ALBUM REVIEW: SOULFIRE – LITTLE STEVEN
Last year at his O2 Indigo show in London, Little Steven announced that he was going to be back in 2017 with a new album and another European tour. The only UK date that’s been squeezed into his schedule was Manchester but the promised new album is now out and it’s a scorcher!
His first solo album for 18 years (“Born Again Savage” appeared in 1999), the new release marks a return to the sound of “Men Without Women” (his first album with the Disciples of Soul) and the first three albums for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, which he produced and provided a lot of the original material. So you know what you’re going to get – lots of brass, big production, classic 50s and 60s R & B and striking rock guitar
The 15 piece band includes top horns man Eddie Manion (from the Asbury Jukes) and guitarist Marc Ribler (the musical director for Darlene Love), and it’s primarily the band that played over here at the London Blues Fest.
It’s not what you would call a “brand new” album – most of the Van Zandt material has appeared in some form previously. It’s effectively Van Zandt pulling together a set of songs that can be seen as his story so far – and it makes you realise what a good songwriter/producer/arranger Van Zandt is.
You get Van Zandt’s take on 5 of his own compositions (or co-writes) which were first recorded by Southside Johnny – I’m Coming Back, Some Things Just Don’t Change, Love On The Wrong Side Of Town, I Don’t Want To Go Home (the first song he ever wrote) and Ride The Night Away. Also featured is an update of “Standing in the Line of Fire” (originally recorded by Gary US Bonds)
The “old” songs are good and anyone familiar with the Southside Johnny versions isn’t going to be disappointed. “Love on the Wrong Side of Town” is the most changed version- it gets a “Byrds style” intro before the familiar brass parts kick in, and then the instrumental section goes for an altogether different sound which is strikingly different from the horns on the Jukes version.
Even more interesting are the less familiar songs –“Soulfire” the album opener is a co-write which was recorded previously by The Breakers – a band on Van Zandt’s own label. It’s a strong opener and sets out the tone of the album that follows – a big sound and Van Zandt’s trademark vocals and guitar.
Here’s a link to Little Steven’s Youtube site to hear “Soulfire”:
“The City Weeps Tonight” is a new Van Zandt original – and it’s a gorgeous piece of updated doo wop. “I Saw The Light” is another Van Zandt original (not the Todd Rundgren song) which has never appeared before.
There’s an excellent choice of covers – first up (track 3) you get the “Blues Is My Business” a strong blues rock number first recorded by Etta James. This is the track for all you LGA students to plug in the guitar and play along to. Clocking in at over 6 minutes there’s plenty of licks and riffs to get your teeth (fingers!) into. You can play along here at Little Steven’s Youtube site:
The album also features a cover of “Down And Out in New York City” – the James Brown track from the movie “Black Caesar”. Marc Ribler gives it the full-on ‘70s “Shaft” wah-wah guitar sound.
“Saint Valentine’s Day” is another Van Zandt original that was originally given away and recorded by The Cocktail Slippers. It also featured in a stripped down rocky format in the rock movie “Not Fade Away” but this version brings in the full band and horn section to keeps this version within the sound of the album as a whole.
You can hear it here:
If you like the “Men Without Women” album (or Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes) this is definitely an album to go and buy.
- I’m Coming Back
- Blues Is My Business
- I Saw the Light
- Some Things Just Don’t Change
- Love on the Wrong Side of Town
- The City Weeps Tonight
- Down and Out in New York City
- Standing in the Line of Fire
- Saint Valentine’s Day
- I Don’t Want to Go Home
- Ride the Night Away
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Here’s Youtube live footage from the current European tour with Southside Johnny joining Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul for a sing-a-long version of “It’s Been A Long Time” (written by Van Zandt and originally recorded by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes on their excellent 1991 comeback album “Better Days” )
GIG REVIEW – LITTLE STEVEN AND THE DISCIPLES OF SOUL
Fans of Steve Van Zandt got a rare treat as part of this year’s BluesFest in London – his first UK “solo” appearance for 27 years as “Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul”.
Brought over by promoter (and saxophone player) Leo Green to play at the “Bill Wyman 80th Birthday Bash” which formed part of the BluesFest events schedule, Van Zandt was persuaded to also play a late night Saturday evening full band set at the intimate “Indigo at the O2” venue.
Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul
LGA gig reviewer, Paul Wood, was there to catch the action and a pretty impressive night it was too.
The night’s introductions were kicked off by well known London radio presenter Robert Elms and then a surprise second introduction (specifically at Van Zandt’s request) came from ‘6os pop legend (and modern day music entrepreneur) Dave Clark (leader of the Dave Clark Five).
When the curtains opened you could see that Van Zandt, sporting his traditional long coat, scarves and bandana, had put together a 15 piece band of US and UK musicians – including a 5 piece horn section featuring promoter Leo Green (“it’s all his fault, laughs Van Zandt pointing at Green, “he persuaded me to play”) and original Disciple of Soul/former Asbury Juke, Ed Manion.
LITTLE STEVEN AND THE DISCIPLES OF SOUL GIG REVIEW
With Marc Ribler (Musical M.D. for Darlene Love) acting as 2nd guitar and onstage choreographer, the band power packed their way through a set of over 2 hours to an ecstatic crowd of Van Zandt/Disciples of Soul/Asbury Jukes and Springsteen fans.
Here’s a link to Youtube footage from the gig of the band performing “Until The Good Is Gone” (from the “Men Without Women” album):
Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul Concert
The set list was (broadly) a one third each mix of songs from the “Van Zandt/Disciples of Soul” era (the “Men Without Women” album), songs that were recorded by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes (but written and produced for the Jukes by Van Zandt) and a selection of covers nodding to the “BluesFest” origin of the gig.
Here’s a link to Youtube footage from the gig of the band performing “Forever” (also from the “Men Without Women” album):
At the same evening in the main O2 Arena the BluesFest show was a combination of Richie Sambora and Orianthi supporting Bad Company. Van Zandt joined Ritchie Sambora and Orianthi for a song on their set and the compliment was returned later in the evening with Hook Herrera (from Sambora’s band) joining Van Zandt to play the harmonica on the Jimmy Reed cover, Walking By Myself and then Sambora himself joining Van Zandt for a long encore blast through “Can I Get A Witness”.
Here’s a final Youtube link to footage of the band playing their version of the Southside Johnny classic, “I Don’t Want To Go Home” (“the first song I ever wrote” said Van Zandt) . The night finished to loud cheers as Van Zandt announced that they were recording a new Disciples of Soul album, re-releasing his earlier solo albums next year and that they would be back over here for a proper tour in the summer of 2017. Go catch them when they come over – if the band put together for the tour resembles anything like the band at the Indigo it’ll be a great show.
- Killing Floor
- Comin’ Back
- Inside Of Me
- I Played The Fool
- The Blues Is My Business
- Until The Good Is Gone
- Ride The Night Away
- Groovin’ Is Easy
- All I Needed Was You
- Love Disease
- She Got Me Where She Wants me
- Some Things Just Don’t Change
- Trapped Again
- Down And Out I New York City
- Walking By Myself (with Hook Herrera)
- I Don’t Want To Go Home
- Bitter Fruit
- Can I Get A Witness (with Richie Sambora)
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Here’s a Youtube link to the original promo video shot for the “Forever” single from the “Men Without Women” album. The single made the US Top 100.