96kHz/24-bit, FLAC; Anti- 87557-2 (supplied by www.highresaudio.com)

‘This life surrounds you, guns are loaded....’ At the age of 78, Mavis Staples could be forgiven for ending last year with a comfortable, commercial Christmas album. But the opening lines – not to mention the challenging title – of If All I Was Was Black make it clear that she’s as concerned about civil rights today as she was back in the 1960s. Oddly, though, it’s only the title track that fails to deliver. This sounds like a challenge to racial stereotypes, but settles for slick 1980s production and jangling disco guitar. That’s the only weak spot, though. Elsewhere, there’s an urgent guitar driving the refrain ‘we’ve got work to do...’ on ‘No Time For Crying’, while the infectious hand-clapping of ‘Peaceful Dream’ is tailor-made for live performances and protest marches. Stirring and wise, If I All I Was Was Black shows that Staples still has real fire in her heart. CJ

Sound Quality: 90%

Hi-Fi News Lab Report

This is certainly a 96kHz rendering but the recording/mastering level is pushed high (occasionally too high) so there’s distortion as well as musical harmonics >20kHz (trks 3, 6, 7 and 9, in particular). Noise is higher on some tracks too. PM