As the original guitarist of Stax Records house band Booker T. & The M.G.'s., Steve Cropper has had a storied career. Voted #36 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time, Cropper has worked with blues legends such as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and the Blues Brothers Band. His debut album on 429 Records is a tribute to R&B and doo wop act, The 5 Royales. The collection features reworked versions of the groups most enduring songs, and includes duets with Lucinda Williams, Bettye LaVette, John Popper, Sharon Jones, and others.
The Rough Guide series of compilations is generally excellent, but every once a while a dud does pop out. While not bad, this is far from everything it could be, given the range and history of gospel music. It captures some, but not all, the big names. And so listeners have vintage Five Blind Boys of Alabama with "Stand By Me," a song they later revisited, but no Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. And while the Soul Stirrers are here, it's not a cut from their heyday with Sam Cooke, and where are the Highway Q.C.'s? Gospel's real golden age, in the '50s, is woefully under-represented, and while the Golden Gate Quartet, whose influence was paramount to so many, is mentioned in the notes, there's nothing by them. Mahalia Jackson justifiably gets two tracks, but no Clara Ward, and you have to wonder about the inclusion of the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir. The new generation of gospel seems to be lacking, with nothing from the critically acclaimed Sacred Steel school.