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Birth of a Dynasty
on 15 September 2003
This is what happens when a group of guys have an unexpected monster smash hit. In 1962, while in the studio jamming, a seventeen year old prodigy named Booker T. Jones, a twenty-one year old guitarist named Steve Cropper, and a couple of veterans of the Memphis music scene came up with something that Stax Records president Jim Stewart deemed good enough for release. Needing a B-side, Cropper suggested working up something Jones had been playing around with some time earlier. What was supposed to be a B-side excited Cropper, and local DJs quickly began to flip the "Behave Yourself" single to the other side, and "Green Onions" began to create quite a stir. Quickly, the sides were reversed, and "Green Onions", with it's groovin' riff, Booker T.'s funky organ lines, and cutting edge guitar bursts courtesy of Cropper became Stax's biggest hit at the time, reaching number three on the national Pop charts and topping the R&B charts. The group, now billing themselves as Booker T. & the MGs (Memphis Group), released this solid, if unspectacular instrumental album later that year.
As could be expected, they weren't really able to recreate the hit single's magic, and besides that title track, the rest of the album comes across today as sounding pretty dated. This album should not be bought to familiarize listeners with Booker T. & the MGs. Cropper, Jones, drummer Al Jackson, Jr., and later Donald "Duck" Dunn (who would replace original bassist Lewie Steinberg) are widely considered to be the tightest, most soulful, and versatile band of all time. They would go on to be the house band at Stax, playing behind Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Albert King, Eddie Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, Rufus and Carla Thomas, and more. They provided the blueprint for Soul music, and set a standard of excellence that nobody since has come close to meeting. On their own, they released over a dozen brilliant singles, and several terrific albums.
However, other than the timeless title track, there is nothing on the album that is a "must hear". And "Green Onions" can be found on MGs compilations, box sets, and countless soundtracks. Make no mistake about it though, the album, for what it is, is quite good. This isn't a garage band rushing to sell an album cause they had a hit. Lewie Steinberg was very accomplished, and Al Jackson, though just a few years older than Steve Cropper, had been playing in his father's Jazz/Swing band since he was five years old! And as well as Cropper's groundbreaking work on the title cut, the young white guitarist showed himself to be equally adept at both Blues and Jazz. His playing is both simple and sophisticated, with the underlying element being taste. And Booker T. Jones played like no seventeen-year-old kid. This being said, there is no real reason to recommend this album, unless you are already familiar with the MGs' greatness, and you want to hear everything they recorded.