The first Stax-Volt box was a monolith, standing as the definitive document of the labels and, therefore, gritty Southern soul. Its sequel, The Complete Stax-Volt Soul Singles, Vol. 2: 1968-1971
is considerably more problematic. Covering only four years compared to its predecessor, which showcased nine years, Vol. 2
contains 216 tracks, including all of the A- and B-sides released during that era. Most critics consider these four years to be substantially less interesting than Stax's earlier years, and in a sense, they're right. There's no Otis Redding
or Sam & Dave
, and the music doesn't have the same innovative, kinetic spark of the early years. There's still a lot of great, great music here, but it's difficult to sort it out among these nine discs. About three or four discs' worth of material is truly essential, and it might have been better to boil this era down to a smaller box set, since that would have made for a necessary purchase. As it stands, it's too sprawling and comprehensive to be an essential purchase for anyone other than soul fetishists and hardcore collectors, but those listeners should find much of this fascinating.