Monday 21 November 2016

The Short AAA Guide To The Music Of Booker T and the MGs

You can now buy 'Change Gonna  Come - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of Otis Redding' in e-book form by clicking here!

This is predominantly the story of Otis Redding, but that isn't the only tale worth telling here by any means. Booker T and the MGs (which officially stood for 'The Memphis Group', although the band may have shortened it in the hope of getting a 'free' MG car too) were the Stax soul label's in-house band, a four piece who played on an incredibly long run of successful records from Wilson Pickett and Sam and Dave to Rufus Thomas, although their closest bond was always with Otis. A mixed race band back in the era when such a thing was dangerous and considered subversive, the quartet of organ player Booker T, guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald 'Duck' Dunn and drummer Al Jackson Jnr sounded great together from the first, even though the four of them had been hired to play for Stax independently and had never met before their first sessions around 1961. However their biggest early hit didn't quite come out the way that Stax intended: 'Green Onions', a jam that was passed like a bat and a ball by the band members between the sessions was taped along with the other songs and Stax president Jim Stewart thought it good enough to release. The song was an immediate success, the band scoring a #1 hit in the R and B category and a #3 hit in the pop charts - one of the highest placings an R and B song had ever got by the early 1960s. The bluesy soulful sound of the single was much borrowed for 1960s retrospectives and often performed  as the 'intro' song for Otis so seems as much a part of this book as 'Dock Of The Bay' or 'Try A Little Tenderness'.

There's a lot more to Booker T and co than just that song though, as they embarked on a sideline career, releasing their own instrumental records when they could alongside backing the great names of the day for an impressive run of 12 albums with the original line-up (or near enough - Dunn technically replaced Lewie Steinberg in early 1965), plus a handful more with a new revised line-up and sadly they easily outlasted Otis' canon in terms of years and number of records. Though 'Green Onions' remained the band's only real hit, the band remained a popular live draw right across the 1960s, playing their own well-received set at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 before Otis hit the stage and seeing out the decade with one of the first all-album cover records - a cult classic based around The Beatles' 'Abbey Road' released a mere seven months after the fab four's near-swansong. For those who want a little Green Onions and a side course along with their Otis and potatoes here is our brief AAA guide to one of the hardest working bands in show business:
1) Green Onions (Stax, October 1962)
Green Onions/Rinky Dink/I Got A Woman/Mo' Onions/Twist and Shout/Behave Yourself//Stranger On The Shore/Lonely Avenue/One Who Really Loves You/You Can't Sit Down/A Woman A Lover A Friend/Comin' Home Baby Booker T and co's debut is firmly styled after their surprise hit single with twelve songs in roughly similar style with the same boom-boom-dur-dur riffs and Booker's swaying organ sounds spat at by Cropper's grungy guitar breaks. One of them is even titled 'Mo' Onions' just to make the point. Also included is 'Green Onion's B-side 'Behave Yourself' - actually the first song of the two the band worked on together and the one they were keen to make the A-side until Stax over-ruled them (in actual fact this fourth album recorded for the label ended up being the first that was entirely independent - two Mar-Keys records and a Carla Thomas LP had already been released via Atlantic though made in Stax's studios). A slower, more emotional song it's another highly likeable track though 'Onions' is easily the more memorable of the two. Like Otis' first two albums, this is a record with one foot firmly in the past and another in the future. Booker T's organ sound is more 50s than 60s 'Green Onion's aside, with the slightly cheesy feel of the Wurlitzer conjuring up fairgrounds, while some of the pure blues sounds like it belongs in a different era too. Set against, though, is a very 1960s willingness to have fun with period sounds and mould them to a new style so we also get a lot of period hits re-cut without lyrics that sound surprisingly complete without them, 'a post-Isley Brothers, Pre-Beatles Twist and Shout', Ray Charles' 'I Gotta Woman' and Acker Bilk's  'Stranger On The Shore' being taken from opposite ends of the popular songs of 1962. Though often hailed as the band's masterpiece, it's not quite as rounded as later albums and the MGs are a little tentative in places (no wonder, given what little time the band's been together). There's still an awful lot of great material here though, easily outweighing the bad and remember - this was released the same month as The Beatles' 'Love Me Do' and The Beach Boys' debut album 'Surfin' Safari' when music was still heavily dominated by a 1950s style: even the parts that seemed dated now would no doubt have seemed revolutionary at the time. Three tracks to download: It's hard to see past 'Green Onions' which for many is the sound of the early 60s it's now been trotted out so often to represent that style (The late 1980s 'Sounds Of The Sixties' compilation used it as a theme song for that reason where it worked well, as a sign of where the decade picked up and a reminder by the end of how far it had come). Booker T and Steve Cropper have very different but highly compatible styles that bring the best out in each other as they both try to calm down and compete with one another while Dunn and Jackson set the silky groove. Fab. Next up is Doc Pomus' sleepy 'Lonely Avenue' which features Booker T both holding the song together with churchy held notes and going hell for leather in the solos. Finally and thirdly, 'Comin' Home Baby' is a great extended blues workout with Cropper shadowing Booker's organ with his guitar as if waiting to pounce while the band give off the aura of menace. Adjective: Grooving!
