Musician and songwriter Booker T. Jones has had a long and legendary musical career. So much so, that he and his band Booker T. and the MG’s have been a part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1992 as one of the very first bands to get enshrined into the museum.
During his career, which began while he was still in high school, Booker T. Jones recorded thirteen studio albums with the MG’s and was part of numerous other albums, as well. Along with their own music, the band ended up playing on hundreds of recordings by artists including Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Bill Withers, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor and Albert King.
As far as Booker T. himself is concerned, his last album was released back in 2011 under the title of The Road from Memphis. That album found Jones recording an album with some of today’s most talented artists helping to form the songs with him. Yim Yames (Jim James of My Morning Jacket), Sharon Jones and even Biz Markie added to the magic of that release.
Just recently, Booker T. Jones entered the studio to create yet another album. The new album from Booker T. Jones is Note By Note.
The album of Note By Note from Booker T. Jones is a collection of eleven tracks. These tracks are just a sampling of all of the songs that Jones has recorded over the many phases of his career, including two tracks written by Booker and his son Teddy Jones which bring the album to a close. And much like the previous release from Jones entitled The Road from Memphis, Note By Note finds Jones entering the recording studio and recording with some of today’s artists. The album was created by Booker T. Jones with Jones being behind the organ and joined by Matt Berninger (The National), Ty Taylor (Vintage Trouble), longtime Tom Petty drummer Steve Ferrone as well as Jones’ son Teddy Jones on lead guitar.
The album of Note By Note from Booker T. Jones begins with the very first big hit for Stax Records: “Cause I Love You”. On this track, Jones is joined by two artists that found their way to stardom through winning talent contests on some well-known television shows: Joshua Ledet comes from his time on the 2012 season of American Idol, whereas Evvie McKinney won her season of The Four. McKinney was also a student of Jones’ at Stax Music Academy. Together, Jones, Ledet and McKinney create a brand new take on the duet originally recorded by Carla & Rufus Thomas with Booker T. and the MG’s playing the music. The updated version of the track still contains the same feel as the original, keeping the memory of the track alive.
The next track on the Note By Note album from Booker T. Jones is the classic track from Albert King called “Born under a Bad Sign”. While Albert King’s version of the track featured the vocals of King, this version of the song does not come with a vocalist. Instead, the new recording features a style much like the instrumental songs from Booker T. and the MG’s such as “Green Onions”. In fact, given the time period when the tracks was originally released, and given the sound of the new track recalls the style of that band, “Born under a Bad Sign” on Note By Note feels as if it could have been recorded by Booker T. and the MG’s as an instrumental instead of a track with vocals.
Booker T. Jones’ new album also features the song “I Want You,” a track that brings out the Soul influence of Jones in a very dominant way. The strong Soul track features the vocals from DeAndre Brackensick. The track comes from the solo release from Jones of the same name from back in 1981. Unlike with the previous tracks, this song seems to have found Jones wanting to simply recreate the tune. As the listener puts the song on, the track feels very reminiscent of the version from ’81. Singer DeAndre Brackensick handles the vocals of the song with plenty of feeling. The new version of the track brings back the memory of the song, making it fresh on the minds of the music-buying public.
The feeling of the album changes for several reasons with the next track entitled “Precious Lord”. First, the tracks adds a certain amount of spiritual feeling to the album. Second, the track slows things down because of that spiritual approach to the music. And third, the addition of singer Sharlotte Gibson adds a lot of emotion to the track. The track is split nearly in half as the first part of the song features only Gibson on vocals and Jones on organ. The second half of the song features the instrumentation of bass and drums to add to the feeling of the song. What results is a track that feels very much like something from inside a Sunday gathering.
With the track “These Arms of Mine,” Jones and band brings back the classic track from Otis Redding. Just like with the earlier song of “Born under a Bad Sign,” the resulting song brings back the feel of the music of Booker T. and the MG’s with horns thrown in to fill out the sound of the track. It is vocalist Ty Taylor who adds his voice to the track to bring the song to life. Together, Jones and Taylor do a good job of revisiting the classic track, sending the listener back to the sixties when the song was popular.
Obviously, one of the tracks on the new album from Booker T. Jones that stands out would be the title track of the album. “Time is Tight” is a track that was a big part of the history of Booker T. and the MG’s as the band would record the song twice during their career: One version would be recorded as the single, and the other featured several changes in the pace and feel of the music and was longer. It is the latter version of the track that is drawn from for the new album. But with this version of the song, Booker T. Jones and band turn the song into an extended jam, pushing the song over the nine-minute mark. For those who enjoy this track, the extended feel of the song is just what you’re looking for.
Booker T. Jones brings his newest album of Note By Note to a close with the tracks “Maybe I Need Saving” and “Paralyzed”. As was explained earlier, these final two tracks feature father and son as Booker T. is joined by vocalist Teddy Jones for two original tracks. While both tracks are fantastic, it is the track of “Paralyzed” that caught my attention. The track features music that combines some Soul flavor, some Blues, and a hefty amount of Jazz influence together. The result is a track that would easily fit on today’s Smooth Jazz radio format. And with the rather commercial feel of the track, it could easily end up making its way up the Jazz Singles Charts. The song is the perfect track to bring the latest release from Booker T. Jones to a close.
Today, Booker T. Jones can be found reflecting on his time in the music industry. And by doing so, Jones has just written a new book that focuses on his life and his time in the industry. That new book from Jones is entitled Time Is Tight: My Life, Note By Note. It was this new book and the creation of it that led to new creative juices flowing from Booker T Jones. Those creative juices resulted not only in the book, but also the new album to coincide with the release of the book, which has just been reviewed above.
Watch the behind the scenes video for the making of this release here:
Here is the newest song from Booker T Jones called “Paralyzed“:
To check out the entire album of Note By Note from Booker T. Jones, click on the album cover below:
(Photo of Booker T. Jones used in this article copyrighted by Piper Ferguson)