R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

VOICES Notes and news on R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax releases

Memphis Meets Liverpool

12 MAY 11 DAVID SHANNON

Released mere months after Abbey Road, Booker T. & the MGs' 1970 release McLemore Avenue, part of Concord's Stax Remasters series, puts the distinctive Stax stamp on a classic British record and provides a supremely entertaining take on what was to be the Fab Four's last official recording.

Possibly the most striking aspect of the album (and testament to the MGs' ability to play with pre-written material) is a rearrangement of much of Abbey Road's track list into three suites that show just how seamlessly the songs fit with each other no matter the order. The first track, "Medley: Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End/Here Comes the Sun/Come Together," jumbles the tunes beautifully with Booker T. Jones' dexterous keys and Steve Cropper's Telecaster tone alternating between soothing and soaring. (As a matter of fact, Lennon and McCartney were so enamored of Cropper's previous work with Otis Redding that they at one point made tentative -- but sadly unfulfilled -- plans to record with him in Memphis.)

Meanwhile, the glorious enjambment of "Medley: Sun King/Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came In Through the Bathroom Window/I Want You (She's So Heavy)" showcases the MGs' knack for shifting tempo, slipping easily from the lulling "Sun King" to the upbeat "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window," with nearly half of the pastiche devoted to a rousing "I Want You (She's So Heavy)."

This release also features a handful of bonus tracks not offered the first time around, including covers of earlier Beatles hits such as "Day Tripper" and two versions of "You Can't Do That," the second of which turns the song into an elongated, grooved-out shuffle that still retains the original's 12-bar foundation.

The mash up of McLemore Avenue is essential listening for serious fans of Booker T. or the Beatles. And don't miss the radio ad at the end of the album: it's a bit of funky promo preserved in 1970 amber.

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    Medley: Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight ...

    Booker T. & The M.G.'s, from McLemore ...