Booker T – [Album]

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Booker T Jones is the sound of Memphis Soul. Best known for the instrumental hit “Green Onions,” he wrote and, with his band the MGs, played on numerous hits, including many by Otis Redding and Albert King, as well as pretty much anyone who recorded with Stax Records in the Sixties. He left Stax in the early Seventies and, although he had some success in the Eighties, had largely faded from view.

In recent years, he has been staging a comeback in hopes of reaching a new audience. In 2009 he recorded Potato Head, his first album in twenty years. Backed by The Drive-By Truckers and featuring Neil Young on lead guitar, Potato Head is a hard rocking album; quite unlike his earlier work. 2011 saw the release of The Road to Memphis, a mostly instrumental album which primarily features his distinctive organ work.

Now, with the release of Sound the Alarm, he has found his way back to his soul roots and updated them for a modern audience. The record features mellower, more soulful music than the previous albums. Here, the focus is more on the vocals and his songwriting, by extension. He has recruited a number of new soul singers, including Mayer Hawthorne and Estelle to bring life to his songs.

The result is a strong, but not overwhelming, set of tunes. I don’t hear any automatic hits here, but the songwriting and performances are all solid, making for a pleasant addition to the soul catalog.

Highlights include the title track, which could be a call to political action, or just to listen to the album (“Sound the alarm/ Oh-oh I’m coming”), and the gospel anthem “Gently.” For pure sweetness, you can’t beat “Watch You Sleeping,” with vocals by Kori Withers (daughter of Bill Withers).

My own taste leans towards the instrumental tracks – the funky fun of “Fun” and “66 Impala” and the blues of “Austin City Blues.” Still, such tracks as the soulful “Broken Heart,” the electronica tinged “Can’t Wait,” and the bluesy “Your Love is No Love” demonstrate Booker’s songwriting talents, as well as the vocal prowess of his guests (Jay James, Estelle and Vintage Trouble, respectively).

While the album isn’t going to dethrone “Green Onions” as Booker’s biggest and best known song, hopefully it might introduce a new generation of listeners to one of the true talents of soul music.


Booker T. – Sound The Alarm – "Fun" – [mp3]


Sound The Alarm
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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