Green Onions (1962)
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Green Onions A+
Oh holy buggar. This could be the most famous rock 'n' roll instrumental in history. If you don't recognize it by its name, go you YouTube or listen to a 30-second clip of it on Amazon.com, and you'll recognize it. It might have become so over-saturated in society that it lost its sting for anyone wanting to sit down and listen to it on the rock 'n' roll album from whence it arose. But I hope not! This instrumental kicks massive ass. I mean, everything about it. That menacing electric organ riff that starts it off, those straight-ahead and toe-tapping drums. Steve Cropper is one of the best electric guitarists in history, and you'll hear the dude going completely at it. Bass guitar? ...This is completely revolutionary bass guitar. It plays melodically, a technique that Paul McCartney would later use for Beatles music. I heard a story of The Beatles once getting on their knees and thanking Booker T. & the MG's for all this inspiration... Well, I don't believe necessarily everything I read, but The Beatles sure had a lot to thank these guys about. The evidence is in the music! ...Also, this song was recorded in 1962, but I hear everything as clear as a bell! (A bell that was recorded well as that.) Everything about this packs a kick.
Rinky Dink A-
Well, the famous song is over... But that's not a good reason to turn this album off yet, because there's a lot more fun to be had! These guys might not have had a singer, but a few seconds hearing Booker T.'s electric organ jams, I hope it's obvious that it's far more effective than any singer would have been. ...In fact, a singer might have distracted us too much from the instruments! This song is characterized by a bouncy and bubbly electric guitar riff... I love how the riff is played although the riff itself isn't anything to lose control of your bladder over... The drumming is fantastic here... Whenever there's even the slightest chance for a lull, he comes up with a great drum fill like clockwork. Steve Cropper's sort of muted, minimal lead guitar contributions are easy to miss, but they fit the song's mood just about perfectly!
I Got a Woman A+
Yummy! We all probably know this song best as that old timey song written by Ray Charles. But this version completely updates it! (I don't know if it's just the sort of albums I listen to, but songs from the mid '50s sounds about 120 years older to me than songs from the '60s.) I know Booker T. & the MG's are one of the first racially integrated bands of all time... and, really, I don't know why that whole Civil Rights movement had to happen when there's a song like this to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that black people and white people can get along after all. Martin Luther King made a speech, but this is PROOF! It's way more fast paced than Charles' original, and... I don't even know how they're making that bubbly, scratchy sound I'm hearing subtly in the background that's giving this such a crazy pace. Steve Cropper won $1,000,000 for the subtlety he expressed in the previous song, but if you want to hear him show off, then look no further than here. All those acrobatic stunts he pulls off will make any guitarist—no matter how acclaimed he is—cower. ...Holy crap, I'm gushing. ...The organ is similarly manic, the drumming is wild, and the bass is so good, that I can enjoy this song just paying attention to it.
Mo' Onions A-
Well it doesn't quite live up to its predecessor! But I suppose that's only a sort of song that comes around once in a lifetime. All the same, if you enjoyed “Green Onions” for any reason other than it sounds famous, then come around here and listen to the sequel! I'll complain about one thing and say that it sounds a bit dreary whereas the first one was punchy and menacing. I've never heard the electric guitar make such freaky stabs as it's making here! I'd have to say the star of this show, unconditionally, is that bass guitar. At a few points, it creates this really unusual growling sound that I've never before witnessed in a bass guitar. ...Now, this song's theme is a bit of a disappointment, as I suspect that this was meant to be more of an atmospheric piece. All the same, a memorable theme is nice, isn't it?
Twist and Shout A
This is a nice song to hear... just because the version of this The Beatles did later is still heavily, heavily played to this day, so it gives people an obvious idea what, exactly these guys did with covers. ...Made them flashier and awesome! I mean, those drums are absolutely loaded with fills, and I never would have suspected a lead guitarist could sound so cluttery keeping with the groove. Booker T. and his organ pretty much stick to the main riff. And that seems about right for it. After all, that's a hella catchy riff, and they didn't want to end the momentum!
