Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Booker T. & the M.G.s' Classic Green Onions

A recent release in the Stax Remasters series of reissues from Concord is Green Onions by Booker T. & the M.G.s. It includes 24 bit remastering of the 12 selections from the original 1962 sessions along with a couple of 1965 selections from Los Angeles’ 5/4 Ballroom. This is of course one of the great instrumental bands of all time with Booker T. Jones on organ; Steve Cropper on guitar; Al Jackson drums and Lewis Steinberg on bass (who would be replaced by Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn by the time they played the 5/4 Ballroom).

The album exhibits the crisp, clean playing that was particularly a virtue as they served as the house rhythm section on so many classic Stax recordings. The title track was an instrumental hit for the band and served as the basis for Sonny Boy Williamson’s recording of Help Me. If the organ Jones played could sound Rinky Dink, to cite the title of a track, he effectively took the lead with Cropper laying down crisp chords and single note runs with Steinberg and Jackson providing the bottom. The cover of Ray Charles’ I Got a Woman, sounds stronger than that of Twist & Shout, while Mo’ Onions, is a greasy instrumental that has some of the same feel as the title track.

The soul of this time was not that far removed from the blues as Jones’ late night playing displays on Behave Yourself, while Acker Bilk’s “Stranger On The Shore,” is a but more schmaltzy. There is a cover of Doc Pomus’ Lonely Avenue, played with a bit of restraint, while Dee Clark’s raver I Can’t Sit Down, might have benefited from a bit fuller sound in performance. This is not to say its a poor performance, but rather not as explosive as it could have been. The closing selection on the original release is a moody rendition of the instrumental Comin’ Home, Baby, that Herbie Mann had a hit with.

Added to the original release are renditions of Green Onions and I Can’t Sit Down. The latter number Paxky Axton’s saxophone. Both performances exhibit considerably more fire than the studio recordings and are more than welcome additions to the original album which. The booklet with this reissue reproduces Bob Altschuler’s original notes along with Stax Historian Rob Bowman’s more recent cogent comments.

I received my review copy from the label or a publicist. Here is Booker T. & the M.G.s performing Green Onions.

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