2) Soul Dressing (Stax, March 1965)
Soul Dressing/Tic-Tac-Toe/Big Train/Jellybread/Aw Mercy/Outrage//Night Owl Walk/Chinese Checkers/Homegrown/Mercy Mercy/Plum Nellie/Can't Be Still Sort of more of the same on album two, with more blues-based instrumentals, though the band have adapted well to the passing years with a much more rock and roll roar across this album. Booker T has switched organs for a much more 60s style Hammond organ and the rhythm grooves of Steinberg and Jackson have become thicker, proof of just how many gigs this band have played together since the last time they were inside a studio recording for themselves. There are a lot more originals here too with only the one cover song now - Don Covay's 'Mercy Mercy' which had at the time just been recorded in very different style by The Rolling Stones (in reply, The Small Faces will commandeer this album's original 'Plum Nellie' as their own the following year). There is, however, very little here that reflects what the band were up to with Otis (whose debut album with MGs backing came out two months prior) with hardly a pause for breath never mind a slow yearning ballad. To my taste the best MGs record, still firmly locked into the 'Green Onion's groove but with a much harder-edged sound and the first fringes of the psychedelia that's going to be added to their sound more and more across the next few albums. The band have never sounded more like a unit than here either, though Stax were clearly grooming Booker T into a solo star, with his face and name big on the album cover. This is the last album to feature Steinberg on bass. Three tracks to download: 'Big Train' is 'Green Onions with a side order of chill, as things get hot over a middle eight that makes the regular groove sound even bigger and weightier than usual. 'Chinese Checkers' really switches up the gears, with Booker T finding a new effect on his organ that turns the band's latest groove into a song that comes from China via Memphis, effectively the 'negative' of 'Green Onion's with Cropper's guitar holding the song together while Booker T gets his groove on. You can see why the Small Faces fell in love with 'Plum Nellie' here - it's impressively forward-thinking for 1965 with it's mix of bordering-on-feedback guitar and epic horns, slower and creepier than most of the band's tunes.  Adjective: Rocking!
