J.T. (Just Terrific)
thestaxman | Jackson, MS United States | 07/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a great sounding album! Close to forty years after it was recorded, the "Philosopher of Soul" Johnnie Taylor's debut with Stax Records sounds like a smashing success. There is not a bad song on the album that opens with a great Isaac Hayes/David Porter Blues number, "I've Got To Love Somebody's Baby", followed by a great Soul sing-along "Just the One I've Been Looking For" which resurfaced during the opening credits of director Harold Ramis's remake of the film "Bedazzled". The latter was co-written by guitarist Steve Cropper, singer Eddie Floyd (which would probably account for the song's infectious spirit), and Stax Vice President Al Bell. It helps that Taylor was supported by Booker T. & the MGs with the most unmistakable backbeat in music courtesy of drummer Al Jackson, Jr., terrific keyboard work by both Booker T. Jones and Hayes, and the spectacular Memphis Horns.
Stax mainstays Homer Banks and Allen Jones contributed two great ballads including what would become a Taylor staple; the wonderful "Ain't That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One)". There's also a funky treatment of the Country standard "Sixteen Tons". Hayes and Porter penned four more terrific songs with the rollicking and fun-filled "Toe Hold", the top 20 R&B single "I Had a Dream", and "Outside Love". They also, along with Booker T. Jones, wrote what has probably always been my favorite "J.T." tune, "Little Bluebird". The version here has been re-recorded. Though it is strikingly similar to the original single, it is now a bit tighter with presumably Hayes's organ and Jones's piano (it could be the other way around) really having fun with the bluebird sounds. It is fantastic, and like the rest of the album, there is not a note out of place.
Throughout this album, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes. When asked what he thought of the MGs' Steve Cropper, Keith Richards said, "Perfect, man." The work Cropper did with Taylor in their brief time together may be second only to his beautiful work with Otis Redding. And Taylor, to me, has always been the perfect Soul singer. He had the smooth delivery of Sam Cooke (whom Taylor replaced as lead singer of The Soul Stirrers), and the down home, good time, rough around the edges quality of Otis Redding. Though Taylor would have more success with Detroit producer Don Davis and the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, studio guys, I don't think he ever recorded something so consistently excellent as he did here."
Classic Unknown Blues CD
W. Hetfield | Lewes, DE United States | 02/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Stax didn't issue a whole lot of LP's in the sixties. This is a classic. Booker T and the MG's plus the Memphis Horns and Isaac Hayes are backing up Johhny on this fabulous debut. Every song is great."