Behave Yourself A-
They slow things down for what would probably constitute a “ballad.” And it's another amazing moment! Booker T. is this band's namesake, but this is the first time we ever really got to hear the man work. This song is pretty much just a showcase for his insanely rapid-fingered soloing skills. He gets so complicated in there that I'm surprised that a human being is capable of playing such notes... I might have thought it was a computer if only I knew this album was released in the early '60s! Gradually, the other instruments build-up, notably a rubber-band-like bass groove that plays along with that clunky drum rhythm. Steve Cropper never takes center stage, but if you feel like it, you can hear some of the tight, muted licks he does hidden in the background.
Stranger on the Shore B+
Well, this album is amazing, but it ain't perfect! I'm in such a gushy mood right now, that I was growing a bit concerned that I would end up overrating this album... This song is still pretty great, though. It's much slower than the previous song, and it unfortunately is about as dreary as I accused “Mo' Onions” of being. The instrumentals don't do anything jump-out-of-your-seat impressive... Booker T.'s organ solos seem kind of standard, and Cropper's lead guitar is nothing to write home about. The song itself (originally by Archer Bilk) is nice, but nothing I'm jumping out of my seat over.
Lonely Avenue B+
Kind of like “Electric Avenue?” Except it doesn't suck... Although this is the third slow song in a row. I'm not sure why they're doing that to us since my godlike wisdom would assume that it's best to spread the slow songs evenly amongst the faster ones. ...But maybe they just wanted the album to start out like a party before people started getting sleepy? Booker T.'s doing amazing things with his electric organ again, although not quite as awe-inspiring as the grooves he found in “Behave Yourself.” Cropper gets a chance to shine, too, of course. ...I like this, of course. The slow groove they create is something lovely to slow-dance to, if you're in a '60s mood.
One Who Really Loves You A-
Some nerd in spectacles love you, Booker T. & the M.G.'s! (Hey, I don't wear glasses, thank you so kindly.) Anyway, it appears as though the party has picked up slightly, although if you're still shell-shocked from what you've heard early on in this album, I doubt this one will seem that unusual to you! The instrumentals are jamming away in a most-pleasant way, although they clearly saved their best stuff for other things in this album. Their instrumentals are effortlessly tight. ...Just the effortless parts means this isn't as impressive as some of these other songs, which they clearly put a lot of effort into!
You Can't Sit Down A-
You can't sit down! The party is still going on!! I know how a “normal” person would complain that this album sounds like cheesy '60s party music, and they fail to notice how awesome these guys are at playing their instruments. ...But in this case, I actually would understand where that sentiment comes from. They're playing within one of the most generic chord progressions ever in rock 'n' roll. Of course they're playing very well, and it's a lot of fun to hear them. In good fashion, Steve Cropper gets a shot at playing some awesome licks, and he trades off with Booker T. who takes the song off to its fade out. ...Would it also be worth complaining that most of these songs are fade-outs? You'd think with a band as instrumentally skilled as this, they'd come up with real endings! (...I might be somewhat trying to make up for all that gushing I was doing earlier... this is not a perfect album. Just a very good one!) Also, where's the bass?
A Woman, A Lover, A Friend A-
...Yeah, they seriously left all the good stuff for the beginning of the album. I mean, it's been on a very slow decline ever since. But at least those of us who are left sticking around can expect some more entertaining organ solos. Booker T. plays some of those rapid-fingered solos like some sort of maniac.
Comin' Home Baby B+
It's the closing track, and unfortunately you won't be able to expect something to knock your socks off. This is a slow and quiet song with a bass mostly playing bouncy half-notes while Booker T. continues with his (still awesome) electric organ jam exercises. I like listening to Alan Jackson's drumming on this one. Not only keeps the beat, but that woody thwack he comes up with is sort of what makes this texture. The watery guitar is something to behold, also. ...Surely, this album goes out with a whisper. But it's an interesting one!
Soul Dressing (1965)
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Soul Dressing A
Well! The one drawback to making a piece like “Green Onions” is that everyone is going to expect quick and immediate follow ups that match it. Unfortunately, the title song of this album doesn't quite make it. ...But this is still excellent instrumental-rock, of course. That echoey pattern Al Jackson comes up with is one of the most amazing things I've ever heard out of a drummer. I've heard other drummers try that, and sound quite good! But never quite like that before. How many taps did he have to make to come up with just one echo effect? ...Of course, the lead vocals are taken on by the electric guitar and organ, and they're as technically brilliant as always. The pacing is moderate, but I'd imagine you could still do a fun '60s dance with it.
