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The Road From Memphis

4.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The Road from Memphis starts with a young Booker T. Jones hauling his stack of newspapers to Phineas Newborn s front yard where, while folding them for his after-school delivery route, he could listen to the jazz great practice piano. It ends with Booker and The Roots roaring through a set of both timeless and contemporary originals (and propulsive covers of Gnarls Barkley s "Crazy" and Lauren Hill s "Everything Is Everything"). Along for the ride are vocalists Matt Berninger of the National, Yim Yames of My Morning Jacket, Sharon Jones, Lou Reed, and Booker himself, telling the story of how the funk/soul sound that Booker helped invent spiraled out from Memphis, touching The Root s hometown of Philadelphia, New York (where engineer Gabe Roth has been recreating classic soul sonics for everyone from Sharon Jones to Amy Winehouse), and Detroit. Detroit as in Dennis Coffey, legendary Motown session guitarist who introduced driving rock funk rhythm to hits like "Cloud Nine" and "Ball of Confusion" by the Temptations, and brings his Detroit grit to these tracks. The Road from Memphis is classic Memphis soul, and classic Booker in the tradition of "Green Onions", but beyond that it is the story of a sound, and how Booker, working with the inheritors of his sound, is keeping a tradition alive.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 10, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Anti
  • ASIN: B004S7G6CW
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,159 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I don't understand how a reviewer could only give this album 3 stars. Granted, this isn't your Grandma's Booker T but that's not to say there isn't great music and grooves on here. Booker T. surrounds himself with a phenomenal rhythm section with Questlove on drums and Owen Biddle laying it down thick on the bass. Put the album in and on the first track it's apparent that this album is going to be dripping with southern funk beats and cool laid back grooves. Booker's signature B3 sound is featured heavily throughout the album and he even takes up vocals on a track. I think the last few tracks of the album cool off a little bit, but it doesn't diminish the greatness of this record. A fun, tight record that has Booker T. funking and rocking harder well into his 60s
Key Tracks: Walking Papers, Progress, Representing Memphis
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Format: Audio CD
I am a fan from way back. Green Onions is definitely part of the soundtrack of my life, and In the Holiday Spirit is in the top 10 of my extensive holiday collection. I liked Potato Hole a lot and I think The Road From Memphis is even better.

The timing of the release is interesting, as the city of Memphis struggles to cope with imminent flooding. This is, of course, a tribute to Memphis as well as a depiction of Booker T's musical journey.

Let's start with the cover of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy. In my opinion it works better than Hey Ya did - the melody is easier to pick out, and the song itself is more appropriate for Booker T's bluesy, funky style. Moreso than Potato Hole, this CD is what I think of as "pure" Booker T. These songs could have come out in 1974. I like all the tracks with vocals. My favorite is Representing Memphis with Matt Berninger and Sharon Jones. Booker T himself does a very nice job with the vocals on Down in Memphis.

This CD contains extensive liner notes from both Booker T himself and Robert Palmer. I appreciate the chance to get an insight into the making of the album and the influences that have brought Mr. Jones to this point in his career.

The music itself is lively, rootsy, and unmistakably Booker T. I was so glad to have this CD when caught in traffic yesterday - it definitely made the delay go down smoother. Booker T Jones is a treasure and so is this CD.
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Format: Audio CD
After having listened to the album repeatedly, I am conflicted. I love that Booker has incorporated vocals into the album. I like to hear him sing, I like all of the guest artists from their previous work, and I like their performances on this album. I guess I just wasn't expecting to enjoy the instrumentals on this album even more than the songs with vocals. For example, in the cover of Lauryn Hill's "Everything is Everything," Booker's arrangement transforms the relatively flat instrumentation from the original into a deeply textured background over which he overlays his always expressive organ highlights. The real question is how Lauryn Hill and other R&B singers can get Booker to arrange and produce their next albums. Of all the songs on The Road, I think "Rent Party" finds the best groove, although a close second to "The Vamp."

That said, I do find myself singing phrases from these songs as I walk down three flights of stairs on my way back to the computers in the sub-basement. And even in the phrases that stick in my mind, I sense the tension that drives this album forward. Booker sings, "I got to pay union dues, make me want to sing the blues. I can't be a winner now, 'cause I'm born to lose, down in Memphis." The lyrics are down, but the organ intro is so jaunty and the drums so loose that I feel good about being down. This is also just a fun project. Listen to the phrasing in Down in Memphis, listen to, " . . . down on Beale St.," and tell me you don't see a reminiscent smirk. I can't stop singing "Progress," even if I don't know exactly what the refrain is. My favorite vocal performance from Jim James in My Morning Jacket is "I won't cry" on Chapter 2: Learning, in which he sings about a failed relationship, "I was with you then/Now I'm starting again.
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Format: Audio CD
A fantastic album. And one that completely makes up for the bizzare grunge rock missteps on his previous album Potato Hole. Memphis,along with Chicago and New Orleans are three of the most relevant cities when it comes to the development of rhythm & blues-not to mention funk,soul and many other associated sub-genre's. The more one knows about Booker T Jones,the more one realizes that not only has he seen it all when it comes to the development of Memphis soul but also contributed to it in the same way with his talent as a multi instrumentalist,in particular his renowned organ playing. And on this album album this all gets a chance to shine through. For one thing Booker T himself produced this in the company of QuestLove-the man behind the wonderful Al Green comeback Lay It Down. Not only has be proven himself more than able as a producer,but also in being a big confidence builder in letting the artist he's producing be who they are without smothering them with his own ego. And again that's the approach,even if taken somewhat more collaboratively with Booker T.

If someone were to ask me for a single sentence description of this album,I would refer to it as forty minutes of non-stop,firing on all thrusters Memphis soul/funk. From the percussion,the guitars and of course the organ itself "Walking Papers" takes the cake....as do "Crazy",The Hive",a version of "Everything Is Everything","Rent Party","The Vamp" and "Harlem House". These songs are instrumental Memphis groove at it's finest and never loses the rhythm on that front for it's part.
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