Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes: The Fever: The Remastered Epic Recordings

Doug Collette By

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Unless a musiclover becomes fully-versed in the full career trajectory of Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes via their latter-day work with Barry Beckett, Nile Rodgers, et.al., as compiled on All I Want Is Everything (Rhino 1993), it's difficult if not impossible to avoid seeing the group as a novelty act at best or worse, a near shameless cash-in on the burgeoning success of Born to Run (Columbia, 1975) era Bruce Springsteen, all of which was occurring around the time of the original release of the selections that comprise The Remastered Epic Recordings.

Yet, Real Gone Music's The Fever in fact is exactly the kind of well-conceived and executed package that, in the long run, will distinguish the compact disc medium. Like the best of such archival releases, this set puts its subject in the proper artistic perspective, while at the same time satisfying the needs of the collector residing within the fanbase. With four recordings originally designed for long-playing vinyl configuration efficiently combined on to a pair of CD's, the design of this set also includes the original cover art of the albums(front and back), detailed recording and musician credits, plus an objective historical essay from Chris Morris, author of the fine book on Los Lobos Dream in Blue (University of Texas Press, 2015).

As a result, this reissue preserves for posterity a moment of time that deserves more than a passing glance, if only to observe the maturation process of a band that turned itself to kitsch as a means of 'making it.' In that sense, the running order of these albums as configured here, out of true chronological sequence, makes good sense from a listening and comparative quality perspective: reflecting the music inside, the cover shots of I Don't Want to Go Home (Epic, 1976) and This Time It's For Real (Epic, 1977) are the work of a band paying homage to the sources from which it found its own voice (then arguably muffled with boardwalk kitsch).

Paying respect to Clarence Carter ("Snatchin' It Back") and Solomon Burke ("Got to Get You Off My Mind") is in addition to collaborations with the legendary r&b likes of the Drifters ("Little Girl So Fine"), The Coasters ("Check Mr Popeye") and The Five Satins ("First Night), all of which render an inevitable conclusion the studio and live appearances of Ronnie Spector during "You Mean So Much to Me." The latter spotlight appears on Live at the Bottom Line (Epic, 1976), originally issued just a few months after Johnny and the Jukes' first studio record, has never before available on CD (equally if not more rare is the promo-only single of Sam Cooke's "Havin' A Party'" included here too, released between the first two albums).

Shorn of the Phil Spector-like magnitude and density of the debut's studio production, strings and all, the overlap of five numbers on the limited-edition content might still sound redundant right next to the debut. Meanwhile, the polish of the sophomore effort, not to mention the expectant air and confidence of the sophomore set is in stark contrast to the stripped-down likes of Hearts of Stone (further noteworthy as it was also included in its entirety on the single-disc anthology The Best of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (Legacy, 1992), the spare sound of which Mark Wilder's mastering does perfect justice.

Captured in the forlorn portrait of Lyon sans shades, the dolor at the heart of these songs, all of which come from Springsteen and Miami Steve Van Zandt, producer of all three studio sets as well as this third and last Jukes album for Epic Records proffers a group having fully processed the styles of which they became enamored in the New Jersey milieu "The Boss" himself describes in his liner notes reproduced in the accompanying booklet. The latter's drummer Max Weinberg sits in throughout all eight arrangements highlighting the Miami Horns and the guitar of Billy Rush (who would come to be the primary composer for the group's originals after this).

It's notable too that Lyon himself, who offers more than candid observations herein as well, plays no harmonica, even further distancing himself from the blues roots he describes, but in doing so maximizing his strength(s) as a vocalist when it counts the most. In doing so, Southside effectively creates a mirror image of the celebratory mood of the set captured at the same venue where Springsteen made such a splash, but essayist Morris wisely refuses to overstate the connection here, despite the fact it's as unmistakable now as it was perhaps overstated at the time these albums first came out (that is, right in the wake of Bruce Springsteen's leap to mainstream fame appearing simultaneously on the cover of Time and Newsweek).

Comprehensive as it is, The Remastered Epic Recordings, bespeaks that certain poetic justice by which John Lyon and his latter-day band(s) regularly maintain much of this material in their repertoire. In turn, The Fever becomes an all the more apt title for the way it captures the group's evolution in a time-elapsed microcosm.

Track Listing: CD 1: I Don't Want to Go Home; Got to Get You off My Mind; How Come You Treat Me So Bad; The Fever; Broke Down Piece of Man; Sweeter Than Honey; Fanny Mae; It Ain't the Meat (It's the Motion); I Choose to Sing the Blues; You Mean So Much to Me; Havin' a Party; This Time It's for Real; Without Love; Check Mr. Popeye; First Night; She Got Me Where She Wants Me; Some Things Just Don't Change; Little Girl So Fine; I Ain't Got the Fever No More; Love on the Wrong Side of Town; When You Dance. CD 2: Got to Get You off My Mind; Without Love; Searchin'; Sweeter Than Honey; Snatchin' It Back; Little by Little; It Ain't the Meat (It's the Motion); The Fever; Havin' a Party; You Mean So Much to Me; Got to Be a Better Way Home; This Time Baby's Gone for Good; I Played the Fool; Hearts of Stone; Take It Inside; Talk to Me; Next to You; Trapped Again; Light Don't Shine.

Personnel: Southside Johnny: lead vocals, harmonica; Billy Rush: lead guitar, rhythm guitar; Kevin Kavanaugh: keyboards; Alan Berger: bass; Kenny 'Popeye' Pentifallo: drums, tambourine, vocals (track fourteen, CD 1); Max Weinberg :drums (tracks eleven through nineteen, CD 2); Steven Van Zandt: vocals, rhythm guitar (lead guitar on track fourteen, CD 2); The Miami Horns -Bob Muckli: trumpet; Rick Gazda: trumpet: Stan Harrison: tenor saxophone; Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg: trombone; Eddie Manion: baritone saxophone; Deacon Earl Gardner -trumpet, witness; Louie 'The Lover' Parent: trombone; Bill Zacagni: baritone saxophone; Richie Rosenberg: trombone, vocals; Tony Palligros: trumpet, vocals; Carlo Novi: tenor saxophone, vocals; Ernest 'Boom' Carter -conga, tympani; Bobby Malach: tenor sax (track twenty, CD 1); Sugar's Strings -Joe Parent: conductor; Florence Rosenwig -violin; Marion Head -violin; David Madison: violin; Chock Parke: violin; Barbara Sonies: violin; Diane Barnets: violin; Nardo Poy: viola; Pete Rosato: viola; Davis Barnett: viola; Strings: Charles Parker: violin; Robert Zelnick: violin; Naomi Anner: violin; Cathy Tait: violin; Nardo Poy: viola; Ken Dreyfus: viola; The Drifters -background vocals (track eighteen, CD 1): Charlie Thomas; Doe Greene; Ellsbury Hobbs; Don Thomas; The Coasters -background vocals (track fourteen, CD 1): Carl Gardner; Earl Carroll; Jimmy Norman; Ronnie Bright; Clarence Clemons (credited as Selmon T. Sachs): bass vocals (track four, CD 1); Lee Dorsey: duet vocals (track three, CD 1); Ronnie Spector: duet vocals (track ten, CD 1)); The Satins -background vocals (track fifteen, CD 1) : Fred Parris ; Richard Freeman; James Curtis; Nate Marshall; Revelation -background vocals (track four, CD1): Arnold McCuller; Arthur Freeman; Phillip Ballou; Benny Diggs.

Title: The Fever: The Remastered Epic Recordings | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Real Gone Music

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