Friday, 3 May 2019

Little Steven & The Disciples Of Soul - Summer Of Sorcery (2019)

  

Released May 2019

I have loved Steven Van Zandt’s music since the late seventies. in 2017, he released a superb live album in “Soulfire Live” and he is back now with a new album of original songs. His sound, though, is very retrospective, and, if you have always liked Asbury Park rock, you will enjoy this. It is nothing new, however, and could have been recorded in 1983. Music like this, though, is somehow timeless, despite not getting much like it these days from anyone. Steven keeps the flame burning. Good on him.

TRACK LISTING

1. Communion
2. Party Mambo!
3. Love Again
4. Vortex
5. A World Of Our Own
6. Gravity
7. Soul Power Twist
8. Superfly Terraplane
9. Education
10. Suddenly You
11. I Visit The Blues
12. Summer Of Sorcery                                              

"Communion" kicks off with an eighties-style keyboard intro before the horns blast in, then the chunky riffs and Steven's nasal but soulful voice arrives and you instantly know what you're getting. It's 1983 again. After a couple of minutes, however, the track slows down rather pointlessly before settling back into its big, stomping rhythm. then it does it again for some backing vocal harmonies. For this reason, the track, which lasts six minutes, sounds a little bit disjointed. Four minutes of the main beat would have been fine, for me.

Steven has always liked a bit of a Latin mambo rhythm ("Bitter Fruit" from "Freedom - No Compromise") and he gives us that with the suitably upbeat groove of "Party Mambo!". He contributes an excellent guitar solo on this one. Time now for some Southside Johnny meets Bruce Springsteen in Asbury Park? You bet. "Love Again" takes us right back to 1977-78. Great stuff. If you loved the music Steven, Bruce and Johnny did in that period, you will love this, right down to the obligatory Clemons-esque blaring saxophone solo. The ghost of the big man is alive on this track. "Vortex" is an atmospheric number that owes a bit to the "Blaxploitation" soundtracks of the mid-seventies. It is a funky rock number with some evocative strings and brass. It also features some Bobbi Humphrey-influenced flute.

Then we get an unadulterated, horn-driven glorious slice of Asbury Park-ism in the wonderful “A World Of Our Own”. Full of boardwalk romantic lyrics and “sha-na-na” backing vocals. When I was in my early twenties I would have absolutely loved this to distraction. Now, at sixty, it gives me a warm, nostalgic glow but it doesn’t reach me as it would when I was falling in love every other week. Oh, what the heck, when I hear those horns, saxophones and the Ronettes-style melody, I love it. Good old Steve. He is taking me higher and higher. By the end of it I feel quite emotional. The whole track is incredibly like the music Van Zandt wrote and produced for Southside Johnny from 1976-78 as well, it could almost be him and his band, The Asbury Jukes.

"Gravity" has an insistent, semi-funky beat with some strange, sonorous backing vocals. It has that slightly disco feel to it that Southside Johnny also used a lot in the eighties, complete with synthesiser riffs. "Soul Power Twist" is a lively, horn-driven piece of rock and soul of the sort that popluated the two albums Springsteen produced for Gary "US" Bonds in the early eighties. “Superfly Terraplane” is also very Southside-inspired in its rock’n’roll meets blues rock sweaty beat, as used on Southside's first, Van Zandt-produced, album. It even finds time for some Mariachi-style brass in amongst the frantic, full-on attack.

"Education" is a re-make of the track from 1988's "Revolution" album. It sounds pretty much the same, so I am not quite sure the point of this. "Suddenly You" finds Steven going laid-back and late night jazzy in feel. Unfortunately his voice feels very out of place on this type of track, the quiet, sumptuous backing highlighting his limitations. Thankfully, "I Visit The Blues" restores the quality on a big, brassy early Southside-style blues. "Summer Of Sorcery" is just bloomin' marvellous - an uplifting, horn-powered glorious anthem that has Steven semi-speaking his vocal quietly and movingly, Van Morrison-style, (with a touch of Sam Cooke at the end) as those magnificent horns take us to Heaven (with that saxophone again too). It is as if Steven has hooked up with Morrison, Tom Petty, Springsteen, Southside Johnny, Clarence Clemons and Willy De Ville. Valedictory. Forty-five years of God-given music. Thank you Steven.

B+

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