BOOKER T. & THE M.G.'s: DOIN' OUR THING (1968)
1) I Can Dig It; 2) Expressway (To Your Heart); 3) Doin' Our Thing; 4) You Don't Love Me; 5) Never My Love; 6) The Exodus Song; 7) The Beat Goes On; 8) Ode To Billie Joe; 9) Blue On Green; 10) You Keep Me Hanging On; 11) Let's Go Get Stoned.
Okay, try as I might, it is really hard to get excited about anything on here. For the first time, a Booker T. album does not accompany a hit single — or a non-hit single — actually, there were no singles whatsoever from this album, almost as if in recognition of the increased role of the LP in popular life and culture. Unfortunately, the recognition does not translate to the music-making: like before, the record consists of short instrumentals, either made on the spot by the M.G.'s or interpreting other people's achievements.
The covered material is kinda lame for 1968, ranging from The Soul Survivors (a very pedantic organ recreation of the melodic structure of ʽExpressway To Your Heartʼ) to Sonny & Cher (a very pedantic organ recreation of the melodic structure of ʽThe Beat Goes Onʼ). The major highlight is probably the tight, snappy, mean and lean cover of ʽYou Don't Love Meʼ, a blues-rock tune whose overall catchiness and conciseness was much appreciated at the time — of course, in a matter of a couple of years all other versions would be rendered obsolete with the Allman Brothers appropriating the tune, and Cropper's guitar solo here looking like a student work next to the flashing duels of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts.
Of the originals, one would expect the opening track to be the most precious one, but in all actuality, ʽI Can Dig Itʼ just sounds like a merry warm-up for better things to come — the tempo is rousing, the organ and guitar solos are friendly, but hardly worth memorizing on their own. Too bad that the better things never really come: all over the place, it seems like the band is going through the motions, or perhaps just stupidly sticks to the old guns in defiance of all the wonderful musical progress going on in 1968.
In the end, the only positive effect the album had on me was to remind me that ʽLet's Go Get Stonedʼ, when you take Ray Charles and/or Joe Cocker out of it, is simply ʽNobody Loves You When You're Down And Outʼ — not such a big surprise, but you do keep forgetting how easy it is for a song to completely change face with just a «motivation shift». Other than that, this is just Booker T. & the M.G.'s «doin' their thing» and not giving a damn about anything else. As usual, it all sounds cool, but already sort of «retro-cool» by the standards of 1968.