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Review: Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, “Playlist: The Very Best Of”

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Southside Johnny PlaylistWhen Bruce Springsteen gave the green light to officially release his 1973 recording of “The Fever” on 1999’s 18 Tracks, The Boss’ decision was rightfully greeted with acclaim.  But many of us Jersey boys were in on a secret: Bruce wrote it, but “The Fever” belonged to Southside Johnny Lyon and his Asbury Jukes.  Springsteen’s torrid evocation of a burning blue-collar romance, as produced by “Miami” Steve Van Zandt, was the centerpiece of the band’s 1976 Epic Records debut I Don’t Want to Go Home.  And it’s one of fourteen freshly remastered slabs of red-hot R&B – both live and in the studio – on Playlist: The Very Best of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (Epic/Legacy 88765 48611 2, 2013).

“The Fever” – with its unforgettable bass vocals from a pseudonymous Clarence Clemons – is one of three tracks from I Don’t Want to Go Home on the new anthology.  Playlist focuses just a single five-year period of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes’ long career, but during those years of 1976-1981, it was entirely possible that the Jersey shore was the epicenter of pure rock and roll.  And the sound of the Jersey shore was, in large part, the sound of the Jukes as fully formed on I Don’t Want to Go Home, the first of three landmark Epic albums.  It was an exultant open invitation to a bar that never closes, with Lyon (vocals/harmonica), Kenny “Popeye” Pentifallo (drums/vocals), Kevin Kavanaugh (keyboards/vocals), Billy Rush (guitar), Alan Berger (bass), Carlo Novi (tenor saxophone), the future Little Steven (guitars/vocals) and The Miami Horns providing the blood, sweat and tears.  (The Jukes’ lineup would be fluid on the albums represented in this set with innumerable guest musicians and singers popping in.)

The band’s spirit was epitomized in the opening lines of that LP’s title track written by Van Zandt and reprised here: “Oh I know that it’s getting late, but I don’t want to go home/I’m in no hurry, baby, time can wait/’Cos I don’t want to go home/Listen to the man sing his song/But I don’t want to go home/I don’t mind if they take all night long/’Cos I don’t want to go home!”  Southside’s whiskey-soaked rasp instantly conjures up the time and place.  In the year of Born to Run, Lyon, Springsteen, Van Zandt, engineer Jimmy Iovine and co. were synthesizing Stax horns, Drifters strings, Four Seasons pathos, and The Rascals’ blue-eyed soul into a vibrant style that either transcended the familiar tag of “bar band” or significantly raised the, um, bar for all of the other such groups out there!

There’s more after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 3, 2013 at 10:36

From Miss Ross to a Friend of the Boss: Legacy’s Latest Wave of “Playlists” Offer Hits and Deep Cuts

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Playlist - Diana RossPlaylist, Legacy Recordings’ series of single-disc anthologies spotlighting “The Hits plus the Fan Favorites,” keeps on rollin’ with a new, typically eclectic group of artists covering a wide swath of genres and styles.  Today, May 21, Legacy releases volumes in the series dedicated to the best of R&B (Diana Ross, Donna Summer), pop (Billy Ocean), country-and-western (Chet Atkins, Patty Loveless, Restless Heart, Mindy McCready), Latin jazz (Tito Puente) and the many strains of rock (Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Warrant, Jeff Buckley, Switchfoot, Iggy Pop).  All Playlist titles are now housed in traditional jewel cases, and each title includes a booklet with a historical essay and discographical annotation.  Some of the titles even include new-to-CD and previously unissued rarities.

