Booker T - Sound The Alarm (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
FOR his 10th studio album, Booker T has decided to embrace the best of his past with something fresh and new.
Hence, the 12 songs contained within offer a really, really good time of classic styles mixed with new. It finds Booker T evergreen and ever-young, collaborating with some of the finest talents in modern soul and R&B including Mayer Hawthorne, Anthony Hamilton, Vintage Trouble, Estelle, Gary Clark, Jr., Luke James and more.
Evidence of contemporary edge is found from the start, with a heavy hip-hop influence to be found over title track Sound The Alarm, which also features Mayer H. It’s funky, feel-good and combines some slick brass arrangements, finger click beats, hip-hop know-how and a bluesy vibe in both the central guitar riff and the lived in vocals.
All Over The Place owes more than a passing nod to Motown days of old, with a soulful contribution from Luke that places it up there with the likes of Curtis Mayfield or (more recently) Aloe Blacc, and Fun is an instrumental workout that does exactly what it says on the label: foot-stomping beats, cheesy organs, a celebratory party vibe and some more funky brass arrangements (set against a gospel choir backdrop).
There are some old time numbers that threaten to feel a little dated, with Broken Heart carrying a Radio 2/Heart FM easy listening kind of vibe.
But anytime you feel Booker T is starting to feel his age and running out of steam, he drops in another offering that rolls back the years.
Hence, another of the album’s instrumentals, Feel Good, is a slick mix of organs, back-beats and guitar licks that enables you to, well, feel good about yourself, and Can’t Wait finds Booker T teaming up with Estelle for a track that owes a lot to the sound of Beyonce.
There’s a blissful (and sometimes blistering) combination of Hammond organ and blues giutar on Austin Blues Idea (an instrumental that allows guitarist Gary Clark Jr some fine individual moments), while 66 Impala drops another of the LP’s funkiest cuts, complete with a Latin American percussion and some snappy organs (Poncho Sanche crops up here).
Watch You Sleeping also drops a slinky, highly sexual beat and then welcomes Bill Withers’ daughter Kori to the mix, allowing her to purr “I love to watch you sleeping, I never want to wake you up” over a seductive, late night beat. It’s disarmingly enjoyable.
And then there’s the album finale, Father Son Blues, an instrumental with his son Ted on guitar, that’s immense fun (you can almost feel the sense of pride and enjoyment gleaned from being able to perform together).
Booker T. Jones has already enjoyed back-to-back GRAMMY wins for his previous two albums – don’t bet against Sound The Alarm picking up its own fair share of accolades. It’s that good.
Download picks: Sound The Alarm, Fun, Austin Blues Idea, Can’t Wait, 66 Impala, Watch You Sleeping, Father Son Blues