Booker T. & The MGs – McLemore Avenue [reissue]

January 01, 1970



Memphis to London
may be quite a distance on the map, but Booker T. & The MGs made it look
like a quick and easy jump back in 1970 with the release of McLemore Avenue. Initially
released less than a year after The Beatles released Abbey Road, McLemore Ave.
pooled most of the tracks from Abbey Road into three instrumental medleys
and one stand alone track, “Something.” The new reissue adds six extra Beatles
covers recorded by the band in the 1960s, and presents it w/new liner notes by
music journalist Ashley Kahn. 


splitting the difference between tribute, oddity and time capsule, McLemore Avenue finds the MGs in typically classy form as they play tribute to – and just plain
play – The Beatles. It’s a fairly low-key affair, with the band offering
tasteful, beautifully played combinations of some of the most instantly
recognizable songs in rock music that stick pretty close to the original
arrangements, sans vocals. Some of the medley tracks work better than
others, and at moments they are almost too restrained, but overall it’s a fun
and joyful affair, and it’s a distinct pleasure to hear the MGs superlative
R&B/soul grooves applied to The Beatles unimpeachable melodies. What’s
interesting is how the sublime and the standard sit side by side: “Here Comes
the Sun” is sweet but not particularly remarkable, but as they flow into “Come
Together” it all suddenly blooms into a breathtaking groove through some sort
of analog alchemy or osmosis.


same is true for the additional tracks. Their versions of “Day Tripper” and
“Eleanor Rigby” are minimalist classics that blend the incredible gift for
subtle grooves that Booker T. and the MGs (Booker T., Steve Cropper, Donald
“Duck” Dunn and Al Jackson Jr.) bring to everything to some of the most sublime
melodies ever written to ecstatic effect. Cropper gets plenty of space to
stretch out on guitar, while Booker T.’s organ and piano, Dunn’s bass and
Jackson’s drumming all ride the grooves like water over a stream bed. Special
note must be made of the warm and positively glowing analog sound of Stax
Studios in Memphis and Wally Heider’s famous
studio in Hollywood,
where Cropper overdubbed the guitar parts. Anyone looking for an example of
less equaling more through attention to subtle shading on the inside of a
groove should pick up McLemore Ave. and see how it’s done in the hands
of the masters. 


DOWNLOAD: “Come Together,”
“Something,” “Day Tripper,” ” Eleanor Rigby.” CARL HANNI


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