3) And Now! (Stax, November 1966)
My Sweet Potato/Jericho/No Matter What Shape Your Stomach's In/One Mint Julep/In The Midnight Hour/Summertime//Working In The Coal Mine/Don't Mess Up A Good Thing/Think/Taboo/Soul Jam/Sentimental Journal Dunn had arrived in time to play on 'Mercy' on the last album but this is the first record to feature his playing all the way through. There's slightly more of Cropper's guitar and slightly less Booker T across this album, which is both a curse and a blessing as this album's lacks quite the same level of groove but gives the expert Cropper plenty of reasons to show why he's one of the 1960s' most under-rated guitarists. Rather up against it for time making this third album - which came out in between Otis albums four and five 'The Soul Album' and 'Dictionary Of Soul' - there are less originals here too with only three tracks credited to members of the band. However given that one of them is 'In The Midnight Hour', a soul classic co-written by Cropper with Wilson Pickett, you can't exactly fault this album for originality either. Elsewhere, though, it feels as if we've gone back in time slightly to the groove of the first album without the expected development of the psychedelic air of the last album, this record sounding more like the first. One of the band's more inconsistent records, though the great stuff is still great. Three tracks to download: Granville Burland's 'No Matter What Shape Your Stomach Is In' shouldn't work without the funny lyrics that are the whole point of the song. But somehow the band clicks on a groove unusual for them that sort of slowly unfolds Grateful Dead style rather than sticks to the same train tracks as per 'Green Onions'. You miss the roar of Pickett or - funnily enough - the Grateful Dead's 'Pigpen' on 'In The Midnight Hour' but Cropper's recycling of his most recent hit is still a corker, with Booker T's organ doing the lead while Cropper's single note stabs really nail the urgency of the song. '#Don't Mess Up A Good Thing' is a jolly little mid-60s pop song written around a Chuck Berry style riff that proves Booker T and co could do Merseybeat too.   Adjective: Slippin' and Slidin'
4) In The Christmas Spirit (Stax, November 1966)
Jingle Bells/Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town/Winter Wonderland/White Christmas/The Christmas Song/Silver Bells//Merry Christmas Baby/Blue Christmas/Sweet Little Jesus Boy/Silent Night/We Three Kings/We Wish You A Merry Christmas Released hot on the last album's heels, MGs album number four comes with plenty of Christmas cheer but slightly loses out on the r and b authenticity that was the band's trademark. This is the year that Otis, too, started cutting his own Christmas songs which leaves you to wonder whether this was a Stax directive to make their label seem more 'consumer friendly'. It's kind of ok, in a you'll-only-hear-it-once-a-year-anyway stocking-filler kind of a way, with a handful of really nice songs that add a sudden tension-filled 'oh' to all the 'ho ho ho'ing, but most of this feels like a huge bit of mis-casting to me. Not so much Green Onions as raw turkey. Three tracks to download: 'Winter Wonderland' sounds like an entirely new and, frankly, better song with the band slowing the track down and Booker T going for horror movie on the organ while Cropper's guitar claws haul him back in. 'White Christmas' unusually features Booker T on piano and must be the jazziest version of the song ever recorded with heavy percussion and an off-beat rhythm that makes the narrator sound as if he's had a bit too much mulled wine! A slow and soulful 'We Three Kings' played solo by Booker T is unexpectedly reverential and beautiful too.  Adjective: Jingle Bell Rock!
5) Hip-Hug-Her (Stax, June 1967)
Hip-Hug-Her/Soul Sanction/Get Ready/More/Double Or Nothing/Carnaby Street//Slim Jenkins' Joint aka Slim Jenkins' Place/Pigmy/Groovin'/Booker's Notion/Sunny So this is what the summer of love sounded like with Soul! The title track, well received by the crowd at Monterey, became one of the band's biggest post-'Green Onions' hits and features a whole new sound: phasing on the guitar, a slight out of body experience on the organ, drumming that sounds as if it's been sped up and slowed what was in those onions again?! Some fans aren't keen on this sudden sound and it's certainly a lot more...weird than the period Otis LP ('King and Queen'), while even I can't defend the curious cover of fashion models with their heads cut off by the border. I can, however, and will defend the music: there's a life and urgency here that's been missing since the second album and Al Jackson especially seems to have found new life in this era with some terrific  performances. Booker T and co seem to have 'grown up' with a sound that's much more adult and contemporary, although alas Stax it seems hadn't quite caught up: the innocently named 'Stan Jenkins' Joint', meaning house (or, if this album has transported you back to 1967 vernacular, 'pad') had to be re-named after fears the band were making music about drugs. Though there doesn't seem a less likely band to have headed down that road there's definitely something mind-changing going on across this record. Perhaps the band's second best LP. Three tracks to download: 'Soul Sanction' is a much wider channel for the band to groove down than usual and it's slow sleepy groove is delightful. The only thing bad about this track is the two minute playing time - this one song could have happily gone on for hours! 'Carnaby Street' is pretty pop that sounds like a Small Faces backing track (it's pretty close to 'Tin Soldier' actually, as very Booker T song) and sums up mid 60s London perfectly even though the band had only ever been on a flying visit. The 'controversial' 'Slim Jenkin's Place' is terrific too, Booker T setting out on a  manic repetitive piano track that keeps circling key by key while Cropper snarls Pete Townshend style as he picks out a few key lines of the groove with his guitar. Sadly the record goes a bit downhill in the last third but these first eight tracks - sensational! Adjective: Psychedelic!
