FEATURED ARTIST: BOOKER T. JONES
Welcome to a new “Featured Artist” series, which will showcase a wide variety of artists on an ongoing basis -- and offer opinions about which of their vinyl releases are essential to have.
Let’s kickoff with writer, producer and Hammond organ legend Booker T Jones.
Best known as the frontman of Booker T. & the M.G.'s, Booker T has worked in the studios with an endless array of great artists from the 20th and 21st centuries – from Otis Redding to Mayer Hawthorne. A shoo-in for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, Booker T & The MG’s were also chosen to serve as house band for the 1995 star-packed globally-televised concert celebrating the debut of the Rock Hall.
But Booker’s work as a solo artist is too often overshadowed by his towering musical achievements with Booker T and the MG’s.
WHAT TO GET ON VINYL:
The Road to Memphis (2011) Anti Records
If you’re on a tight budget, or you’re a curious newcomer looking to dive in and see what Booker T is all about, this is the one to get. Booker’s backing band includes Questlove (drums), "Captain" Kirk Douglas (guitar) and Owen Biddle (bass) from The Roots as well as former Motown guitar legend Dennis Coffey. Sharon "Dap" Jones hits it out of the park with guest vocals on “Representing Memphis,” and Booker T’s instrumental take on the Gnarls Barkley hit “Crazy” reaffirms why he may be the greatest organist ever. Oh yeah, Booker's work here won the Grammy for “Best Pop Instrumental Album.”
Sound the Alarm (2013) Stax Records
Serves as a stunning reminder of how fresh and relevant this 72 year old performer has managed to be across 6 decades of work. There’s a great cast of young disciples onboard, with Booker whipping up a variety of millennial-friendly music concoctions. “Can’t Wait,” features Estelle leading a dreamy trip-hop ride to an insistent beat that cruises right to the dance floor.
The Best of You (1980) A&M Records
Silky smooth R&B with stellar vocal contributions from Rita Coolidge –at one point, Booker T’s sister-in-law. Booker hasn’t sung much in his career, but his duet with Rita on “We Could Stay Together” is an example of sophisticated eroticism that Marvin Gaye would admire. Click here and see for yourself. Long out of print on vinyl, the album is still readily available for less than 10 bucks on EBAY, Amazon or Discogs.