That game made the computer realize that war is futile in WarGames. Too bad it doesn't work on Republicans! I bet those dorks actually play Tic-Tac-Toe while they're sitting around in Congress, too. ...But my inappropriate political droning aside... This is a song for the ages! It's more immediately danceable for me, which automatically makes it more enjoyable for the “masses.” That tight organ playing is fantastic, too, as it plays a riff that is both catchy, upbeat and filled to the brim with interesting fills. As usual, he trades off with Steve Cropper who has a thing or two to say himself! ...I wonder if these guys ever talked to each other using words? They probably get their points across quite well with their instruments!
Big Train A
How did Lewie Steinberg come up with that growl-thumpy bass guitar? In my earlier review of this album, I called it unnerving... But now that I'm an older and lost much of my hair, I think that's just about the coolest darn thing I've ever heard. Why, if that was supposed to be a train chugging down the rails, then he's successful at giving me such imagery! If I were to complain about one thing in these Booker T. & the M.G.s songs is that they're working off such old-timey chord progressions! ...But at least how they work through them are quite original. I also really like that sweet, soft tone Booker T. is using with his electric organ. ...I'm being too repetitive saying this all the time, but Steve Cropper's blues licks are for the ages. Man, could that guy play!
Jelly Bread A
Right away, this sounds like a “Green Onions” clone! That's the exact same organ riff, after all! But what “Green Onions” didn't have was Steve Cropper making all these awesome stinging noises with his guitar. It sounds a lot like those famous “I'm a King Bee” stings. (Hey! I might almost never listen to early R&B, but I still remember those stinging sounds from the early Rolling Stones albums!) ...So, if Steve Cropper is just going to keep on playing his guitar, they can self-plagiarize their famous riff for all eternity, for all I care. Booker T., in the last half of this, plays almost atonal chords with his organ. ...Got to have been unusual for the time!
Aw' Mercy A
Hey! What's with the vocals? There's, like, someone very faintly saying “Awwwww... Mercy!” Now, I've heard faint talking in their previous songs. But never that clearly before. ...Man, it's like this isn't even instrumental-rock anymore. Again, their chord progressions are old and tired—even for the time—but their presentations of them just makes my face melt. Steve Cropper gives that guitar of his a personality, as it seems to keep on falling over itself like it's unsure of what it's supposed to be thinking. That droning organ, during the fade out, is quite a sound to behold, too.
Well, all the previous songs had some of the most amazing instrumental noodling I've ever heard. This one has some really nice organ noodling, but … by far the biggest reason I like this song is just because it's extremely danceable. This probably best showcases the rhythm department, which really gets a fun groove going on. But also, Booker T.'s complex fills he comes up with as he's playing that organ groove is a lot of fun to sit down and listen to, if you don't feel much like dancing.
Night Owl Walk B+
Uh oh! Are they going to stack all the slow songs together again? Nothing against slow songs in general—I like them—but I find these guys a whole lot more impressive when they're doing the fast-paced stuff. They also don't seem to come up with as enjoyable solos, either. As it's slow, Booker T. goes a bit crazy with his organ, which I like, but it's more fun listening to him play inside a groove. Steve Cropper gets to solo with his guitar, but he only plays somewhat despondent notes. Eh.
Chinese Checkers B+
That growl-thumpy bass guitar from “Big Train” is back, and it's thirsty for more! I still like the sound. But unfortunately, this is another one of their more relatively slow songs, and apart from the bass, I don't seem to be quite as drolly over this one. ...There's a horn solo in this, too, which gives it an especially obvious '60s sound. ...That is to anyone who has been listening to these guys for so long they forgot this stuff is very '60s!
