Digital’s

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Almost The MG's

07 JUL 10 DAVID NATHAN

Even the most ardent fans of Booker T. & The MGs -- essentially the house band at Stax Records through the early-'70s and a successful chart-making unit in its own right -- could be forgiven for thinking that self-titled 1973 release by The MG's was simply the latest offering from the group. Although the sound and flavor of the critically acclaimed LP followed the musical patterns laid down by the original quartet, Booker T. Jones and guitarist Steve Cropper had left to work on other projects.

Carson Whitsett replaced Jones for the album while Bobby Manuel (who would go on to produce the 1976 novelty hit "Disco Duck") recorded in place of Cropper. Remarkably, with Al Jackson and Donald "Duck" Dunn as producers, the re-formulated MG's were able to keep the musical continuity of the original team. Indeed, Whitsett's organ-playing so closely emulated Jones on tracks like the funky single "Sugarcane" and "Blackside" that it's tough to tell the difference.

There are some nice moments on the release, now available in digital format only. The island-flavored "Jamaica This Morning" and the haunting melancholy of "Leaving The Past" are highlights along with a pleasing cover of The Spinners' 1972 hit, "One Of A Kind (Love Affair)" and "Breezy" on which Manuel re-creates the prominent guitar lick from Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff."

The album was a one-off. Jones and Cropper planned a reunion with Dunn and Jackson in 1975 but just before, Jackson was murdered. It would be two more years before the trio reassembled for one more recording.