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Album Review

Although all of these 25 cover versions were recorded in the '60s, none of them were released at the time. Unfortunately, info as to the exact dates of the individual tracks has been lost, though Stax scholar Rob Bowman's liner notes figure that most of them were cut between 1965-1968, with some possibly dating from 1962-1964. Putting all of them onto a single disc decades later might seem like a vault-cleaning exercise of secondary material. But this turns out to be a surprisingly good and vibrant collection of instrumental soul interpretations of rock, soul, and pop hits of the '60s, even if it's not up to the level of Booker T. & the MG's more famous hits and original numbers. Even though these were often laid down quickly before or after sessions on which the band was backing other artists, most of these don't sound like throwaways. They're characteristically disciplined and imaginative, and the scope is remarkably wide, taking in Beatles songs, blues ("Wang Dang Doodle" and "Baby Scratch My Back"), Motown, straight pop ("Downtown"), and even some songs on which Booker T. & the MG's actually played on the original recordings (Sam & Dave's "Soul Man" and "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby," and Eddie Floyd's "On a Saturday Night"). Not all of the reworkings are top-notch; the Beatles' "You Can't Do That" is taken at a jazzy shuffle that doesn't suit the tune. But most of them are very good, and not straight copies of the original arrangements, with the band effectively cooking up different tempos and simmering guitar/organ interplay.


Formed: 1962 in Memphis, TN

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '90s, '10s

As the house band at Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, Booker T. & the MG's may have been the single greatest factor in the lasting value of that label's soul music, not to mention Southern soul as a whole. Their tight, impeccable grooves could be heard on classic hits by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas, Albert King, and Sam & Dave, and for that reason alone, they would deserve their subsequent induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But in addition to their formidable skills as...
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