It's impossible to imagine Southern soul existing at all without the powerful input of Booker T. & the MG's
, one of the grittiest and most precise rhythm sections in the history of pop music. The MGs
were the house band for Stax Records and its imprints Volt and Chalice, and played on virtually everything the label released, backing Otis Redding
, Sam & Dave
, Wilson Pickett
and any other Stax artist one can think of, and managed as well to release 23 singles and 11 albums under their own name between 1962 and 1971. The core lineup included keyboardist Booker T. Jones
, guitarist Steve Cropper
, drummer Al Jackson, Jr.
, and bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn
was the bassist for the first two years, replaced by Dunn
in 1964), and together they managed to sound both loose and offhand while still being tight as a piano wire, turning out seemingly effortless and bottomless soul grooves. This set has the obvious Stax highlights, including the classic "Green Onions," "Hip Hug-Her," "Time Is Tight" and several others, and it essentially duplicates Rhino's 1994 release that sports the same title. The liner notes to the package are brief but informative (one learns that Booker T.
did not play on "Boot-Leg," for instance, since he was away working on a music degree at the University of Indiana when the tracking was done and was replaced for the session by the one and only Isaac Hayes
), and while this set isn't that different from several other "best of the MGs
" albums on the market, it hits all the right notes in all the right places, and that should be the tagline for this band: they hit all the right notes in all the right places. And they did it, time and time again, with soul.