Booker T. and The M.G.’s - Green Onions - Review
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critics' view

1. So, how’s the rest of the album, aside from the big single? Well, it’s no slouch. There’s filler, of course - which is to be expected. So, some quick notes on that stuff, starting with "Rinky-Dink" - a catchy enough cut that’s a bit too cutes-y and structurally by-the-book to be anything substantial. It’s too heavily reliant on those simple guitar chords to stand as anything. Or at least, to stand as more than your memory’s soundtrack to the lamest baseball game your dad ever brought you to. Not that my own dad ever took me to baseball games, thank God. Well, once. Anyway…"Mo’ Onions" is just a lesser version of the title track, with much sloppier organ playing (its chords have just been transposed up). Bruce Eder of hit the nail on the head in regards to "I Got a Woman", but I think he gives "Mo’ Onions" too much credit - it seems pretty dull to me, especially after the title track…and make no mistake, they do sound so much alike that you can’t not mention the original. None of the band really seem into it - not even Al Jackson, and he’s doing the exact same thing he was doing the last time.

2. And the other filler, on side two, just repeats itself: "One Who Really Loves You" has a decent use of cymbal crashes, but melodically it’s pretty forgettable. "You Can’t Sit Down" and "A Woman, a Lover, a Friend" are just more of the same stuff with weaker tunes (though the latter has some interesting guitar sounds if you listen closely in certain parts). And "Comin’ Home Baby" is decent enough with good guitar underpinning, and it makes a nice, slinky closer, but…yeah. While none of this is unlistenable (not at all, actually, and there are obviously zillions of albums that are less fun to play from start to finish than this one), it does bring up the one thing I’m confused about in regards to Green Onions: why is it so long? Not that it’s really ’long’ - 35 minutes isn’t a lot of time at all for an LP. But for an instrumental soul record from the early 60s, even an Atlantic one, that seems about seven minutes longer than you would have expected, no? Did the band or Atlantic feel they needed this much material? I just find it curious, ’cause if ever there was a band whose music was made to hit quickly and tightly without wasting a second, it was these guys. These are minor quibbles, though - this is all still magnificent chill-out music for the exuberant listener.

3. Of course, there’s just as much undeniably terrific stuff on Green Onions. Their version of "I Got a Woman" features some slightly inventive bass playing from Duck Dunn that throws in some unexpected half-muted tones with the standard chords. But that song also contains Steve Cropper’s most overtly ’flashy’ solo on the whole album…and it’s a terrific one. The way it crawls out is awesome enough, but the bends and quick chord stabs interspersed during the whole endeavour take it over the hill. Fantastic. "Twist and Shout" is another ace cover that arrives two tracks later - Jackson uses the snare (and even the toms) in said cut with great precision, complimenting Cropper’s chord rhythms perfectly.

4. Booker himself seemed to excel at this point on the slower, mellower numbers. His playing in "Behave Yourself" is probably be his finest on the album, skipping and slowing down and never losing step with the groove for a second. "Stranger on the Shore" carries this vibe over, though its melody is on the ’just okay’ line - still, the tone that Hammond lets off when a trebly note is held on it is always welcome…like a neon sign jutting out from a building during a lonely nighttime walk.

5. Hey, speaking of lonely nighttime walking songs, here’s "Lonely Avenue". Pleasant little song, it sounds kind of like the previous one…but better. And the guitar is twangier against some very quick runs of eighth notes from the organ. And it pretty much sums up the vibe of the album taken as a whole: groovy, man. Still…you ever heard these guys’ version of "Summertime" (from And Now!)? That’s some chilled-out mood music. But this stuff is fairly wonderful too.

6. "Green Onions", the song, was never all about the tune. Nor the organ. It’s those things, of course, but it’s also that ’yeah!’ at the beginning. It’s the stabs of guitar that leap out in twangs and bends, and how that guitarist sounded like he knew exactly what he was doing at every damn second. It’s how you kept expecting the drummer to fill in those spaces between the snare and the cymbal with something else, but he never did. It’s how those organ and bass lines sound like they were born as conjoined twins. It’s all of that, and probably a lot more. "Green Onions" is soul. Fuck the ’genre.’

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