Sunday, March 27, 2011

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes Pills And Ammo 2010

Southside Johnny might not be the first name you'd come up with in 2011, and who could blame you. But the new release from this blues-rock and R&B stalwart is quite good.

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes released three classic records between 1976 and 1978. I Don't Want To Go Home 1976, This Time It's For Real 1977, and especially Hearts Of Stone 1978 were all fine examples of rocking blues and soul done right. All three also benefited from Steve Van Zant's writing, guitar and production, and the occasional Springsteen writing credit. In the eighties Southside (or his producers) lost the way and made some pretty regrettable records. But in 1991 Van Zant returned to make Better Days, and although it didn't return Southside all the way to his former glory, it's another good one. The record company went bust while he was touring the record. Bad luck. During the last decade Southside Johnny has self-released a number of live Jukes records (I haven't heard them) as well as some good studio material, Into The Harbour 2005 is very good, and features Jeff Kazee on keyboards and songwriting, who also collaborates on the new one. From 2001, Messin' With The Blues is excellent, with Johnny blowing a lot of harp, and covering an especially well-chosen set of blues chestnuts. It's outstanding, and the best thing he's done since those first three.

Much of the classic Jukes sound is intact on this new one, and Southside's collaborator, Jeff Kazee, provides solid songwriting, keyboards, and production. Bobby Bandiera and Andy York provide rocking guitars, and the big horn sound of the Jukes is in place. Eddie Manion and La Bamba are still doing it on baritone sax and trombone, and the horns are as tight as ever.

Southside Johnny's voice is a little more ragged, but he's still a soulfull singer, and with good material he can always hold up his end of the bargain.

Bluesy rockers Harder Than It Looks and Cross That Line kick things off with high energy. The stomping blues of Woke Up This Morning follows, and it benefits from some killer harmonica from Johnny and a hot lead guitar. Lead Me On is a classic Southside ballad, with big emotions pouring out of Johnny's vocal. Strange Strange Feeling is a dangerous sounding blues that gets another fine vocal. Umbrella In My Drink finds it's way down to New Orleans with a guest vocal duet with Gary US Bonds. A Place Where I Can't Be Found is another good blues highlighting the horn section. Most of the rest is good, too, with rockers Keep On Moving and One More Night To Rock leading the pack.

The band is in fine form, the songs are good, and Johnny's pouring it all out. If you ever liked this band, they're still alive and kicking.

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