Home Grown A
That kind of unbalanced groove they come up with is pretty cool. Steinberg plays a bass-guitar riff that sort of moseys along while the rhythm guitar follows suit with some disjointed fills. Booker T. plays some creepy notes with his organ in a lower pitched territory. ...It's not quite as exciting as those danceable songs that opened this album, but it certainly isn't without interest...
Mercy Mercy A
It's the only cover of this album! You probably recognize it as the future Rolling Stones hit! Since this is such a widely known song, I might recommend listening to this just to see how these guys could take these old songs and reinvent them into their own image. Hearing how Booker T. can play that melody while also inserting all these complicated and seemingly perfect fills at the same time is something that you'll just have to hear to believe. Through much of this, it sounds like he was running his finger down the keyboard part of the way... Isn't that a cool effect?
Plum Nellie A
This is such a cool song. Because Booker T. is doing something with his organ that most people wouldn't be able to do until the mid '70s with their synthesizers. Someone knowledgeable in technical things in music should go to Booker T. and figure out what he did to create that echoey, wavy effect with his organ. Other instruments sound great here, too. A wavy horn section, and an electric guitar solo that just seems to tumble over itself.
Can't Be Still A-
Well at least they let the album close out with a nice bit of dance-pop! So get out on the dance floor and party till it's over! This is also, unfortunately, the shortest song of the bunch. It seems like it's over just as I was getting used to the groove. But there's plenty to love about those nimble-fingered electric guitar licks that always seem to be doing something worth paying attention to. Again, interesting solos aren't something that we usually saw in rock 'n' roll in the early '60s. ...Just in case it wasn't starkly obvious to you why these guys were considered so revolutionary!
And Now! (1966)
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My Sweet Potato A-
Well, Booker T. appears to have traded his electric organ for a piano, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. People who like pianos more than electric organs ought to embrace it. ...But isn't Booker T. known for his organ? I do like this, though. It sounds like pleasant, laid-back, slightly more soul-fied walking music for a Charlie Brown cartoon. It's not dancing music, which is what sets it apart from most of the songs in their previous two albums. That light piano groove is catchy and runs across a few good riffs in there occasionally.
Oh, and they're back to doing mostly covers. “My Sweet Potato” was one of the few originals. This song is their loose interpretation of an old spiritual that I remember singing once when I was six in Sunday school. (All I remember about it is singing “...and the walls came a tumblin' down.”) But anyway, Booker T. is back to his electric organ, and it makes this very pleasant high-pitched coo noise. Steve Cropper plays a few tight chords with his guitar, which is technically precise and fun to listen to, but he doesn't do anything to blow me away too much. ...Maybe these guys weren't trying to blow anyone away?
No Matter What Shape A
This is a cover of Granville Burland, which is someone I've never heard of! But anyway, this song is a very toe-tapping bit of pop-rock. Their previous two albums were filled to the brim with blues-rock, but I guess this albums is more pop-rock! It's also extremely pleasant. If you want instrumental music to take with you on a walk, then I think I found your ticket. The theme is catchy and memorable, and of course it's played with some extraordinary fills with Booker T.'s electric organ. Cropper's guitar is mostly decoration, but what decoration it is! He lets some muted, tight licks come in toward the end to dazzle th' ears.
One Mint Julep A
Isn't that Bones McCoy's favorite drink? (Shut up, I'm a nerd...) Well, I'm hearing their famed “Green Onions” groove in this song once again, but that's hardly any reason to downgrade them. After all, R&B artists from the '50s and '60s weren't all that interested in finding new progressions... What they did do was make this all slightly more harder and stinging. The lead guitar also plays a far greater role in this one, as it plays a loud and confident solo.
In the Midnight Hour A
This is a cover of that famous Wilson Pickett song (which I guess Steve Cropper actually co-wrote... so maybe this doesn't even count as a “cover”). Although we probably all recognize it as being the opening song of Roxy Music's Flesh & Blood... (or maybe not). But anyway, this is a tune that you'll probably recognize as soon as it starts to play, because it's still so widely played. Naturally instead of singing, we have electric guitar and electric organ solos. And these guys know how to noodle...
