What does it sound like?:
Little Stevie is back. Just the 41 years after he was producer and co-writer of much of the first album by Jersey’s own Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Steve Van Zandt has resurrected that blistering sound. Of course, Miami Steve has been a bit busy in the meantime, loads more Southside albums, 9 years in The E Street Band, a 19 year solo career and, so far, a further 18 years and counting as leader of Bruce’s Greatest Bar Band On The Planet. Add in his 8 years as Silvio Dante in The Sopranos, and the 4 years acting, producing and co-writing the wonderful Lilyhammer, and you can see that 67 year old Steven Lento has been ‘a bit busy.’
When he embarked on his solo career, with the mighty Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, he took the template, that he and singer Johnny Lyon had designed for The Asbury Jukes, and kicked it up the arse. The first few LS&TDOS albums are huge, beefy, brassy albums, full of fantastic songs and a cast of thousands. After that, he went off on a tangent, the sound became less soulful, the songs became weaker, and his music career becalmed. He rejoined the reformed and renewed E Street Band. So, 18 years after his last solo album, Born Again Savage, what does this new album sound like?
It sounds like the best soul album you could ever want to hear. It sounds like a band, like a runaway train, like AC/DC discovered Solomon Burke, hired The Miami Horns and donned the coolest soul-threads, some bad hats and went out on the road to freedom.
The opener, the title track, blasts out of the speakers, killer chorus in it’s back pocket, great vocal on it’s lips and struts into your living room.
“If your soul cries out in desperation,
And you’re helpless from your own fear,
When there’s nobody left to depend on,
I’ll be here, right here,
lighting the Soulfire.”
It’s a fantastic table setter.
Next up is “I’m Coming Back,” Steve’s opener from Southside’s 1991 album, Better Days. The towering brass riff blasts out over huge drums, lifting your spirits and your soul, and carrying you off to the land of Soul Heaven. “Blues Is My Business” is a belter, “I Saw The Light” will have every audience dancing like their lives depended on it, then things slow down slightly with the gorgeous “Some Things Just Don’t Change,” and we’re almost halfway through. Time to draw breath?
Are you serious?
Southside Johnny’s Jewel In The Crown, 1977’s “Love On The Wrong Side Of Town” is up next. Written with Stevie’s bestest buddy, Bruce Springsteen, this is Steve Van Zandt’s template, writ larger than life. The orchestral arrangement, the brass riff, Steve’s wonderful vocal, all mesh together in 3 minutes of soul genius. It is a fantastic song, and one I have yearned to hear The E Street Band perform, every time I have seen them.
Next up is “The City Weeps Tonight.” This is the doo-wop slowy, from the end of the Prom dance, as the boys pul the girls close, and the band leer down from the stage, ticking off their potential conquests. The backing vocals are just wonderful. “Down And Out In New York City” is Curtis & Isaac come to life, with the flute prominent in the maelstrom of brass and “all the fat cats, in the bad hats, doing me a big big favour.”
“Standing In The Line Of Fire” starts like Morricone and ends like the missing link from those first two Disciples of Soul albums, classic soul.
“Saint Valentine’s Day” is more of a rocker, even if it’s soul roots are showing through, and we’re down to the last 2 tracks.
Another one written for Johnny Lyon’s band of Jersey reprobates, the title track from their first album, “I Don’t Want To Go Home,” is given a warmer treatment, via the rich, lush backing vocals, and really sweet it is too. The train careers into the station buffers with “Ride The Night Away,” from Southside’s Better Days album. Killer riff, popping brass and a chorus the audience can all blow their vocal chords on, this could easily be the encore of a live show. In fact, the album is paced like a live set, and all the better for it.
So, there you have it. Brassy, ballsy, soulful, sassy and full of fire.
What the fuck more could you possibly want?
What does it all *mean*?
Soul music, when done this well, is the rhythm of life, the fountain of youth.
Goes well with…
Your best dancing shoes and drinking trousers.
Might suit people who like…
Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Graham Parker & The Rumour