Booker T & The MGs – Green Onions (1962)

Green Onions is the debut album by Booker T. & the M.G.’s, released on Stax Records in October 1962. It reached number 33 on the pop album chart in the month of its release. The title single had been a hit worldwide and was covered by dozens of artists, including the Blues Brothers and Roy Buchanan (both with Steve Cropper on guitars), as well as The Ventures, Al Kooper, The Shadows, Mongo Santamaría and Count Basie.

Three previous Stax LPs – two by the Mar-Keys, one by Carla Thomas – had been issued on Atlantic Records. Green Onions was the first album released on the Stax label. It was also Stax’s first charting album, peaking at number 33 on the Billboard 200. The album features only instrumental songs and features Steve Cropper playing a Fender Telecaster

Track Listing:

Side one

“Green Onions” (Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, Lewie Steinberg, Al Jackson Jr.) – 2:53
“Rinky Dink” (David Clowney, Paul Winley) – 2:41
“I Got a Woman” (Ray Charles, Renald Richard) – 3:35
“Mo’ Onions” (Steve Cropper, Al Jackson, Jr., Booker T. Jones, Lewie Steinberg) – 2:57
“Twist and Shout” (Phil Medley, Bert Berns) – 2:13
“Behave Yourself” (Steve Cropper, Al Jackson Jr., Booker T. Jones, Lewie Steinberg) – 3:55

Side two

“Stranger on the Shore” (Acker Bilk) – 2:22
“Lonely Avenue” (Doc Pomus) – 3:30
“One Who Really Loves You” (Smokey Robinson) – 2:26
“You Can’t Sit Down” (Dee Clark, Kal Mann, Cornell Muldrow) – 2:51
“A Woman, a Lover, a Friend” (Sidney Wyche) – 2:33
“Comin’ Home Baby” (Bob Dorough, Ben Tucker) – 3:12

Review: There’s not a note or a nuance out of place anywhere on this record, which featured 35 of the most exciting minutes of instrumental music in any category that one could purchase in 1962 (and it’s no slouch multiple decades out, either). “I Got a Woman” is the single best indicator of how superb this record is and this band was — listening to this track, it’s easy to forget that the song ever had lyrics or ever needed them, Booker T. Jones’ organ and Steve Cropper’s guitar serving as more-than-adequate substitutes for any singer. Their version of “Twist and Shout” is every bit as satisfying. Even “Mo’ Onions,” an effort to repeat the success of “Green Onions,” doesn’t repeat anything from the earlier track except the tempo, and Jones and Cropper both come up with fresh sounds within the same framework. “Behave Yourself” is a beautifully wrought piece of organ-based blues that gives Jones a chance to show off some surprisingly nimble-fingered playing, while “Stranger on the Shore” is transformed into a piece of prime soul music in the group’s hands. Just when it seems like the album has turned in all of the surprises in repertory that it could reasonably deliver, it ends with “Comin’ Home Baby,” a killer jazz piece on which Steve Cropper gets to shine, his guitar suddenly animated around Jones’ playing, his quietly trilled notes at the crescendo some of the most elegant guitar heard on an R&B record up to that time. — Bruce Eder

Schill Score: 9.25/10

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