Tag Archives: Stax

Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn

Aside from Motown maestro James Jamerson, it would be hard to name an electric bass player who had more impact on rock, soul, and R&B than Donald “Duck” Dunn, who just died at the age of 70 after playing two shows in Tokyo.

That’s Dunn playing the unstoppable bass line on “I Can’t Turn You Loose.” When he re-teamed with Steve Cropper for the Blues Brothers backup band, John Belushi and Dan Akroyd made it the opening theme of their concerts.

I always thought the sound effects at the beginning of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” were unnecessary: Dunn’s tidal bass line conveys the setting perfectly. Not that it keeps the song from being an all-timer:

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Blue Monday (with green onions)

Since the title of Booker T. Jones’s new disc, Potato Hole, evokes food, let me offer an alternate title: Three Great Tastes That Don’t Necessarily Taste Great Together. Those three being Booker’s Hammond organ, Neil Young’s lead guitar and the Drive-By Truckers’ feedback drenched backup. I love all three, but the combination turns out to be a bit of an acquired taste.

Booker T. Jones (along with guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn) was the cornerstone of Stax Records during the years it offered a harder-edged alternative to Motown.  Up above, Booker T. plays his signature tune “Green Onions” with Cropper, Dunn and a host of young ladies on shimmy. While the bass lays down a firm pulse, Cropper’s guitar darts in and out of the smoky R&B organ sound.

The Drive-By Truckers, who back Booker T. on Potato Hole, are one of the best American rock bands now treading stages, but their Crazy Horse-influenced sound meshes a little too closely with the organ — with Neil Young, another feedback lover, doing his thing as well, Potato Hole sometimes sounds like it has three organ players instead of just one. It’s a listenable record, but these slow-simmering instrumentals are a far cry from Booker’s best Stax work — or, for that matter, Fork in the Road or Brighter Than Creation’s Dark.     

If you’re a fan of any of the participants, though, you’ll want to check out Potato Hole if only for some of the more off-the-wall covers. The idea of Booker T. covering Andre 3000’s “Hey Ya” may sound surprising, but after all, he did the same thing with Simon & Garfunkel and The Young Rascals back in the day. One of the best tracks is “Get Behind the Mule” by Tom Waits, shown here in a concert perfomance from earlier this year in Australia:

Tagged , , , , ,