6) Back To Back (Stax, July 1967)
Green Onions/Red Beans And Rice/Tic-Tac-Toe/Hip-Hug-Her/Philly Dog//Grab This Thing/Last Night/Gimme Some Lovin'/Booker-Loo/Outrage After pushing back the frontiers of the new, here's Booker T summing up the best of the old with their first live album recorded in Paris in mid 1967. You can compare this show to the slightly scrappy and breathless period Europe shows with Otis: the band aren't as tight and disciplined as in their early years and are more interested in stretching out the songs into jamming sessions, which are hardly bad but don't suit the songs well as before. Many of these tracks come from the first album which played with such a heavy 1960s sound feels a bit, well, odd: 'Green Onions' is no longer a slinky groove for instance but a hell for leather rocker, while the messy attempt to nail the period Spencer David Group hit 'Gimme Some Lovin' is the first true MGs disaster. Actually the show is slightly stolen by co-billers The Mar-Keys (Otis' other backing band when the MGs weren't available) who pick a funky groove on 'Last Night', though 'Philly Dog' and 'Grab This Thing' can't quite match that song either. Overall one of the weakest albums in the set, fuzzily recorded and - by Booker T standards - fuzzily played. Three tracks to download: 'Tic-Tac-Toe' the stately blues from the second album, rather suits the manic pace it's given here. 'Hip Hug Her' is the one song suited to this new out-there sound, although it's still not as well played as on album. The closing jaunt 'Outrage' is a nice return to the old sound to end the album.  Adjective: Messy
7) Doin' Our Thing  (Stax, February 1968)
I Can Dig It/Expressway To Your Heart/ Doin' Our Thing/You Don't Love Me/Never My Love/The Exodus Song//The Beat Goes On/Ode To Billie Joe/Blue On Green/You Keep Me Hangin' On/Let's Go Get Stoned! On 'Doin' Our Thing' Booker T and Steve Cropper hang around some trees self-consciously chatting up some pretty girls of both races, looking to all intents and purposes like hippie flower children. Though the band had nailed early psychedelia as well as anyone, this album feels less like an extension of 'Hip-Hug-Her' though and more like jumping on the flower children bandwagon, which makes the title all the more questionable. Less consistent or original than it's studio predecessor and filled with more filler cover songs, at least the engineers have finally worked out how best to record this band, with the best production of the lot so far. Though the album is more timid style-wise, it actually got a reputation for pushing boundaries it probably didn't deserve - especially the nod of the hat to Bob Dylan on the final track! The first album released after the death of Otis, this record always felt as if it should be more substantial somehow after the band's own close brush with death. Three tracks to download: 'Never My Love' is a pretty song, with its chord swirls nicely suited to Booker T's style and Cropper's wah-wah pedal. 'Ode To Billy Joe', by Bobbie Gentry, sounds good played at a funeral tempo and adds a dollop of country to the band's usual array of styles. The band's, surprisingly enough, first Motown cover song 'You Keep Me Hangin' On' is great too, played with a full on rock power.   Adjective: Psyche-doodle
8) Soul Limbo (Stax, September 1968)
Be Young Be Foolish Be Happy/La La Means That I Love You/Hang 'Em High/Willow Weeps For Me/Over Easy//Soul Limbo/Eleanor Rigby/Heads Or Tails/Sweet Sweet Baby Since You Been Gone/Born Under A Sign/Foxy Lady Seven months and some fairly poor sales later and the MGs have dropped the psychedelic sound for the harder edged retro rock style that was popular in 1968 and which suits them rather better. The cover still has overhangs of the last time round, though - all the band appear this time, in competition to chat up the same mixed-race girl. Al Jackson, posing with shorts, seems to be having the most luck. As for the music, this isn't quite as consistent as the earlier classics but is a step in the right direction, with some lovely ballads particularly on this album and some brave stabs at some complex period classics (perhaps a bit too brave in places - I'd never have recognised this cover as 'Eleanor Rigby', given a shimmery wah-wah makeover). This is all certainly far from 'limbo' - the band sound in control of their sound and destiny again here.  Three tracks to download: 'La Las Means I Love You' is just born to be played on the organ and the band's slow reading of the Delfonics hit is sumptuous. 'Over Easy' adds a touch of samba to a track that sounds like superior Santana. The funky 'Heads Or Tails' is the best MGs original in a  while too.   Adjective: The MGs' eclectic White Album - the record even comes with a white border!
