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Soul Limbo - Booker T & The MGs

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Genre: R&B & Soul - Pop R&B / Artist: Booker T & The MGs / Audio CD released 1990-04-30 at Stax

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      25.08.2010 17:30
      Very helpful



      Plenty of soul to be found here

      I don't, as a rule, listen to very much rhythm and blues music. It's not that I have anything particular against it; it's just that I like other genres more and there are only so many hours in the day! So this is a rather different type of album from those that I'd normally review. At least its age (it was released in 1968) places it squarely in the old-fashioned category, which is something that I *am* used to! Mind you, there is one particular track here with which I am very familiar indeed...

      ...and that is the title track. "Soul Limbo" itself has managed to become one of the most familiar pieces of music in Britain, even among those who would never dream of listening to an album of this sort. Why? Because it is the BBC cricket theme! Used for many years for TV coverage, it actually comes as a slight shock for it not to die away after the first part and to be replaced by a "Morning everyone" from Richie Benaud... Of course now that the Murdoch juggernaut has swallowed TV cricket whole (thus pushing it ever further into niche sport territory, but that's a whinge for another day) the tune has found itself used instead as the theme tune to radio's Test Match Special. Wherever you hear it, though, it is the perfect cricket tune, with its jaunty Caribbean rhythm and sunshiney feel.

      All that said, there are nine other tracks on the album - which runs for a miserly 35 minutes - so it might be a good idea to mention some of them! The one which stands out for me is "Hang 'Em High", the MG's version of the theme to the classic Clint Eastwood film (also released in 1968). It's just different enough from the original to be interesting - dumping the harmonica was pretty obvious, I suppose! - while still maintaining a strong Western feel, especially at the start. It starts off quite spare, but builds relentlessly through the piece, before bringing in a funkier yet spiky sound right at the end.

      Another cover song which demands attention is, believe it or not, "Eleanor Rigby". This turns what even in the original is a very unsettling piece - and one which has spawned a vast number of often dreadful covers - into something so dark it's barely lit at all, and frankly terrifying. You really wouldn't want to meet this song in a lonely alleyway. I'm not entirely keen on the drums here, but the rest is sensational. After this you may need something a bit less worrying to pick you up again, so why not try "Foxy Lady"? Yes, the Jimi Hendrix song, and however good the original may be (and is) this is by no means sacrilege. This version is cool enough to store liquid nitrogen and has more soul than a graveyard in a guitar factory. As Smashey and Nicey might say...

      "Born Under A Bad Sign" went the other way, sort of, in that it was written by Booker T Jones and covered by Hendrix, among many others. (The Smashing Pumpkins, would you believe?) Strangely enough the underlying beat seems extremely reminiscent of "Foxy Lady" if you're in the right frame of mind, but the lead guitar has a pinched quality - some call it "nasal" - that counterpoints the rhythm (which most certainly does not need "more cowbell"!) to give an excellent "rollin' train" feel to the song. It's one of my favourites here, despite - or perhaps because of - it's fairly straightforward structure.

      At this point in the review I find myself having to point out those tracks which in my view don't quite make the grade. That's not all that easy, but "Heads Or Tails" doesn't quite come up to the extremely high standard of the disc as a whole. It's competent but no more, and I can't imagine it rising in my head unbidden and refusing to get out in the way some of the MG's other tracks can do. Although "Willow Weep For Me" is a wonderful tune, dating back to 1932, and the band do it fair justice, I'm not sure it really fits on *this* album. At first I thought the amazingly laid-back "Over Easy" might come into this category as well, but apart from a rather vague opening it's not bad at all.

      Overall, then, Soul Limbo is a pretty solid piece of work. As a cricket fan the title track will forever be my favourite piece on the album, but there's enough here to keep me - and I should imagine most listeners - interested through the rest of the disc. As I write it costs £4.99 (inc p&p) from Amazon, which is decent value, even allowing for the limited running time. It won't ever be my favourite album, and I'm just not excited enough by the genre to want to rush out and buy more of it immediately, but there's no need to worry that the record is a one-trick pony. Three and a half stars, rounded down to three simply because I'm not much of an R&B fan.

      Track listing
      1. Be Young Be Foolish Be Happy
      2. Hang 'em High
      3. Over Easy
      4. Eleanor Rigby
      5. Sweet Sweet Baby
      6. Foxy Lady
      7. La La Means I Love You
      8. Willow Weep For Me
      9. Soul Limbo
      10. Heads Or Tails
      11. Born Under A Bad Sign


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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Be Young Be Foolish Be Happy
      2 Hang 'em High
      3 Over Easy
      4 Eleanor Rigby
      5 Sweet Sweet Baby
      6 Foxy Lady
      7 La La Means I Love You
      8 Willow Weep For Me
      9 Soul Limbo
      10 Heads Or Tails
      11 Born Under A Bad Sign

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