Friday, April 22, 2011

Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes

The last song played on the latest Underground Garage (#472) was It's Been A Long Time. And I knew there and then I had to get me some Southside music. Well, being a Springsteen fan I guess it was inevitable sooner or later. Sadly most new copies of his old CDs are either out of print or unusually pricey. Luckily I had just enough left to buy one album from iTunes (I can only use gift cards here), so I chose Better Days, John Lyon's comeback effort in 1991.
This is some of the most exciting blues and (lotta) soul-infused rock & roll music I've ever heard. The production by old friend and collaborator Steve Van Zandt sounds big, but also has a very down-to-earth, bar band quality to it, immediately reminding me of Stevie's 1982 classic Men Without Women, with his Disciples of Soul. Better Days is a pretty long record, but contains not a single bad song. Max Weinberg and Garry Tallent plays on it, so there's that undeniable E Street rhythm sound in the Asbury Jukes. Oh yeah, and how bout those marvelous horns?

As for Southside's singing, there's no doubt he has a voice made for soul. He's in no way pitch-perfect, but impassioned and full of fervor. (it's kinda like how Brian Fallon sings in the Gaslight Anthem). Fellow New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi sings pretty wonderfully on the spirited I've Been Working Too Hard. There's this ballad called All The Way Home, which was written by Bruce (he would do his own country blues version in 2005's Devils & Dust).

He and Steve also contributed lead vocals on It's Been A Long Time, a song about friendship that is worth the price of this whole album, seriously. Sometimes I can't help but chuckle at Bruce's Lucky Town/Human Touch-style singing. Also Soul's On Fire, Coming Back and Ride The Night Away; all fantastic songs. In the end, Better Days is an album that makes you love life. Southside should be getting as much praise as his pal Bruce. Get this man into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame!!