"No hyperbole...fact: Booker T. and the MGs were the best backing group in the history of soul music. There were those who came awful close (the Motown house band in the Benny Benjamin-James Jamerson era; the Muscle Shoals crowds anchored by bassist David Hood and drummer extraordinaire Roger Hawkins), but none quite equaled the MGs elemental, deceptively simple fire. (Not to mention having, in Al Jackson, Jr., the most identifiable backbeat in Southern soul - and to think he got that unmistakeable snare thump by just loosening his snares a little and letting his overweight billfold sit on the top skin when he struck it!) They'd have had the rep even if they hadn't gone along when a Stax employee, hearing them jam after a session on the riff which became "Green Onions," suggested they cut the number on their own.What they did with "Green Onions," of course, remains almost superhuman. They started by jamming on a slowed-up variation of the classic John Lee Hooker boogie riff and ended up laying out perhaps the third great must-pinch motif of rock and soul, behind Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" licks and, of course, the Bo Diddley rhythm. Its influence goes beyond its run as a chart smash - blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson's "Help Me" was little more than laying lyrics over "Green Onions," and "Help Me" ended up becoming an obligatory entry in the songbooks of only too many British blues wannabes, not to mention Johnny Winter (who cut a rather lamely metallic version on his otherwise transcendent "The Progressive Blues Experiment"); Canned Heat met "Green Onions" halfway to its John Lee Hooker sourcing and made it their signature "don't forget to boogie" style.But if you're still dumb enough to think the alpha and omega of the MGs was or remains "Green Onions," think again. On their own, these boys were as good as it got for instrumentals that found depth in simple strands, even in the obvious "Green Onions" followup, "Mo' Onions." (The sleeper element of the MGs: guitarist Steve Cropper could plain play the blues, and he did it a hell of a lot better, with his scratchy, spare licks, than did damn near anyone else firing off the arpeggios like wedding confetti). They worked in any and every odd element which felt right into their basic bluesy soul, particularly Afro-Latino rhythms ("Soul Limbo" was probably the signature hit of that interest), though they could also dream up gripping hybrids ("Time Is Tight," their last sizeable chart hit, could have been mistaken for what happens when Southern soul seasoners take a crack at surf music; as it was, the song reached beyond its own audience, the Clash cutting an endearing copy of it in the late 1970s), culminating in the staggering, polyrhythmic lyricism of "Melting Pot," which saw them out in a blaze of musical glory that was treated, somewhat criminally, with indifference when a shortened version was issued as a single. Strangely enough, "Melting Pot"'s rolling polyrhythms, the ethereal, jazz-laced keyboard washes from Booker T. Jones, the slicing Cropper guitar lines, the rumbling bass from Donald ("Duck") Dunn, and Jackson's tumbling drumming, may have helped point the way as much to the standard rhythms of technopop as toward the later loosenings up which mutated disco toward less processed, R and B-influenced dance music of the late 1970s-1980s.The internal and discordant politics of the transmuted Stax/Volt operation in the early 1970s provoked the MGs collapse by 1974, but they left behind a record in their own right of music just as enviable as the brilliant work they did for most of the classic Stax/Volt recordings of 1961-71. This best-of is a hell of an overview; their reissued original albums, mostly, are worth having, particularly "Soul Dressing" and "Melting Pot". (The latter's cut "Kinda Easy Like," a nine-minute "Green Onions" rewrite which practically sits as an idea of how to improve on perfection, should have been included on this best-of set; hence the docking to a mere four stars.) They still work together on occasion but Al Jackson, Jr.'s unsolved murder in the mid-1970s guarantees it can never quite sound the same. Ever."
GB | IN | 09/06/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Unbelievable that I would order a CD with "Green Onions" in mind and not expect to be that interested in any of the other songs. Quite the opposite. There isn't a bad selection on the entire CD. Wish all CD's were the same. I still like "Green Onions", but like "Sweet Potato" even more."
Time is tight!
Kirk Alex | 10/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My favorite instrumental group. You best believe it. Time Is Tight, Hang 'Em High and Melting Pot!
Have loved Time Is Tight from way back in the 60s when I first heard it played on the radio in Chicago and could never get enough of it. Booker T. & the MG's! Yeah! And then a few years later they came up with another incredible gem entitled Melting Pot! Made you want to grab a guitar and learn to play, only some of us just don't have the ability.
Have always wanted to thank these incredible musicians for their gift to the world, & amazon allows us to do so.
Here we are, three decades later, and I still get a kick out of playing this great music. Ought to tell you plenty.
Just what the title says: The Best of the Best
Kirk Alex | 07/29/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For years, newcomers to this great R&B instrumental band had to pick where they wanted to start: the early material (1962-1967) owned by Atlantic or the later material (1967-1970) owned by Fantasy. Rhino has done the righteous thing and brought the best from both periods together on one disc. This is as good as music gets and it's a blast from start to finish."
Music for outdoor fun. Music for indoor fun.
GB | 05/26/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Green Onions", "Hip-hug Her" "Time is Tight" are underrated immortal instrumentals. Every Memphis/Muscle Shoals music fan knows of guitarist Steve Cropper's contribution to funky soul and muddy water pop-blues--his Atlantic session work, his Stax work. Take a good listen to the bass and drum work by "Duck" Dunn and Al Jackson Jr. "Simply irresistible", as Robert Palmer would say. This 'Very Best of..' collection has the unique ability to add to that good feeling you get while picnicing, beaching or groovin' on a Sunday afternoon. This is good music done well."