Friday, 20 December 2013

Booker T - Evergreen (Great R&B, Rock US 1974)


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Playing organ and keyboards in the MG's, one the greatest R&B and soul bands in the history of pop music, Booker T. Jones was no stranger to the pop world when he recorded Evergreen in 1974. As part of the MG's, he played on innumerable Stax Records sessions backing everyone from Otis Redding to Sam & Dave, and the MG's hit the charts a few times themselves, beginning with the timeless "Green Onions" instrumental in 1962. But things began going south for Stax in the early '70s, and Jones could see the writing on the wall, leaving the label well before it filed for bankruptcy in 1975 and signing with A&M Records in 1971 and consequently releasing a series of albums with his then-wife Priscilla Coolidge. 

He signed with Epic Records in 1974, issued Evergreen, and then returned to A&M Records. Evergreen isn't a soul record, at least not the way the MG's did it, and Jones wore several hats at the sessions, playing some guitar and bass on it in addition to organ and keyboards, handled most of the vocals, and also wrote, arranged, and produced all the tracks (with the exception of a cover of Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me"). It's really a laid-back roots album, and one doesn't get any of Jones' famous organ playing until the fourth cut, an instrumental called "Flamingo," and it's there on the title track, "Evergreen," as well, but most of the album is a light-breezed mix of folk melodies, subtle calypso, and reggae rhythms, ragtime, and what is know these days as soul-jazz, and it's all very pleasing, but far from the greasy soul-funk sound of the MG's. Wounded Bird Records reissued Evergreen in 2013, adding in six bonus tracks, which included the single version of "Evergreen" and interesting cover versions of "Take Me to the River" and "Whiter Shade of Pale," none of which change the overall mood and feel of the original album.

Booker T. Jones (born November 12, 1944) is an American multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, record producer and arranger, best known as the frontman of the band Booker T. & the M.G.'s. He has also worked in the studios with many well-known artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, earning him a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement.

Booker T. Jones was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1944. He was named in honor of his father, Booker T. Jones, Sr., who was named in honor of Booker T. Washington, the educator; "Booker Taliaferro Jones, Jr." is his full name.

Jones was a prodigy, playing the oboe, saxophone, trombone, and piano at school and serving as organist at his church. He attended Booker T. Washington High School, the alma mater of Rufus Thomas and shared the hallowed halls with future stars like Isaac Hayes's writing partner David Porter; saxophonist Andrew Love of The Memphis Horns; soul singer/songwriter William Bell and Earth, Wind, & Fire's Maurice White.

Jones's first entry into professional music came at age sixteen, when he played baritone saxophone on Satellite (soon to be Stax) Records' first hit, "Cause I Love You", by Rufus Thomas and Carla Thomas.

While hanging around the Satellite Record Shop run by Estelle Axton, co-owner of Satellite Records with her brother Jim Stewart, Jones met record clerk Steve Cropper, who would become one of the MGs when the group formed in 1962. Besides Jones on organ and Cropper on guitar, Booker T. and the MGs featured Lewie Steinberg on bass guitar and Al Jackson, Jr. on drums (Donald "Duck" Dunn eventually replacing Steinberg). While still in high school, Jones co-wrote the group's classic instrumental "Green Onions", which became a hit in 1962.
Bob Altshuler wrote the sleeve notes on the first Booker T. & the M.G.'s album released by Stax Records in 1962 and also called Green Onions:

Booker T. And The M.G's - Netherland Single 1968
[His] musical talents became apparent at a very early age. By the time he entered high school, Booker was already a semi-professional, and quickly recognized as the most talented musician in his school. He was appointed director of the school band for four years, and in addition, organized the school dance orchestra which played for proms throughout the Mid-South. In the classroom, he concentrated on the studies of music theory and harmony. ... Booker's multiple activities earned him a coveted honour, that of being listed in the students' "Who's Who of American High Schools". Booker's first instrument was the string bass, but he soon switched to the organ. Booker came to the attention of record executive Jim Stewart in Memphis, and while still in high school, he worked as a staff musician for Stax Records, appearing as sideman on many recording dates for that label. It became obvious that one day Booker would be ready to record under his own name and several months later Booker's first recording session was set.

Over the next few years, Jones divided his time between studying classical music composition, composing and transposition at Indiana University, playing with the MGs on the weekends back in Memphis, serving as a session musician with other Stax acts, and writing songs that would become classics. He wrote, with Eddie Floyd, "I've Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)", Otis Redding's "I Love You More Than Words Can Say", and, with William Bell, Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign". The latter would later be popularized in the cover version by power trio Cream.

