The Mar-Keys

Last Night!/Do the Pop-Eye

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This combines the Mar-Keys' first two albums, Last Night! and Do the Pop-Eye (both from 1962), onto one CD, with nine pages of historical liner notes by Stax authority Rob Bowman. "Last Night" was a great early-'60s instrumental rock hit, and an important one in helping to establish the basic sound of Stax soul music. It's the linchpin of the Last Night! album, and despite the single's greatness, the LP is a mediocre, filler-filled effort that typifies the low standards of the full-length rock recording at the time. These are basic sax- and organ-driven soul-rock dance instrumentals, good for dancing to in the live shows the Mar-Keys were doing, but pretty boring one after another on record. Only a few of these are group originals; the rest of the cuts including covers of jazz tunes (Cannonball Adderley's "Sack o' Woe"), popular standards ("Misty," "Ebb Tide"), classic R&B ("Sticks and Stones"), and even Paul Anka's "Diana." Do the Pop-Eye was much like Last Night!: functional, simple early-'60s soul-rock instrumentals, prominently featuring sax and organ, and easy to dance to. And like Last Night!, it was unimaginative and dull to listen to all together, with the disadvantage of lacking a single as good as the classic "Last Night," though it was a little funkier in its song selection and execution. The bouncy "Pop-Eye Stroll" had been a very small hit (making number 94), and probably for that reason there were a couple of knockoffs elsewhere on the LP, "Pop-Eye Rider" and "Too Pooped to Pop-Eye." Historically, this is an important record, only because three of the musicians to play in Booker T. & the MG's -- Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, and Duck Dunn -- play on it (Cropper and Jones also wrote a bit of the material). You can hear antecedents to the Booker T. & the MG's sound on some of the better cuts, like "Straight From the Can" and "Sit Still," which has some stinging Cropper licks; Rufus Thomas wrote one of the other tracks, "'Cause I Love You." The liner notes, by the way, are pretty fascinating, particularly in the several anecdotes about Stax's early days and the complicated genesis of "Last Night": more interesting, in fact, than (with the exception of the track "Last Night") the music on this disc.

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