T & the MGs: Funky Broadway (Stax SCD-8567-2)
Speaking of Green Onions - as you do - Im
bloody-well sure I was not alone (prior to hearing this
life-changing set) in being somewhat puzzled by the unanimous
worship of Booker T & the MGs by the first-generation
60s punks & such... To be sure, Croppers rhythm/lead
was damnably wicked - and the rest of the band cooked
relentlessly...but, still, the whole deal was just too
finely-poised to supply any genuine equivalent. And, as
well...prior to this monster, the available live recordings
- made on tour in London and Paris - didnt seem
to offer any real corrective to this view...
But...this one (alone) was made on the infamous Chittlin
Circuit...that pressure cooker which inexorably
drove black music (from the 40s to the early 70s) into
the recursively dizzying & spiralling heights of accessible
reinvention that we still cant - quite - begin to
understand. Not only that...it was also made at (perhaps)
the very highpoint of same - 1965 - when James Brown &
co. were the kings...and - just - beginning the process
of inventing funk-as-we-now-know-it...
And...in the face of this - the (aforementioned) Booker
T & the MGs purely burned...
Cause Donald Duck Dunn cranked his bass amp
up to full - achieving a genuine fuzz-bass sound, that
melded with, and added enormous physical impetus to, the
bass end of Booker Ts liquid organ sound - while,
atop...the treble riffs of same rode the wave with added
force & inventiveness. Meanwhile, on drums & guitar,
the great Al Jackson (and the equally great Steve Cropper)
easily matched their compatriots in fervour...even if
the change in their sound was not - quite - so noticeable.
The result - generally driven at a faster clip than the
singles (but, see also the awesomely dragged-down Summertime,
which purely slays the studio cut) - finally provides
us with exactly the kind of performance that led 60s punks
to worship at this particular grail. Because, if youve
ever locked into the highlights of 60s punk, as some kinda
performance lodestone, then - whatever you think, or feel,
about soul per se - you genuinely need to
hear this set w/some serious volume...even if its
only for those - insanely physical - MGs cuts...
Cause - and, this, I can guarantee - youll not
The rest - to these ears - is a genuinely hot, but mixed,
bag...especially since Staxs headliners - at this
early date (1965, remember?) didnt yet include the
names we now most associate w/that great label...still,
it also finishes w/(the great) Rufus Thomass (original)
Walking the Dog which - yet again - easily
slays his studio version of same.
And, as I said before, whatever your feel for soul...you
damn-well oughta hear this one...
John Henry Calvinist