Booker T & The MG’s – Melting Pot (1971)

With a cover that vaguely resembles The Doors L.A. Woman which was released only three months later, and a title track that channels ‘Riders On The Storm’ with a slightly less foreboding “killer on the road…” vibe about it, Booker T & The MG’s were tuned in to a similar stream for their final group effort as  Jimbo and his pals were on theirs.

The collective consciousness is only partly realised overall, but both albums represent each band at their peak. Melting Pot is more panoramic than earlier M.G’s releases in both performance and production, the sound is wider and clearer probably due to having been recorded at state-of-the-art studios in New York rather than at the Stax studios in Memphis where they had clocked up countless hours as the house-band backing soul legends Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and many others for close to a decade, as well as sessions for their own albums. Steve Cropper turns out some of his funkiest guitar licks and plunges into the blues on ‘Back Home’, and his playing on ‘Sunny Monday’ is a kind of ‘Classical Gas’ meets Creedence Clearwater Revival. Al Jackson Jr. on drums is in career-best form, understated and water-tight but drenched with soul, as is bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn. It is Booker T. Jones who owns this album, however, with his tremendous keyboard playing which veers from passionate and bold to esoteric and moody, all the time perfectly placed within the wash of sound. His solos are mini-journeys, one being double-tracked by exuberant wordless vocals provided by The Pepper Singers (whatever became of them?), who also show up on ‘L.A. Jazz Song’ sounding very like the vocalists on a sixties airline commercial. One or two apparent weak spots become less so after a few listens and in the end any similarity to The Doors is purely incidental.

 

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