9) Up Tight (Stax, January 1969)
Johnny I Love You/Cleveland Now/Children Don't Get Weary/Tank's Lament/Blues In The Gutter//We Got Johnny Wells/Down At Ralph's Joint/Deadwood's Dick/Run Tank Run/Time Is Tight A real sea change here, as the MGs' first soundtrack album is also their first to feature lyrics and vocals, with Booker T proving to be a surprisingly warm and gifted singer. The film was typical of the period, a son story about an under privileged narrator who ends up caught in street gangs, but both album and film do well to avoid the worst clichés of the era. The record is an especially strong showing for Booker T who writes most of the album himself and whose organ playing is now back central to the mix where it always should be, with only the closing 'Time Is Tight - the band's third biggest hit single - is credited to everyone as per usual. Though received with confusion at the time as much as anything, so much does it play with the usual MGs traditions, the years have been kind to this record which makes more sense now that we've heard the whole funk scene of the 1970s and the similar but inferior 'Shaft' incidental soundtrack that does roughly the same thing. Though 'Children Don't Get Weary', a second vocal song rather ruined by the shrieking voice of Judy Clay, is a candidate for the band's all-time worst recording, the rest of the album is one of the band's stronger and most consistent listens.  Three tracks to download: Who'd have guessed that Booker T had the Billy Preston-style vocal of 'Johnny I Love You' in him? Why did nobody get him to sing before this? A nice song too, about how easily it is to slip out of good habits and into gang culture thorough peer pressure. 'Run Tank Rum' is a percussion heavy bit of music that really sums up the claustrophobic feel of the film, Jackson's drumming really given the feeling of a ticking clock counting down to disaster. Hit single 'Time Is Tight' is a pretty epic finale too, starting as ballad and turning into funk with an organ riff that's catchier than a cold. Adjective: Breadline soul
10) The Booker T Set (Stax, May 1969)
The Horse/Love Child/Sing A Simple Song/Lady Madonna/Mrs Robinson/This Guy's In Love With You//Light My Fire/Michelle/You're All I Need To Get By/I've Never Found A Girl To Love Me Like You Do/It's Your Thing A whole album of covers which, released a mere four months after the last album, feels a little like the band are treading water. There's nothin wrong with the playing which covers the usual litany of period hits with the customary MGs sound. But too many of the song choices seem obvious, with the band perhaps reclaiming their identity from bands who've based themselves on their sound in the intervening years. 'Lady Madonna' for example, is a Booker T song that the fab four happened to write down first.The band pose on the cover in a psychedelic living room alongside horn section The Mar-Keys, who don't actually get much to do across this album. A bit of a disappointment, not because it's bad but because it plays things so safe it never risks being great. Three tracks to download: Guitar-heavy opener 'The Horse' is about as good as it gets. Sly Stone's 'Sing A Simple Song' can't match the original but does possess an excellent groove. Finally the album's one original 'I've Never Found A Girl' is a bit too upbeat and pop but features such a great drum lick I'll let it pass  Adjective: Sleepy
11) McLamore Avenue (Stax, April 1970)
Medley One : Golden Slumbers-Carry That Weight-The End-Here Comes The Sun-Come Together/Something//Medley Two: Because-You Never Give Me Your Money/Medley Three: Sun King-Mean Mr Mustard-Polythene Pam-She Came In Through The Bathroom Window-I Want You (She's So Heavy). CD Bonus Tracks: You Can't Do That/Day Tripper/Michelle/Eleanor Rigby/Lady Madonna/You Can't Do That (Alternate Take) The MGs were inspired to release what must surely be the world's first covers album made up of one entire album both by Donald Dunn's general love of all things Beatles and Booker T's own impressions of 'Abbey Road', which Dun played on tour constantly. Re-aligning the tracks to make up three 'new' medlies, it's the new segues between the tracks that work best on this album, making what is really just a