Come together

 

Men Without Women

On July 2, 2011, something really quite wonderful happened. A group of musicians – all renowned exponents of the vaunted Jersey Shore sound – came together at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ to perform a particular album in its entirety. The album was Men Without Women by Little Steven (Van Zandt),  his solo debut from 1982.

 

 

Men Without Women was to be the first toe in the water for Van Zandt’s solo career. He recorded it over two sessions (working on Born in the USA in between) and released it under the name Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul.

Steve would eventually leave the E Street band in 1984, unhappy with his role in Springsteen’s shadow and exhausted by the punishing marathon recording sessions that accompanied each album release by the band.

Van Zandt believed strongly that an album should be recorded in a few weeks or at most a few months but E Street recordings were dragging out to a year or more with ten songs written and recorded for every one that made the final cut. And the truth was, many of the rejected songs were, in Van Zandt’s opinion, superior to those that made the final sequence.

In the end, Steve decided that the best course was for him to go it alone as Little Steven but this first ‘solo’ album features contributions from several E Street band members including (uncredited) The Boss himself.

The final result was an eclectic, energetic, and infectious record. Standout tracks included; Inside Of Me, Angel Eyes, When the Good is Gone (the two latter featuring backing vocals from Springsteen), and Under the Gun.

 

Some of the musicians who featured on the album were members of the Asbury Dukes (Southside Johnny included) and  The Miami Horns and they all obviously enjoyed their involvement because 30 years later they got together and played it again.

You have to understand that for an aficionado of the Jersey Shore sound, there can be virtually no greater confluence of utter cool than imagining Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes getting together with members of the Disciples of Soul at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park to play a classic album by Little Steven (also in attendance).

Fortunately, one doesn’t need to imagine it because it was all recorded for posterity. The subsequent recording has been put out by the Dukes as Men Without Women (which from a recording archivist’s perspective is a little confusing). And what a recording it is! If anything, the songs shine even brighter in this performance.

The tracks that really grabbed me were; Men Without Women, Until the Good is Gone, Lyin’ in a bed of Fire, Inside of Me, and Angel Eyes.

 

 

Johnny (Southside) Lyon was in terrific voice and the band firing on all cylinders. The sweat must have really been flying because they’re all giving 110% and the sounds coming off the stage are electric.

Southside Johnny is one of the most underrated performers out there. He has the voice of a true Soul Man and his stage presence alone should have catapulted him into the stratosphere. Alas, his rise to prominence was mirrored by a general decline in interest in the soul sounds of the 60’s. This was a crime considering the dross that now passes for music in the commercial arena.

However, for those in the know, The Dukes are a rare gem who have built their loyal following and continued to party live with their friends in both the US and Europe. And their careers have lasted just as long as those of their fellow Jersey brothers in arms the E Street Band. I would recommend the reader give their recent(ish) release Soultime a spin for confirmation that this band is still a hot property.

This recording of the gig at the Pony, to me, epitomises the very heart and soul of the Jersey Shore sound. The only way it could have increased its cool factor a few degrees would have been if The Boss could have been coaxed onto the stage. However, considering the fact that Clarence ‘Big Man’ Clemons had died just a few weeks earlier, that really wasn’t a likely outcome.

Had Springsteen been present, however, it probably would have looked and sounded a little something like this…

©2017

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16 thoughts on “Come together

    1. I just love that Jersey Shore sound from the 70’s and 80’s. It’s like a fusion of Philly soul and New York jazz with a Jersey rocker overlay.
      The first three Springsteen albums were firmly in that wheelhouse I think but Bruce could never match Johnny Lyon as a singer.

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  1. Obvious how I came to Johnny and the boys. He always was and is his own man. It was through him that I discovered some other cool music. One of the best shows I seen was ‘Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes’ way back. His version of ‘Fever’ is a CB fave. (along with a bunch more of his tunes). The guy was born in a bar and destined to play one nighters. What a band!!

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      1. Just listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds ‘The Ship Song’. Your hitting on all cylinders with CB. Southside is a favorite. No shortage of music to sink your teeth into. A big chunk. I await your take on some more music from an original Jersey Shore guy. Enjoy. I’ll get to relive that experience through you.

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  2. Jersey, what are you doing to me? I grew up (got big) with these guys. Devoured all their music. Still spin it. Steve was the least traditional for CB but it still had that connection with his influences and I dug it big time. Have all those records. Was listening to ‘Freedom – No Compromise’ a little while back, catching a vibe for something I was working on. (Sorry for the double up on the comment, I thought it was 2 separate takes.CB). ‘It’s been a long Time’ is a great tune for a lot of reasons. Love it!! Great post

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      1. Listening to JJ is never a bad thing. When you bring these guys up you are talking about some of CB’s all time favorites. I’m talking top of the list musicians. They have all stood the test of time for me. I was just listening to JJ and Clapton “Road to Escondido’. Continued good listening Jersey.

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      2. Sounds like your getting to the core group (In CB’s opinion). Cale has been staple for years. No argument here. I’ll leave you with this. Southside’s ‘Reach Up and Touch the Sky’ Live album was basically the show I saw.

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  3. Great post! While I can’t say I enjoy all his solo work so much, I’ve always loved “Inside of Me” – there’s something so unreservedly joyous in SVZ’s music and it’s abound with references to shared influences that I think, perhaps, Springsteen was a little too guarded in his growing seriousness to play up to so much.
    There’s a ‘lost’ album of Van Zandt’s, too – Nobody Loves and Leaves Alive – that’s a lot more of the loose, garage-rock stuff he’s got a real knack for, but the only airing any of it has received has been on The Sopranos (Give Me Some Affection made the show’s second soundtrack and is worth checking out if you haven’t already). Baffled as to why it’s not been released

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