Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Booker T. & the MG's

  • Greatest Hits [Stax, 1970] A-
  • Melting Pot [Stax, 1971] B+
  • Soul Men [Stax, 2003] ***

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Greatest Hits [Stax, 1970]
Because the sound of the organ invites textured vagueness as surely as that of the vibraphone does tinkly fluff, there are better ways to hear such themes as "Eleanor Rigby" and "Something" (both hits for another group, by the way) than on Booker's Hammond B-3. But when the improvs begin, we're back in riffland, where such spare, exemplary soul melodies as "Hip Hug Her" and "Time Is Tight" were born--and where Mr. T. can get back to fleshing out (and heating up) the disciplined cross-rhythms of his Memphis Group. A-

Melting Pot [Stax, 1971]
Here the Memphis motorvators surpass the somewhat boxy rhythms that have limited all their albums as albums except for Uptight, which had vocals. Al Jackson's solidity, a linchpin of rock drumming as surely as Keith Moon's blastoffs and Charlie Watts's steady economy, is unshaken by the shifts the arrangements demand, and his deftness permits a more flexible concept in which Booker lays back some on organ and Steve Cropper gets more melodic input. A Vegas-jazz ("L.A. Jazz Song" is a title) boop-de-doo chorus upsets the balance of side two pretty badly, but for the first twenty minutes this is unbelievably smooth without ever turning slick. B+

Soul Men [Stax, 2003]
Never Before Available Covers of 25 of Your Favorite '60s Hits! ("Harlem Shuffle," "Downtown") ***