Play the Hip Hits Import
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all cuts are previously unreleased: Baby Scratch My Back, Harlem Shuffle, Hi-Heel Sneakers, Wade In The Water, Wang Dang Doode, Fannie Mae, etc.
Baby Scratch My Back
I Was Made To Love Her
Georgia On My Mind
Wade In The Water
You Left The Water Running
Every Beat Of My Heart
Ain't That Peculiar
You Can't Do That
Wang Dang Doodle
On A Saturday Night
Oo Wee Baby, I Love You
Spoonful (take 2)
I Hear A Symphony
You're So Fine
You Are My Sunshine
Gimme Some Lovin'
When Something Is Wrong With My Baby
Top customer reviews
Booker and the boys are/were an anomaly; at the same time a one hit wonder (but what a hit), a so-so album band, but an r'n'b band supreme, and, arguably, the best backing band ever. I well remember their first album as a disappointment after "Green Onions" which was regularly voted best r'n'b single in the early days of the first Brit blues boom (number 2 was usually "Help Me" from Sonny Boy Williamson which was based on an almost identical riff). Nothing on the album remotely approached the intensity and menace of "Onions". Much of it seemed to be quickly produced filler, although I have to add that quite some time later I did buy the CD and now feel that there is some decent stuff there. The second album, "Soul Dressing", was a distinct improvement, largely because it consisted almost solely of self-written A and B sides of follow-up singles to "Onions". This was when the group and their producers were really trying hard to get another hit - they were attempting to reproduce the agressive blue-based style of their biggie. Subsequent albums reverted mainly to covers usually recorded, as the excellent notes to "Hip Hits" suggest, at the end of sessions for other Stax artists i.e when there was an hour or so left on the clock. These were invariably tasteful and there was some good stuff amongst them. However too much of the content was outside the MG's normal stomping ground, hence they ended up as polite, often mildly funky but not exhiliarating which is what most of us want our music to be.
What's different about this album (apart from its length in comparison to Stax' mean 10 or 11 trackers) is the material which is predominantly 1960's rhythm and blues or soul, the genres which Booker T and the MG's grew up in and, indeed, helped to define. (A big thank you is due to those nice people at Ace for making the selection). That this material was fun for the guys to play is very evident. Of the very few pop items included, "Downtown" actually comes out quite well - Cropper seems to have found a totally new riff in it (though perhaps I never paid enough attention to the original!). Both Beatles numbers present are among the highlights. They're basically twelve bar blues. "Day Tripper" is slowed down with greater emphasis paid to that marvellous riff. "You can't do that" sounds very unlike the original; it has a different and much funkier, rhythm with Booker leading on electric piano, and sounding not unlike "Chinese Checkers". "Wade in the Water" was originally a jazzy crossover. Booker proves himself to be at least on a par with many of the great jazz organ guys on this one, and I'd add, I'm a great fan of Jimmy Smith in his Blue Note days.
Of the soul tracks, "Every beat of my heart", "On Saturday Night", "Oo baby, I love you" are late night, smoke filled bar, type stuff. Superb. From Motown, "Ain't that Peculiar" and "I hear a Symphony" are outstanding. The former showing great rhythmic feel with Duck Dunn climbing well up his fretboard to produce almost a McCartney type sound. I must mention "The Letter" which, for me, is well up there in the best-of-the-best highlights. Not a note wasted here. Makes you recall all the Memphis boys who were involved with the original, Penn & Oldham etc. This never was just a pop number.
Not everything present is quite up to the highest standards though they don't drop below three star level anywhere. Both "Spoonful" and "Georgia on my mind", to me, suffer from the absence of the original vocalists - both Ray Charles and the Wolf towered so much over their material. "Spoonful" sounds like a somewhat half-hearted attempt at another "Onions" while I keep expecting Ray to come in on "Georgia". It's interesting to compare this one with the other big slowie on the album, "When Something is wrong with my baby". The latter is far, far, better. Could this be due to the number of times that Booker and co. backed Sam and Dave in concert, resulting in a "lived-in" feel to their rendition?
The album goes out on a high. A stunning version of "You are my Sunshine" with rhumba rhythm, chordal answers from Cropper to Booker's lead, then a middle 2/4 time jazzy chunk with Booker chording just like Jimmy McGriff, then Cropper with a piercing break before Booker is back, leaving you wanting more. They really inhabit this number. (Why does this rather corny old song inspire such great covers? There was one from the Killer last year and I recall several earlier ones). This leads into "Soul Man" with the boys determined to match Sam & Dave when they used to run around the stage, emoting and proclaiming,with Cropper playing high and funky - just listen to the bit on his own just before the key change. Then, "Gimme Some Lovin'" - a great thank you to Steve Winwood for writing this one - the volume control goes up again at this stage!. And, finally, the temperature drops but not the intensity, for the aforementioned, "When something is wrong...". A beautiful intro from Cropper with a less electric, almost an acoustic sound. Then it's Booker stating the melody with just the bass backing intially, then, Cropper is back. They alternate. Cropper produces one of those great little twiddles, Booker brings out both the churchy and the blues feel on this fabulous version. And I'm a lover of the original as well. This may be equal. I still have great memories of Sam and Dave performing a towering version in Bristol during the '67 Stax tour. Starting at the back on each side of the stage, and gradually building, swapping lines, pleading to the heavens. I also can't forget a well satisfied punter bellowing "God Save Steve Cropper" as we filed out at the end.
And then it's back to the beginning and Slim Harpo's bayou bopper, the sinuous and slinky, "Baby, scratch my back". It's where you need the volume up to pick up Cropper's fuzzy contributions from well back in the mix. Is this one sexy or is it sexy? (The same comment possibly applies to the sleeve picture which might be viewed as sexist these days!). This number was a US R&B no 1 hit in '66 and was selected for Otis' "Soul Album" that year. Interestingly the two versions differ considerably as indeed, do Otis's version of "Day Tripper" and the one that appears here.
With all the mentions of Booker and Steve one shouldn't forget the marvellous platform they're given by Jackson and Steinberg, later Dunn. The sleeve notes rightly pay tribute to the drummer in particular.
Yes it is their best album and I think I've done it again. I was going to give this four stars but I've argued myself up to five! It's worth it. For anyone who was into pop/rock/blues in the 60's this is much more than quality nostalgia - you must have this if you still like good soul served up well. For anyone new to Booker T, give this a try, you might well like it.
And to anyone reading from Ace, is there any chance of you going back to the Memphis vaults, guys?
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Bottom line: Great CD - Essential for true fans of this historical group!
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