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The first installment of this essential reissue project spanned 1962 to 1967, when the sublimely funky instrumental quartet Booker T. & the MG’s scored such greasy yet elegant hits as “Green Onions” and “Hip Hug-Her” while serving as part of the magnificent Stax house band on rough-and-ready hits by the likes of Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. By 1968, Booker T. Jones (keyboards), Steve Cropper (guitar), Al Jackson (drums) and Duck Dunn (bass) exhibited more polish than grit, but remained impeccably soulful and precise, as the 20 snazzy tracks on The Complete Stax Singles Vol. 2 (1968-1974) demonstrate. Among the highlights: the swingin’ “Soul-Limbo”; the mesmerizing “Hang ‘Em High”; “Time Is Tight,” with a bright, propulsive groove that won’t quit; the sultry, late-night “Meditation”; and the exuberant “Melting Pot,” which evokes everything from James Brown to the Zombies. Throughout, the slow-burn heat of these gifted players gives the music a timeless quality that still burns brightly.
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