Record of the day: Booker T. & The Mg's, "The Best of..."

Record of the day: Booker T. & The Mg's, “The Best of…”

Booker T. & The Mg's
The Best of Booker T. & The Mg's (Cd Atlantic 7567-81281-2)

Take great records like Eddie Floyd's “Knock on Wood,” Otis Redding's “(Sittin'on) The Dock of the Bay,” Carla Thomas' “Gee Whiz,” Sam & Dave's “Soul Man” and “In the Midnight” Hour” by Wilson Pickett: besides being some of the most famous records ever recorded, what else do they have in common? The answer is simple; they were all made with the instrumental contribution of Booker T. & the Mg's, one of the most important groups in the history of soul music.

Booker and his friends were the resident group in the Stax Records studios in Memphis, and during the '60s they grinded out one success after another thanks to the solidity and unity of the whole that their formation invariably managed to demonstrate. Steve Cropper (guitar), Donald «Duck» Dunn (bass, together with Cropper he has been part of the Blues Brothers since the beginning and also appears in the film of the same name), Booker T. (organ) and Al Jackson (drums) provided tons of energy to many artists while simultaneously carrying out a successful career as an independent formation, thanks above all to the instrumental song “Green Onions” which achieved considerable international consensus in 1962.

Booker's style was naturally closely linked to the blues, but he managed to capture the attention of the soul audience thanks to the dry rhythm of bass and drums that built robust carpets on which Cropper's guitar drew electric arabesques that effectively counterpointed the evolutions booker's organ systems, a musician with a no-frills style, influenced by Jack McDuff and always careful to concentrate the maximum playing energy in the smallest possible space (most of the pieces in this anthology do not reach three minutes) to create exciting, perfect music to dance.

In 1984 Atlantic brought together many of the band's hits in this collection; in addition to the inevitable “Green Onions” there is no shortage of other famous titles such as “Hip hug-her”, “Groovin'”, “Red Beans and Rice”, “Boot-leg” (which refers to the style of James Brown) and even a pretty good version of Gershwin's “Summertime”.
Compared to the works that Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding published in recent years, we find ourselves with a decidedly more product
light, clearly aimed at entertainment, but with quality musicians and guaranteed fun.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.