collection of Beatle fragments take on a much bigger, stronger sound. Personally I'd rather the MGs tackle the better and more fitting Beatles albums either side of it ('The White Album', a record made for long heavy keyboard-based soul jams or 'Let It Be', an album that hangs together better), but at least the band have a feel for the material this time and take it somewhere new. The cover is fun too, the band walking down the road near to the Stax studios in Memphis, which doesn't look anything like as luxurious as the Beatles' cover! The CD contains every other Beatles cover made by the MGs, most of which had already been released but are highlighted by a sturdy 'Day Tripper' and a slightly-too-slow 'You Can't Do That', both ore interesting choices than 'Lady Madonna'. Three tracks to download: 'Something' suits the MGs sound really well, sounding not unlike a soul ballad on the original and the band play great throughout. A spooky other-wordly 'Because' copes well with a song that on the original was all about the words and harmonies, neither of which are here on this organ-dominated version. 'Bathroom Window' sports a terrific atmospheric opening and sounds rather good as the tensions-setter for the 'I Want You' pay-off to come.  Adjective: The fab four play the fab four!
12) Melting Pot (Stax, January 1971)
Melting Pot/Back Home/Chicken Pox/Fuquawi//Kinda Easy Like/Hi-Ride/L A Jazz Song/Summer Monday The last MGs album to feature the 'classic line up' is in keeping with the slightly lost sound of other bands across the early 1970s. The beards and hair have grown longer, as you can see from the cover, but the band haven't really worked out anywhere new to take their sound, reverting back to being a soul band that covers rock and pop. The results are, at least, more entertaining than 'The Booker T Set' with the band taking a few extra chances, such as the eight minute title track and the band's most complex song 'Kinda Easy Like' which, thanks to it's velvety coda and it's early 'Green Onions' stomp, sounds like nothing less than a sampler of thee band's complete history up to the present day. The life does seem to have gone out of the band, though, with Booker T growing tired of the same sort of material and at loggerheads with Stax over financial and managerial decisions. This ended up being the only 'original' Booker T album recorded away from Stax's Memphis headquarters and was chiefly made in New York so it would be easier for an in-demand Steve Cropper to visit. Even so there's less Cropper here than ever and far less of a band sound across the whole LP. Some good news though: every single track is an originall, credited to the whole band again for the first time since 'Doin' Our Thing'. Not bad by any means, but not that great either. Three tracks to download: 'Chicken Pox' is one last great catchy band jam in the 'Green Onions' mould but heavier than before, with a main riff that as the title suggests is incredibly catchy. 'Kinda Easy Like' is only kinda easy at the start - soon it gets complex and far more intense, pushing the band to their limits. At last the band seem to find their new sound on the album's last track 'Sunny Monday', a folky percussion heavy piano piece where Booker, Cropper and Dunn all play the same riff all at the same time while Jackson rattles some cymbals. Lovely. Adjective: Bit of everything
The MGs continued on without Booker or Cropper as simply 'The MGs'. Dunn and Jackson recorded one more album as simply 'The MGs' with guitarist Bobby Manuel and organ player Carson Whitsett filling in for the missing parts. Manuel, especially, is an excellent replacement who manages to conjure up Cropper's guitar sounds without simply copying old material and at their best (as with the delightful single 'Spare Change') the band could sound as good as they ever did. However the album was again patchy and never really found the new sound the band were searching for. Disillusioned with poor reviews and sales, the band split up but Booker T and Cropper both promised to come back and make at least one more album under their full name  'Booker T Jones and the Memphis Group' once they'd finished with all their other responsibilities. Sadly the album that was planned for release in 1976 