Well there you go... Booker T. and the M.G.s embark on a rare slow song, and I don't like it as much as the fast ones. So maybe I'm a normal person after all... What I do like about this is that it's atmospheric, which is not something these guys usually concentrate on. (Although we'd be lying to ourselves if we said “Green Onions” doesn't have a thick atmosphere!) This is just played so slowwwwly that I have trouble spacing out. Now, there are crescendos in here when the organ starts to flare out and the drums start to rumble. Sort of reminds me of an early Genesis album. Other than that, you can expect more interesting guitar and organ noodles. This time, they're more artful and contemplative than usual.
Working in the Coal Mine A-
Oh we all recognize this song, right? It's one of the most highly loved R&B songs from the '60s. Everyone knows it. Even you! Of course it's an excellent song, and they perform it well. The organ plays the groove with a fluid-like grace, and the rhythm section is as steady as ever. But the nagging notion I have in back of my head is... What is this adding to it? The original was far more menacing and this version is very laid back. They're not impressing me with their atmospheres or instrumental playing surely as they did in Soul Dressing... Oh well...
Don't Mess Up a Good Thing B+
Another cover! Although in this case I'm unfamiliar with the original. (Hey... I don't listen to much R&B...) The groove and tune are pretty good. There's a part in the middle of this when Steve Cropper makes an “uh-oh!” noise with his guitar, which is really cute. Of course him and Booker T. go at it with their instruments. ...And I'm not sure if it's just because they were so good at it in their previous two albums or I've grown so accustomed to it, but I've grown less enamored with it.
Nice! That's all I have to say about this song, and that's a problem! Of course, as I was listening to this at work over the last few weeks, I was entertained by it surely... I find this to be a consistently entertaining album. But does it do anything to pop out at me? The groove is upbeat and bubbly, and Booker T. and Steve do a nice job filling in the blanks with flashy solos... In other words, it's everything you'd expect! Professional as ever, but at some point it starts to blur...
I played that board game once... My team was very near ahead, but then I freaked and let the other team gain about a jillion points... It was one of the low points of my life... Anyway, this is one of the more slowly paced songs, and it's as solid as ever. I like the tune and the chord progression they're working in. The usual perfect time is kept with the drumming and Booker T. and Steve find some very pretty and laid back notes for us to bask in.
Soul Jam B+
Toe jam of the soul? ...These guys have definitely let themselves slide a bit, mostly because that organ texture reminds me of a corny '60s game show than the uber-coolness that overflowed from that instrument in their first two albums. But no matter... There's nothing wrong with a little game show cheesiness, especially when it's still upbeat and fun. I mean, I still enjoy this. But I'm missing that special something that was making me gush over their first two albums.
Sentimental Journey A
Back to the slowness, but I actually really enjoy this one for a change. This song is apparently a famous old one. (I can't really say I recognize it, but Wikipedia says it's famous, so who am I to argue?) It has a nice tune, and I like those laid-back stings the rhythm section puts forth. Despite it being sort of slow, those guys help keep it from getting too dreary. My only complaint is that verrrrrrrrry long drawn out fade-out, which is generally something I would think R&B stars would want to stay away from...
In the Christmas Spirit (1966)
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Jingle Bells A-
I remember saying once that I never reviewed Christmas albums, because I really wasn't interested in hearing the umpteen-billionth version of “Jingle Bells.” And shortly after abandoning my no-Christmas-album policy, what do Booker T. and the M.G.s go and do? Put “Jingle Bells” right there IN FRONT. ...But, as a matter of fact, this song is pretty damn cool! I mean, this is Booker T. and the M.G.s, so how couldn't it be? The guitars are tight and lively. Booker T. has a soulful, too-cool-for-school melody that I'm sure practically everyone hates. Of course it's extremely upbeat as well—which does nothing but serve the source material well. Much more than it ever deserved...
Santa Claus is Coming to Town B+
I'm sick of this song, too, but I have to give these guys credit for playing it in a verrrry subdued manner, which I've never actually heard anyone do before. Now, you can probably tell by my song rating, that I'm still not the world's biggest fan of it. I do like the fluid way Booker T. plays his organ, and those little pops Steve Cropper does with his guitar. ...But other than that, they're still playing that godforsaken melody, aren't they?
