THE BOOKER T. SET(Stax STS-2009, May 1969)
Billboard Top 200 Chart Peak: #53
Billboard R&B Chart Peak: #10
Produced by: Booker T. & The MG's
Liner NotesInstant fame has come to many adept at following fads, but real staying power always has been a far more elusive goal for any artist to attain. Only the truly talented are able to produce work so consistently good that the public awaits each new effort. Among popular musicians, there haven't been that many who were capable of appealing to a general audience and holding its favor year after year. But four young men from Memphis, Tenn., who call themselves Booker T. and the M.G.'s, do possess this rare kind of talent. They are members of a rather specific musical elite and their prime commodity is "soul" simply meaning that they know how to groove with life and can play it like it is.
There is that unmistakable flavor of blues in their music and the infectious beat of those shouting gospel roots, so inseparable from any sound of soul. The camp shout and an imaginative touch of the country sound come forth in their music as guitar converses with organ, both whining, wailing and slurring their way through melodies and meters that seem to strut and swagger with a certain inborn ease. The insistance, the driving quality of contemporary "rock" also is present in the heavy accents supplied by drums and electric bass. Yet their music seems somehow less frantic, less outrageously amplified and technically augmented than so much of what one hears in this era when records compete for the status of hit on the basis of decibel readings. Their music takes its time and gives the impression of being funky without being phony; catchy, but not gratingly commercial. It is fast enough for dancing and cool enough for foot-patting or just leaning back and listening.
Though the young were first to pick up and carry their banner, music buffs of all ages and affinities have rocked to their recordings, beginning with "Green Onions" which sold more than a million copies as a single and earned its originators a gold record back in [sic] 1961, when Booker T. himself was only sixteen years old. They have sustained that early following with a string of successful recordings with gritty, homegrown-sounding titles like "Burnt Biscuits," "Boot-Leg," "Soul Dressing," "Booker-Loo," "Slim Jenkins' Place" and their imitable version of "Groovin'," which has become a pop classic. More recently, they performed and recorded Booker T.'s original musical score for the Jules Dassin film "Up Tight!" which was a "first" for any soul group. Their ability to meet such a demanding artistic challenge was indicative of the unusual versatility of the four young men (all under thirty) who compose this group: Booker T. Jones, organist and pianist; Steve Cropper, guitarist; Al Jackson, drummer and Donald "Duck" Dunn on electric bass. Each man is an accomplished musician in his own right and it is the combination of discipline, sheer talent and sincere expression of feeling that lends a distinctive touch to each of their recordings. This sort of continuing excellence earned them and award from Billboard magazine as the top instrumental group for 1967-68, when they displaced Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, perennials in the pop market.
This is no small accomplishment and their music speaks for itself. So, all you listeners, be happy to be part of the Booker T. set, for it is truly a most soulful scene.
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