Sound The Alarm is the new album from Booker T Jones, now for uninitiated Booker T is synonomous with Memphis soul and in particular the Stax sound. As well as being a founding member of Booker T and The MG's he was an integral part of the Stax session crew alongside his MG's bandmates Steve Cropper, Donald 'Duck'Dunn, and Al Jackson Jr. He played on countless hit records and musical milestones, Otis Redding's Dock Of The Bay, all of the great soul records of Sam and Dave, the early Atlantic records of Wilson Pickett, the list goes on. He was also a great record producer working with the likes of Bill Withers and Willie Nelson.
Since 2009 Jones has released three solo albums, all of them fantastic and all of them with different sound. Jones isn't looking to ride on past glories each of his albums has blazed new ground, there is no standing still just forward motion with his new music. Sound The Alarm has a refreshing approach, it's a real soul album with some amazing collaborations, but Jones mixes it up with some funky latin soul and some great nods to the past. It's also somewhat of a homecoming for Booker T as this record has been released on the re-activated Stax label. This album takes on a more R&B and soul feel than previous albums so he has enlisted the help of an amazing array of vocal talent and some great musicians to make this album come to life.
The title track is a tight slice of funky R&B, some repetitive guitar loops, blaring horns, late 70's funk with the new purveyor of it Mayer Hawthorne on vocals. The great thing about this album is that it's not soley about Booker T's hammond B3, his overall contributions to each song come when required, on this track it's in short sharp bursts. The interplay between guitar and keyboard is great, then the horns get in on the action as another counterweight to the soaring hammond B3. All Over The Place features Luke James on vocals and is a brilliant slice of early 70's soul, uptempo with a pulsating bass line and some uptown horns. Fun takes things back to the glory days of McLemore avenue opening up with a guitar lick that sounds a lot like Steve Cropper, it opens up on to a groove you might have heard on an Otis track, but it's also got a more uptown northern soul feel to it, it sounds a little like Billy Butler's classic The Right Track.
Broken Heart featuring Jay James on vocals is another slice of smooth southern soul, those sweet horns and some relaxed playing from Booker creates a laid back feel. Feel Good has a James Brown feel, some tight drumming and scratchy guitar, plenty of space for Booker to build and weave the melody. Gently features Anthony Hamilton a song with a gospel feel, a very gentle reflective number with Booker reflecting on life and the joy of taking things easier. Austin City Blues gets down and dirty with guest guitarist Gary Clark Jnr providing slash and burn guitar rhythms. This is where Booker is at his best, he is great at answering the guitar sound, creating space for a musical dialogue to emerge. 66 Impala is a standout track, pure Latin groove and just damn funky and featuring Poncho Sanchez and Sheila E, it sounds a little like Iron Butterfly's In A Gadda Da Vida! Sound The Alarm shows an artists entering a productive renaissance, it's not about riding on the coat tails of former glories for Booker T for him it's about pushing the boundaries and discovering a new sound, it's a wonderful journey.