Steve Cropper, Pop Staples,
Albert King are Jammed Together.
By Carl Hanni
Here’s another good one from the never-ending list of worthy records that never
really got their due.
Jammed Together is a Stax Records all-star throw-down loaded with with
heavy hitters; a loose, relaxed mutual appreciation society of giants enjoying
each other’s chops. This practically lost burner from 1969 fronts three of
Stax’s hottest pickers (Steve Cropper, Albert King and Pop Staples) with an
air-tight backing band and a shifting line-up of A-list in-house producers.
Various combinations of Al Bell, Issac Hayes, Al Jackson, David Porter, Booker
T Jones, Terry Manning, Homer Banks and others all take turns group producing,
a guaranteed head-turner for discerning crate diggers and analog devotees
looking for a warm, vinyl fix.
Three vocal numbers – one each from the three principals – are trumped by seven
instrumentals, where the real sparks fly. Albert King, for one, seldom sounded
better. His unbelievably agile, sweet but stinging leads propel “Big
Bird,” “Trashy Dog” “Opus De Soul,” “Homer’s
Theme” and “Knock On Wood” into soul-blues nirvana. Steve
Cropper is, of course, as steady as they come, tastefully blasting away on the
same tracks and putting a real fire under King’s mighty feet. But Pop Staples
and his patented tremolo and vibrato-laden guitar may be the unexpected ringer
and perfect foil for these other two giants; his laid-back, shimmering style
has just the spongy flex that these tracks need to achieve maximum lift-off.
None of this would be nearly as essential if their rhythm section wasn’t as
ready to rock and soul as they were, but the unnamed players split the
difference between rocking soul and rocking blues, and Jammed Together comes down on the soul side of the equation. They may be unnamed but they sure
sound familiar; anyone want to bet that’s Al Jackson Jr. and Duck Dunn, brother
MG’s, on at least some if not all of the tracks?
There’s real joy and a sense of playfulness in these warm, dynamic grooves,
produced by a fraternity of players and producers with a rich shared history
and absolutely nothing to prove. Jammed Together beats the
super-star-jam curse hands down and really doesn’t care if you know about it or
not. And there-in lies much of the appeal: Jammed Together is
simultaneously humble and thrown together, and supremely well crafted and full
of bravado. Kind of like Stax Records itself.
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Carl Hanni is a music writer, music publicist,
disc jockey and vinyl archivist living in Tucson, AZ. He hosts the vinyl-only
Scratchy Record Show every Tuesday night at the Red Room in downtown Tucson, and spins records
wherever and whenever he can. He believes that in a better (all analog) world
all records would be released on vinyl, but takes good music from wherever he
finds it–even on CD. His feature piece on legendary bass player/record
producer Harvey Brooks was recently published in Goldmine.