Booker T. Jones - organ; Steve Cropper - guitar; Donald "Duck" Dunn - bass; Al Jackson, Jr. - drums
As the originators of the Memphis soul sound and the house band on many Stax/Volt hits, Booker T. & the MG's became one of the most respected and imitated bands of the mid-1960s. The group forged a compelling sound, and backed many of the greatest soul and rhythm and blues musicians of the era - including Otis Redding, Wilson Picket, Sam & Dave, Albert King and many others. For these 1968 Winterland performances, the core group was still on board, featuring Steve Cropper on guitar, Duck Dunn on bass and Al Jackson, Jr. on drums to augment Booker T.'s distinctive organ. In the late 1970s, Cropper and Dunn would form the backbone of The Blues Brothers, gaining wider exposure than ever before; but these recordings from a decade earlier show the band to be not only highly original in their own right, but also quite capable of taking popular hits of the day and revamping them into their own infectious style. Moreover, in addition to Cropper's groundbreaking work on "Green Onions," the title cut on their debut album, the young white guitarist showed himself to be equally adept at both blues and jazz. His playing is both simple and sophisticated.
The early show from June 8, 1968 finds the band in great form, performing instrumental arrangements of many classic songs from the era. Much of this set focuses on highly recognizable covers, such as The Rascals' "Groovin," Bobbie Gentry's smoldering "Ode To Billy Joe" and the Motown classic "You Keep Me Hangin' On," which here owes as much to the organ-heavy Vanilla Fudge arrangement as it does to the original. The band's own arrangement of Otis Redding's "Dock Of The Bay" is also included, as is a funky take on the classic "Expressway (To Your Heart)."
Toward the end of the set, the group leans in a more bluesy direction, warming up the audience for B.B. King. They dedicate the classic "Summertime" to B.B. King before closing the set with their own "Double Or Nothing," followed by Willie Cobbs' "You Don't Love Me," a song later immortalized in a marathon version on the Allman Brothers classic At Fillmore East live album.
In all these performances, Booker T.'s massive organ sound all but dominates, but it is the accompaniment provided by Cropper, Dunn and Jackson that truly propels the music. The group doesn't rely on flash or gimmicks, but rather displays a seasoned sense of style that is the epitome of taste and technique. Steve Cropper's economical guitar playing is particularly impressive, always enhancing their groove-heavy Memphis soul. Listen in for a taste.