Winter Wonderland A
For some reason, I'm not tired of this tired-tired-tired Christmas song yet. Maybe that was because I really liked it as a kid, and disliking this song would be betraying my childhood or something. Sort of like the previous song, they play it in a much more subdued version than we're all used to. So—even if you're sick to death of these songs—you have to give these guys credit for playing them in a manner that we've never heard before. Booker T.'s electric organ is the main star—of course—and all those little fills he keeps coming up with just seem perfect. Steve Cropper's guitar keeps mainly the rhythm, but he helps the song POP in spite of its subdued pace. The bass is all over the place, too, and awesome. OK, I mentioned everyone else, so I should also mention the DRUMS because they're especially good here. Some of those fills I hear him doing subtly in the background really grab me.
White Christmas A+
For the record, I hate this song. Whenever I hear it, I want to gouge out somebody's eyes. Namely Bing Crosby's. BUT HOLY CRAP, HEAR WHAT THESE GUYS DID TO IT. First of all, that very simple ba-da/ba-da-dum bassline is brilliant. That coupled with the very laid-back but crunch drumming brings all sorts of cool to this song that I wasn't even aware was possible for any Christmas song—much less this Christmas song. Booker T. starts playing a real piano, and manages to come out with so many ear-dazzling and inventive fills that I wonder how he ever found the time to actually play that familiar-as-an-annoying-relative melody.
The Christmas Song B+
...Otherwise known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” this is a Christmas song that I usually don't have much of a problem with. The melody is pretty nice. But... man... Booker T. and the M.G.s must've fell asleep for this one, because it's so slow... I suppose it has a calming quality to it, but I can't garner a whole lot of excitement over it. The organ fills are good, but not as dazzling, and Steve Cropper sounds too much like he's puttering away in the background. ...And I don't know what that is, but I hear this really weird cymbal sound playing in the background. (I didn't mention it, but there were these scratchy chipmunk sounds in “Jingle Bells.” I thought that was a scratch at first, but I listened to a version of the song somewhere else, and it's still there! What gives?)
Silver Bells A-
Silverrrr bellllls....... Silver BELLLLLLLLLS! ...This rendition of another one of the world's most tired Christmas classics is close to what they did with “White Christmas,” but no cigar. The bass groove is cool but less-so, and the keyboard fills don't quite decorate the proceedings like they did there. However, I still like it. It's rather subdued but also punchy and it has that distinct Booker T. & The M.G.s flavor of southern soul...
Merry Christmas Baby A
This is actually THE BLUES. And I don't know how this happened, but here's a Christmas song I'm not all that familiar with. Maybe that's because it came out of the rock 'n' roll era, and nobody ever thought to suggest to Bing Crosby to have him sing it with a pipe sticking out of his mouth. (Elvis Presley is known for singing it, and I gotta say... that version is pretty cool.) But this version of it slows it down while concentrating mainly on Steve Cropper's EXTREMELY soulful electric guitar licks. And man... sometimes it sounds like he's channeling Chuck Berry, but other times he comes up with his own fancy, blues patterns... Electric guitar fans should listen to this...
Blue Christmas B+
Certainly among the more tolerable Christmas jingles ever to be performed (mostly because I don't hear it all that often). I'm counting this another one of those shrug-worthy so-so songs. Nothing about it really pops out at me. But at least it's a warm and fluid song where Booker T.'s organ continues to sound like peacefully flowing water. But we've all heard that before, right?
Sweet Little Jesus Boy B
I can't say I'm familiar with this one, either! In its Wikipedia entry, it says it's an African American spiritual written by Robert MacGimsey. (At this moment the Wikipedia entry contains two sentences... What is this 2002 again, back when Wikipedia was hilariously useless? If you look at the earliest entry on The United States of America, all it'll tell you is that it's a republic in North America. I remember HATING Wikipedia back then for polluting my Google searches with useless crap.) But anyway, this is pretty dull, I hate to say. The organ is slow and dreary, much like the previous tune was except not as peaceful. It sounds like I'm at church or something... Back before I went to a church that didn't play rock 'n' roll music, that is.
