Stax: Soulsville USA

Stax: Soulsville USA

TV-MA

An electrifying account of how one music label pioneered Southern soul music

7.5

TV Show

United States of America
English
Documentary
2024

TLDR

For the record, I’ll take any reason to listen to Soul Man and The Dock of the Bay.

What it's about

A four-hour docuseries that explores the anomaly that was Stax, a Memphis-based record label that dared to defy Jim Crow laws in pursuit of a new sound now known as “Southern Soul.”

The take

Stax’s existence may have been short-lived, but its impact continues to be felt in every R&B record produced to this day. That’s one of the points this four-part documentary from HBO successfully makes so that by the end, you’re convinced Stax should be just as recognizable and appreciated as Motown, Atlantic, and other influential record labels. For the most part, the series resembles the typical documentary in that it’s propelled by animated talking heads and complementary archival footage, but the performances of Stax stars, including and most especially Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes, inject the documentary with an energy and electricity that pushes you to move and groove. The old-school editing feels thoughtful, too, while the additional animation adds a delightfully nostalgic touch. The documentary itself may not be as revolutionary as the events it captures, but it is just as enlightening, electrifying, and enjoyable.

What stands out

Stax breakout star Otis Redding’s triumphant performance in the white-dominated Monterey Pop Festival. Or just Redding, full stop.

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