Playlist: The Very Best of Diana Ross kicks off with three seminal tracks from Miss Ross’ late period at Motown: “Love Hangover” from her second eponymous album in 1976, and “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out” from 1980’s CHIC-helmed smash diana.  (Don’t miss a loving and truly comprehensive tribute to diana from one of our favorite scribes, Christian John Wikane, over at Popmatters.)  Following that Motor City appetizer, the set kicks into high gear with eleven tracks from the legendary singer’s oft-overlooked tenure at RCA, released between 1981 and 1985.  Highlights such as “Chain Reaction” and “Eaten Alive” are derived from the Barry Gibb production Eaten Alive, with the latter track providing a reunion between Ross and Michael Jackson.  Four songs have been taken from 1981’s Why Do Fools Fall in Love, including Ross’ solo version of “Endless Love.”  Silk Electric, Ross and Swept Away are also represented, with every track in pristinely remastered sound from Mark Wilder.  The No. 2 AC hit “All of You” with Julio Iglesias is among the Swept Away tracks you’ll find in this tasty survey of Ross at RCA.

Playlist - Donna SummerThe late Donna Summer gets feted with Playlist: The Very Best of Donna Summer.  Unlike most entries in Legacy’s series, this Playlist volume isn’t derived from the superstar diva’s original recordings but rather from a concert performance.  Summer’s blazing 1999 show at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom was previously captured on disc as VH1 Presents Donna Summer Live and More Encore, but Playlist premieres four previously unissued tracks from that concert (“Is There Music There,” “Riding Through the Storm,” “Don’t Wanna Work” and “Nobody”).  It adds up to a live summary of the legendary vocalist’s hit-filled career, with “MacArthur Park,” “On the Radio,” “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” (with Tina Arena filling in for Barbra Streisand), “She Works Hard for the Money,” “Bad Girls,” “Hot Stuff” and the inevitable “Last Dance” all making appearances.  Vlado Mellor has remastered at Sony Studios New York.  Those who already own Live and More will likely wish to grab this for the four newly-released songs and the remastered sound, but both discs are essential for the full program.  “My Life,” “Love is the Healer” and “I Will Go with You (Con te partirò)” are absent from the new Playlist.  The latter two songs were studio recordings added to the Live and More CD; Grammy nominee “I Will Go with You” was a No. 79 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and fared even better in the U.K., with a No. 44 chart berth.  In addition, both of the studio tracks reached the top spot on the U.S. dance chart.

Playlist - Billy OceanThough he’d been charting hits in the U.K. for nearly a decade prior, the Trinidad-born singer made his first major splash on the U.S. Hot 100 when “Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)” shot to No. 1, the same berth it occupied on the R&B chart.  The song began a hot streak for Ocean, the results of which are captured on Playlist: The Very Best of Billy Ocean.    The non-chronologically-sequenced 14-track set kicks off with “Caribbean Queen,” and also finds room for “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going” (No. 2 Pop/No. 6 R&B), “Loverboy” (No. 2 Pop/No. 20 R&B), “Suddenly” (No. 4 Pop/No. 5 R&B) and “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” (No. 1 Pop/No. 1 R&B).  In all, six albums are represented, and every track has been remastered by Tom Ruff.

After the jump: details on Jeff Buckley, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Chet Atkins, Iggy Pop and the rest – plus full track listings with discography and order links for each and every title! Read the rest of this entry »

Release Round-Up: Week of May 21

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Beach Boys LiveThe Beach Boys, Live: The 50th Anniversary Tour (Capitol)

Brian, Mike, Al, Bruce and David may not be touring again anytime soon, but at least we now have two discs of live memories to play. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

TVZ-Late-Great-CD-and-LPTownes Van Zandt, The Late Great Townes Van Zandt / High, Low and In Between (Omnivore)

You heard the demos, now rediscover these great country albums, on CD or vinyl!

Late Great CD (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.), LP (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
High, Low CD (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.), LP (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

FM Soundtrack - Culture FactoryVarious Artists, FM: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Culture Factory USA)

The hit-filled soundtrack, featuring the Steely Dan single of the same name, is the latest to get the Culture Factory LP replica treatment. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Southside Johnny PlaylistSouthside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Jeff Buckley, Chet Atkins et al., Playlist: The Very Best of (Legacy)

A dozen or so new entries in the Playlist series are coming your way this week. Watch this space tomorrow for a full breakdown on them all!