Silent Night B
Wow, this album took a dive into forgettable territory, didn't it! Not that I necessarily hate this song itself (...well, it's been overplayed to hell but it's somewhat tolerable), but they don't do anything particularly special to it. Booker T. is playing it with his electric organ with absolutely NO fills in it (although he plays with the dynamics of his chords I suppose to achieve a nicely soulful flavor to it), and Steve Cropper is reduced to playing simple arpeggios with his guitar. Maybe they wanted to end the album on a peaceful, serious note... But why? Rock 'n' roll was doing you so well!
We Three Kings B
Much like the previous song, this is kind of boring. It's a song that sounds like it's probably from the Medieval times or the Renaissance (I'm too lazy to look it up), and they don't do a whole heck of a lot to pep it up. I mean, there's drumming and guitar on here, but they're mostly playing simple patterns. Booker T. doesn't have too many interesting fills in here... He's treating this much like he did “Silent Night.” In the middle, they start playing “O Come All Ye Faithful,” which I suppose is a better song, but that doesn't do much to liven the mood...
We Wish You a Merry Christmas A-
But they do let the album go out on a bubbly note, which I suppose makes sense since Christmas is allegedly supposed to be a HAPPY time of year. And the New Year, too. Booker T. and the M.G.s do much of the same thing to this old classic that they did to “White Christmas” by injecting a bit of RHYTHM and LIFE into it. Booker T. gives a much-stylized version of that familiar melody while Steve Cropper plays some tight, funky guitar licks in the background. (Cropper's guitar sounds a bit like he's playing in a B-52s song! That's kind of cool...) At the end, Booker T. briefly starts playing “Auld Lang Syne.” HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!
Hip Hug-Her (1967)
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Hip Hug-Her A+
Now this is more like it! Clean and crispy! “Green Onions” was the soundtrack of a smoky barbecue joint, but this is the soundtrack of a sleek '60s fashion show where all the men are in ties and all the women are wearing all the latest get-ups. That rhythm section is as clean as ever and yet it's ridden with such snarling attitude! Just listen to that thing! How could I describe it better? ...That's a bass-line that knows exactly what it wants in life! (Is that a poor description? I'm sorry...) Well, they have the rhythm section completely nailed, so all that usual decoration that Steve Cropper and Booker T. come up with seem even more bad-ass. And they're as good as they ever were providing all that melody and fills. Steve Cropper plays the first chords of this song, which shows him playing a remarkably CLEAN sounding electric guitar. But it has a lot of swagger to it, so he's not sacrificing its attitude. It's just like that throughout this whole piece. At first, Booker T. just lets a few bubbly organ chords, but by the end of the song he's getting more into it, and some of those riffs he plays are insanely catchy. ...And you should also know that this is an original. Is it just me, or do these guys tend to come off better when they're writing their own material?
Soul Sanction A+
Oh yeah, here's the comfortable proof that Booker T. and the M.G.s weren't going to let up easy. The clean, snarly attitude that was ever-present in the previous song is here. And it's another original! Go figure! Man... almost everything I said about the previous song can apply here as well. That rhythm sections is more slowly paced, but it's as CLASSY as it has ATTITUDE as it's CATCHY. Can anybody tell you they don't get that bass-line stuck in their heads? Booker T.'s bubbly Hammond organ playing continues to play so many wonderful fills and catchy riffs. Steve Cropper is left to much of this playing some laid-back and crunchy guitar, which gives it a bit of a funky flavor. ...Mmmm! I think people who are more expressive with their motor skills than I am could bust quite a move to this, too! But I'm happy just sitting here and listening to it...
Get Ready A
I love Booker T. originals, but their covers were also awesome. In fact, they usually choose pretty darn good songs to cover, and this one is no exception! And MAN is this thing ever clean but with such a smokin' attitude. (And that smokin' attitude comes from the source material, which was a song written by Smokey Robinson.) That twinkly instrument I hear has to be some sort of keyboard, but it sounds so much like a guitar that it's very hard to tell. (In fact, if I didn't distinctly hear a crunchy funk guitar puttering away, I might have just went ahead and assumed it was a guitar. ...But then, just hearing the patterns that it's playing, I'm not sure how someone would have accomplished that with a guitar. Well that's a cool sound, anyway!) The riff is fantastic, which you'd probably been able to guess since it's Smokey Robinson! And that clean rhythm section has so much class. Have you ever heard anything quite like that?
