Booker T. & The M.G.s
Green Onions 50th Anniversary Edition Stax Remasters
BluesWax Rating: 9
Fifty Years Old And Still Essential
How’d you like to own the royalties from the song “Green Onions”? Arguably the most popular instrumental song ever, reaching number three on the charts in 1962, that was covered by so many artists, not to mention it’s use in commercials, television, and movie scores.
Fifty years since its birth, the album Green Onions still sounds remarkably fresh and (needless to say) remains essential. It’s obvious the Stax brass knew what they had (the forty-five single sold three quarters of a million copies) so they rushed the band into the studio to cut an entire album. So it was no shocker that they titled the entire album “Green Onions” and they also used it as the kickoff track on the original LP. All in all fourteen tracks are included, twelve from the original recording and two bonus tracks recorded live that were previously issued. Other standout tracks from this classic recording include Brother Ray’s “I Got a Woman,” which sounds a little dated, nonetheless it’s very energetic, especially when Steve Cropper chimes in. “Mo’ Onions” is brilliant in that it’s the perfect answer to “Green Onions,” with the same basic backbeat, but each solo and riff is given a varied twist, making this long-forgotten gem yet another classic. Written by the entire band, “Behave Yourself” has that late-night club or studio vibe; basically it’s a straight blues tune that stays in the same zone throughout. Doc Pomus’ “Lonely Avenue” finds the band in a similar “Behave Yourself” kind of mode, but here Cropper is tastier with his solo, plucking the blues away ever so scantly and smartly. The M.G.’s fly through an exciting rendition of “Can’t Sit Down” (a breakout smash-hit for Phil Upchurch) that will have you moving and grooving. Ben Tucker and Bob Dorough’s jazz classic “Comin’ Home Baby” vamps sweetly with artful solos by Jones and Cropper with perfect support from rhythm section mates Al Jackson Jr.’s drums and bassist Lewis Steinberg.
The two bonus tracks previously released on Stax’ Funky Broadway: Stax Revue Live at the 5/4 Ballroom in Los Angeles, 1965, where the most significant item to report is that Duck Dunn replaces bassist Steinberg. These two bonus tracks do not warrant purchasing this edition, but the re-mastered sound on the studio tracks are definitely worth the purchase of this Green Onions fiftieth anniversary edition.
This is yet another fine and first-class addition to the Stax Remasters series that includes the (reduced-sized) original LP back-flap with Bob Altshuler’s notes, and 2012 updated notes by Soulsville USA: The Story of Stax Records Grammy Award-winning author Rob Bowman. It is here that Bowman conveys something I wasn’t aware of, that being that no Stax record (prior to June, 1967) listed production credits, but Bowman clearly states that Green Onions was effectively produced by the entire band. An interesting tidbit. Bowman goes on to say that Booker T. & the M.G.s played on ninety-five percent of all Stax and Volt product through 1969, and opines “A more soulful corpus of work simply does not exist.” What a legacy! Last, but not least there’s the always exquisite re-mastering work by engineer ace Joe Tarantino, who recently warned me that I would love the sound on this edition of Green Onions. He wasn’t kidding!
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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