Guitar legend Steve Cropper has followed the recent trend of revisiting old chestnuts with the aid of other musical stars, but his effort is also a tip of the cap to one of his first and biggest musical influences, Lowman “Pete” Pauling of The 5 Royales. For all his contributions to music over the past half century, Cropper is not a household name, nor is the band he honors here. But let’s hope that for those without a proper frame of reference, his decision to include artists like Steve Winwood, B.B. King and Brian May will bring listeners like moths to a flame.
Of course, Cropper needs no help; his tone and feel are seminal and he shines throughout. Never overtly flashy, he’s not all over the songs but inside them like a heartbeat. Soulful, pensive, exciting – he breathes these songs to new life with inspired licks and a palpable sense of joy. And with Jon Tiven at the helm, the entire project shines.
The band is amazing, featuring David Hood and Spooner Oldham, and I was particularly thrilled with the inclusion of Dan Penn. Winwood fits like hand in glove, and I was pleasantly surprised by John Popper’s performance (I can count my favorite Popper songs on no fingers). But if there are star performances on Dedicated – A Salute To The 5 Royales, they belong to the dynamic Sharon Jones, the emotive Lucinda Williams and the electrifying Bettye LaVette.
This album is both fresh and a time trip; it will play with every emotion you own. Get your wallet out now.
Listen to clips at Amazon.
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Slingsby Aviation built some of the world’s greatest gliders, and although used by the British during WWII, they were mostly tactical observation planes; drone bombers at best. The Hornet, on the other hand, was a piston-engine fighter plane used by the RAF, built by the de Havilland company. What this has to do with glam rock and powerpop takes on classic 60’s music is beyond me, but I can tell you that John Paul Allen’s angry insect logo is the antithesis of the pure joy coming out of the speakers when The Slingsby Hornets are playing.
Whatever Happened To is the follow-up to 2007’s Introducing The Fantastic Sounds of; like its predecessor it’s a one-man studio effort from Allen. Boasting a dense layer of guitars, stacked vocals and a simple but uncluttered rhythm section, Allen blends five original pop songs inbetween covers of classic garage and glam singles like “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” and “Rock’n’Roll Love Letter”. His solo vocals are more breathy than powerful, but the layered harmonies are skillful, even within production that’s smaller in scale that some of the bands you’ll be reminded of (Jellyfish, XTC and especially Queen – Brian May is obviously an influence). But there’s no denying the pure love of the music, but anyone that can cover The Osmonds and ABBA with the same respect as The Move and T. Rex is okay in my book. I really like the originals, especially “The Long Way Home” and “Black & White Movie”, but the covers are obviously the draw. My favorites are Klaatu‘s “Calling Occupants” and Marc Bolan‘s “Children of the Revolution” in which Allen also incorporates the related “Buick Mackane”.
My copy of the new album included the Knee Deep In Glitter EP which features five covers, including Cliff Richard‘s “Devil Woman” and “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me” by Slade. The guitars are much louder and overall the music rocks harder, even the chugging version of “Does Your Mother Know”. As with all Slingsby Hornets covers, they’re anything but straightforward copies of the original.
Introducing also has five originals, the best of which is the synth/guitar duel of “The Man From Yesterday” and the more delicate “Stop The Rain”. I’m no fan of Captain and Tenille so I’m not crazy about a cover of “Love Will Keep Us Together”, but at least it adds some muscle to the melody. I much prefer his take on “Fire Brigade” and a cover of “My Sharona” that sounds like Brian May (yes, again) jamming with Todd Rundgren. Again, Allen wisely alternates his originals with the diverse covers, as if to show that any radio station (or pair of ears) that would appreciate one would also find the other appealing. Use the CD Baby links above or check their MySpace page for more details and sound clips.
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