal style and the band's high-energy pop.
The Bar-Kays were an aggregate born of the same inspiration behind Booker T. & the MG's – performing the double-duty of being a backing combo for the significant canon of vocalists on the Memphis-based Stax and Volt labels, as well as a self-contained unit. The original lineup of James Alexander (bass), Jimmy King (guitar), Ronnie Caldwell (organ), Phalon Jones (sax), Carl Cunningham (drums), and Ben Cauley (trumpet) were only together long enough to have issued this album prior to the tragic loss of everyone sans Alexander and Cauley in the December '67.
By 1981, the Bar-Kays were firmly at the front of the synth-laden R&B pack that would come to dominate much of the scene. But, although they had left their Stax era chops behind, four albums into their Mercury career the band was still capable of flinging some fine funk your way. Best described, perhaps, as contemporary and more urban dance, Nightcruising showcased the band in fine form.
The Bar-Kays were early progenitors of '70s funk. BLACK ROCK/GOTTA GROOVE is two records on one CD; both albums feature early incarnations of the band. The tracks on GOTTA GROOVE are from 1968, one year after the group had lost four of its members in the same plane crash that killed Otis Redding.
9CD reconfiguration of original Atlantic box set, featuring every A-side the label released during those nine years, as well as several B-sides. The set is a definitive portrait of gritty, deep Southern soul. For any serious soul or rock collector, it's an essential set, since Stax-Volt was not only a musically revolutionary label, its roster was deep with talent, which means much of the music on this collection is first-rate. 11 of these singles charted on Billboard.
The most consistently enticing disc in the Rock Instrumental Classics series, this is both a great party and driving record and a window on the rhythms that powered soul music in the '60s (and early '70s, in two cases). In addition to some obvious choices (the four Booker T. & the MG's tracks, the Mar-Keys' "Last Night"), it also offers some left-field picks, such as the varied approaches to Latin music offered by Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, and El Chicano. The stock of virtuoso performances here is all but endless: the bass-and-drums breakdown on Cliff Nobles and Co.'s "The Horse," the glinting guitar solo on the Bar-Kays' "Soul Finger," Hugh Masekela's questing trumpet on "Grazing in the Grass".