Where I grew up (South Carolina), we call the kind of music on Playlist: The Very Best of Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes “beach music.” It has strong, soulful vocals, lots of horns, and a beat you can dance to. Here, in the press release, they call it the original “Sound of the Jersey Shore.” Same thing.
The 14 songs in this collection come from the group’s prime years, 1976-1980. Six of the songs were either written or co-written by Bruce Springsteen and 11 tracks were produced by longtime friend and E Street bandmate Steven Van Zandt. Those 11 cuts from the Epic Records era have been remastered from the original source material, with the result that the sound quality is stellar, and three tracks are included from the Universal Records days.
Every track here sounds like authentic, soulful rhythm and blues, due in no small part to The Miami Horns. “The Fever,” the first song, was, according to the liner notes by Southside Johnny himself, given to the band by Springsteen personally. It’s a typical Springsteen powerhouse number and suits The Asbury Jukes as well as it would The Boss himself.
Of the other songs written or co-written by Springsteen, “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” “Trapped Again,” and “Talk to Me” all feature that great gritty feel and sound as though they could come straight out of the Stax or Motown catalog, while “Hearts of Stone” is a more typical Springsteen introspective ballad. Also, the stellar live performance of “Love on the Wrong Side of Town” from The Roxy in Los Angeles in 1977 is just stunning.
“Why Is Love Such a Sacrifice?” is another standout number on the CD, with heartfelt lyrics and a powerful vocal delivery, as is “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” which, as the other original number on the CD, features Van Zandt as co-writer alongside Springsteen. It’s Motown sound shines, and that sweet horn section adds the perfect touch..
Other tunes on the CD are taken from rhythm and blues greats like Solomon Burke (“I Got to Get You Out of My Mind,” in a great live version from 1976), Aretha Franklin (“Without Love”), Sam and Dave (“Broke Down Piece of Man”), and Sam Cooke (the appropriately rowdy live “Having a Party” from 1976 that closes out the CD).
All of these songs will have you picturing either gritty little rock clubs with exuberant crowds or sand between your toes. Either way, it’s perfect summer party music.
If you’ve forgotten or never knew how good Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes were (and presumably still are, since the press release included tour dates in April and May in Maryland, New Jersey and New York), this CD will remind you. Get Playlist… and prepare to have a good time!