Uh oh... It's a ballad... Ballads are the things that I've had trouble with Booker T. and the M.G.s the most. So, let's see what they have to offer... Well, at least they chose a song with a pretty melody! I especially like that sort of “heavenly” way this piece starts, which sounds like it's describing some sort of paradise. But after awhile, it loses that sparkle and gets slightly more routine. But at least they play more catchy riffs! Also, that drum couldn't possibly be more pristine! Man, I thought The Police were good! ...Well, they are, but were they better than this?
Double or Nothing A-
Yeah, doesn't that title sum it all up? I don't know what bet they're making, but they think they can win, don't they? Oh, this doesn't have that crispy-clean rhythm section or that snappy fun guitar as the earlier songs, but that doesn't mean that this isn't also vastly entertaining. The bass guitar and drums give you something to tap your foot to, and Booker T. comes up with a cool theme with his organ. Of course Cropper comes up with a few wild licks. You might say Cropper was Booker T.'s wing-man.
Carnaby St. A-
Well this album might kick a lot of ass, but did I say it was perfect? ...Nah, there are very few things in life that are perfect—the sooner I learned that, the better! This theme doesn't inspire me much and the rhythm section doesn't do anything terribly amazing. But this is a pretty nice pop-rocker all the same. The bass continues to be nicely melodic (which was Duck Dunn's specialty)? Cropper's lead guitar is even a little bit jangly, which could be showing some Byrds influence?
Slim Jenkins' Joint A
Who ever this Slim Jenkins is, he must be one cool cat to have this cool song named after him. This is a lot more atmospheric than I'm used to hearing from these guys. ...There isn't really a distinctive melodic theme, but rather it sounds like it was taken off a movie soundtrack somewhere. Now, the atmosphere is really highly developed. I love hearing all those tinkly drums, which are dazzling to the ears. And then those rhythm guitar GROWLS that comes in has all the attitude in the world.
Not bad! But does it give me anything I haven't heard already in this album? Well, I really like hearing those HUGE Hammond organ BLASTS that comes in at times, but other than that? The rhythm doesn't do a whole heck of a lot for me, and I don't find the melody particularly memorable. ...The blasts are awesome—don't get me wrong—but this is like a weaker version of the songs we've already heard on this album.
I hate to say it, but these last few songs don't really hold a candle to the songs that started the album. It's a bit of a letdown... but not really since these are still entertaining to listen to. This is a laid-back ballad where the rhythm section does seemingly ordinary things, and I hear a very regular piano pounding away in a simple and rather boring pop-rock manner. Booker T's lead hammond organ has a few nice fills, but it grows somewhat dreary by the end. ...Oh well, these guys weren't perfect. (Apparently this was a hit back in the day!)
Booker's Notion A
Booker's notion is to play the regular piano instead of the hammond organ! ...Well, it's a good notion as long as it's only done every once in awhile! (I'm actually to the point in Booker T.'s discography where I haven't listened to anything beyond this. ...Did he ever release a piano-only album? I'll find out!) Anyway, this is a really cool and snappy instrumental. Their piano songs always subtly reminded me of one of Henry Mancini's instrumentals from the '60s, except they're the ROCK 'N' ROLL versions! ...Well, Mancini was better at melodies, but which one are you going to want to take with you to a '60s dance party? This is a really fun piece with dazzling lead piano. My only complaint is that it's so short! It fades out at the two-and-a-half minute mark and it seems like it was just getting started.
Oh this doesn't have the same sort of glistening gusto as the songs that opened this album. ...But you know what? I don't care! This starts out as a little bit of slow, quiet blues before the drum beat picks up and Steve Cropper starts to play some more upbeat noodles. Booker T. plays organ chords in the background at the beginning of the song letting Cropper be the star of the show. But surely enough, he starts to play a pretty catchy melody that gets louder and brighter the more the song goes along. ...Why, if I didn't know any better, I would think this song was called “Sunny!”
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