was barely started when news came through that Al Jackson Junior had been murdered in his own home, the victim of a burglary that went horribly wrong (Jackson had announced plans to leave town to produce an album for Major Lance, but got so caught up in the hype about a boxing match that he went to the local cinema with a friend to see it, startling the man who was robbing his house). The suspected murderer was later shot by police in a gun battle - and revealed to be the new boyfriend of Jackson's estranged wife (who was supposedly tied up during the whole incident). The case still officially remains open, with Al's wife Barbara still claiming her innocence (and living in the same house). The MGs never got over the second tragedy to hit the band, which seemed even more unnecessary and tragic than Otis' own. The band brought in session drummer Willie Hall for two hard-to-find (ie even I can't find them!) albums released as 'Union Extended' and 'Universal Language' in 1977. However the new band line-up never quite clicked and the joy had gone out of the band without their friend and drummer. The band decided to quit and went their separate ways for nearly two decades before making a surprise return with new drummer Steve Potts, Dunn's cousin, in the early 1990s. The trio had already played a few times - most notably touring with Neil Young in 1993 (though annoyingly their planned album together was abandoned after Dunn fell ill with cancer, an illness he later beat successfully) and at their Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction in 1992. For the album, though, Potts had been replaced by Neil's regular sideman Steve Jordan.
13) That's The Way It Should Be (Columbia, '1994')
Slip Slidin'/Mo' Greens/Gotta Serve Somebody/Let's Wait A While/That's The Way It Should Be/Just My Imagination (Runnin' Away With Me)/Camel Ride/Have A Heart/Cruisin'/I Can't Stand The Rain/Sarasota Sunset/I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For The final MGs album is a little period-heavy, with booming drums and a production that's a little more cluttered than the breath-of-fresh air simple mixes of the olden days. The band have slowed down too slightly, a little tentative in places where you know the 'old' band would have soared. For all that, however, there are some real gems here and it's just nice to have as much of the old team as possible back together one last time. The band throw in a lot of flashbacks to their old sound, including a whole new 'Mo' Greens' as well as some peculiar period pop (Janet Jackson and U2!) , funk and reggae. Though the band were always used to changing to reflect the present day, this is plainly ridiculous and not a patch on the band's 'proper' work. This really isn't the way it should be, then, but at least it's a conclusion of sorts to a fascinating journey and hints at what the band might have got up to in their 'missing years'. Following the release of this album the band took a break again, reuniting with Neil for part of his 'Are You Passionate?' album in 2002 and working as Eric Clapton's 'house band' for a 2004 tour. Booker made two solo albums in 2009 and 2011:  'Potato Hole' and 'The Road To Memphis', both as mixed as this record (though the second's the best). However a planned MGs reunion was cancelled when Dunn again fell poorly and the basis died in 2012, putting an end to a collaboration that stretched back half a century. Three tracks to download: Barrett Strong's much-covered 'Just My Imagination' is well handled, with a slower melody than normal sounding great handled by Booker's flying fingers. Cropper turns in a stinging solo on a cover of Bonnie Hayes' 'Have A Heart'. The band original 'Sarosata Sunset' is beautiful, Booker's organ full of such warmth and soul. Adjective: Noisy but nice

A Now Complete List Of Otis Redding Articles To Read At Alan’s Album Archives:

'The Soul Album' (1966)

'Complete and Unbelievable - The Otis Redding Dictionary Of Soul!' (1966)

‘King and Queen’ (1967, with Carla Thomas)

Surviving TV Footage 1965-1967 plus The Best Unreleased Recordings

Live/Compilation/Rarities Albums 1963-2014

Otis Redding Essay: It Takes Two – The Art Of Melancholy In Soul Music

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