Booker T and The M.G.S. Poster 1968
In 1970, Jones moved to California and stopped playing sessions for Stax, after becoming frustrated with Stax's treatment of the MGs as employees rather than musicians. While still under contract to Stax, he appeared on Stephen Stills' eponymous album (1970). The 1971 album, Melting Pot would be the last Booker T. & the MGs album issued on Stax.

Making the charts as a solo artist in 1981 with "I Want You", he produced Rita Coolidge, Bill Withers's debut album Just As I Am (on which he also played several instruments), and Willie Nelson's album Stardust. He has also lent his trademark keyboards to artists ranging in genre from Ray Charles to Neil Young.

On June 18, 1985 Booker married Nanine Warhurst. They have three children together, Olivia, Cicely, and Teddy. All total they have a family of eight children, including Booker T. III, Lonnie, Matthew, Brian, and Michael.
On March 1, 1995 Booker T. & the MG's won their first Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "Cruisin'". Jones still plays with Booker T. & the MGs and his own Booker T. Jones Band. Booker's current touring group includes Vernon "Ice" Black (guitar), Darian Gray (drums), and Melvin Brannon (bass).
Jones was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and was honored with a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement on February 11, 2007.

In 2007, Jones was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN.
In 2009 he released a new solo album, Potato Hole, recorded with the Drive By Truckers, and featuring Neil Young. He performed at the Bonnaroo Festival with Drive By Truckers on June 6, 2009, with a set including most tracks from Potato Hole as well as some Truckers tracks. On January 31, 2010, Potato Hole won the Best Instrumental Album award at the 52nd Grammy Awards.

He is featured on the new Rancid album, Let The Dominoes Fall, playing a Hammond B-3 on the track "Up To No Good".

Jones also played his B-3 on the track "If It Wasn't For Bad" from the Elton John and Leon Russell collaboration album titled The Union. The track was nominated at 53rd Annual Grammy Awards for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals.

In 2011, Jones released The Road from Memphis. The backing band included Questlove (drums), "Captain" Kirk Douglas (guitar) and Owen Biddle (bass) from The Roots as well as former Motown guitarist Dennis Coffey and percussionist Stewart Killen. The album features vocals by Yim Yames, Matt Berninger, Lou Reed, Sharon Jones and Booker T. himself, as well as lyrics contributed by his daughter/manager Liv Jones.

On February 12, 2012 The Road from Memphis won at the 54th Grammy Awards for Best Pop Instrumental Album. Jones holds a total of 4 Grammy Awards.

Jones received an honorary doctorate degree from Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music at the 2012 undergraduate commencement exercises on Saturday, May 5, 2012. He had originally attended Indiana University in the 1960s, even after having recorded hits for Stax Records.

Jones was featured on organ for singer Kelly Hogan on Hogan's 2013 release on Anti- records, "I Like to Keep Myself in Pain."

In June, 2013, Jones released his 10th album, Sound The Alarm, on Stax Records. It features guest artists Anthony Hamilton, Raphael Saadiq, Mayer Hawthorne, Estelle, Vintage Trouble, Luke James, James Jay, and Booker's son Ted Jones. [AMG + Wikipedia]

01. Jamaica Song  2:25
02. Mama Stewart  2:52
03. Tennessee Voodoo  4:46
04. Flamingo  3:38
05. Song For Casey  4:52
06. Evergreen  6:30
07. Country Days  4:35
08. Why Me  3:35
09. Front Street Rag  2:14
10. Lie To Me  6:00

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11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really stunning work, per usual. So, so glad you didn't walk away from this a few weeks back--most grateful.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the latest posts to listen near the Xmas tree! A few names which are new to me (you sometimes make me feel like an ignorant)and other great "classics"!
A very Happy Christmas to you, Chris, and best wishes for the New Year!
JJ

Ian Van Groove said...

WOW! This has been on my wishlist for-EVER! Endless thanks & praise to you, a gentleman & a scholar!

(Haven't heard it yet, hope it's good!!!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Chris, have a good one this. All the best

Woody said...

Many thankx for this.

marco said...

Many thanks for sharing this

Anonymous said...

Been looking for this too!

Grey said...

Thanks for the Booker T! Always a fan of your great Stax and Stax-related posts.

Grey said...

Thanks for the Booker T! Always a fan of your great Stax and Stax-related posts.

Anonymous said...

Lovin Booker T
so groovy

Jay said...

Thanks - awesome post.