tue 04/08/2020

CD: Booker T - Sound the Alarm | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Booker T - Sound the Alarm

CD: Booker T - Sound the Alarm

Jones and his organ head back to Stax, with a whole host of new friends in tow

Genre experimentation on Booker T's 'Sound the Alarm' - although it doesn't always work

It’s been a few years and a handful of albums since Booker T Jones did the well-played heritage artist comeback thing, which has to be the only reason that Sound the Alarm has not been greeted with the hype you would expect. It’s his first on Stax Records, the Memphis label where Jones & the MG’s spent much of the 1960s as the house band, since 1962’s Green Onions.

Paying homage to those roots, as well as building on the many intriguing collaborations Jones has been involved with throughout much of his long career, Sound the Alarm features contributions from a range of contemporary talent who lend their vocals and instruments to songs mostly written by Jones himself and which showcase his legendary Hammond organ. It’s a more flexible instrument than you would expect, and Jones and his co-producers the Avila Brothers mix it up with various genres. Sometimes the experiments work (as on “66 Impala”, with its Latin-inspired percussion and samba-style “heys” from Poncho Sanchez and Sheila E); sometimes they don’t (the overproduced “Can’t Wait”, with a phoning-it-in vocodered contribution from Estelle, sounds like it belongs on a different album altogether).

Both young British soul singer Jay James Picton and Ty Taylor of contemporary blues-smiths Vintage Trouble provide fantastic vocal performances: the former, sultry and soulful like a young Cee Lo Green on “Broken Heart”; the latter, lending “Your Love Is No Love” a smooth, epic feel. But the best cuts are, unsurprisingly, the instrumentals: “Fun” boasts a riff to justify the name and “Feel Good” is a traditional funk-soul jam with a contemporary heart that puts the master’s organ front and centre. The end-of-the-movie jazzy grooves of “Father Son Blues”, featuring Jones’s own son Ted on guitar, is the perfect closer.

Overleaf: stream title track "Sound the Alarm", featuring Mayer Hawthorne


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