'Fire It Up'
Founding Blues Brothers member and guitar legend Steve Cropper returns with what he is calling his "first proper solo album since 1969". 'Fire It Up' will be released on April 23rd via Provogue/Mascot Label Group. "This album is different from everything out there now," Cropper says, in reference to two vocals albums he released in the 80s - "I haven’t heard myself this way since the 60s."
Cropper reintroduced classic soul to unsuspecting audiences, with Rolling Stone ranking him in the top 40 all-time greatest guitarists. 'Midnight Hour' by Wilson Pickett, '(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay' by Otis Redding, 'Soul Man' and 'Hold On I’m Coming' by Sam and Dave — you simply can’t discuss soul music without Steve Cropper. He played on John Lennon’s 'Rock N Roll' album, Frank Black’s 'Honeycomb' and Fast Man Raider Man albums, and on several albums by Ringo Starr. He’s also produced for John Prine, Jeff Beck, and John Cougar Mellencamp.
But seven decades into his legendary career, Steve sees this record as different: "It’s made from old grooves, because during a lockdown, you work on stuff that’s been in your head for years." Rooted in sessions with the Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere and produced with long-time collaborator Jon Tiven, Cropper is both guitarist and a producer on the album, a role he is most comfortable in after years on the scene. "To be a good producer, you’ve got to be able to hear a song finished in your head before there’s much of anything done," he explains. "..a good production is not accidental. I’m really proud of things that I produce."
We start with 'Bush Hog Part 1', which is just a 60's inspired groove intro leading us into this latest release.
'Fire It Up' has a great beat that really gets that head bobbing. Mix this with the gravelly tones of Steve's vocals and you have a funky and fun mix. This is followed by 'One Good Turn', which has a much more relaxed and mellow intro which runs throughout this wonderful and heartfelt number.
'I'm Not Having It' brings back the funk with a full on and funky groove both musically and vocally, before 'Out Of Love' with a more up tempo and rockin' vibe hits our ears. Again a wonderful feel throughout with some exquisite guitar mixed with Steve's husky and soulful vocals.
'Far Away' just brings a super soul infused beat that will have those feet tapping in no time at all. Another great vibe and timeless quality throughout.
'Say You Don't Know Me' has a 60's/70's vibe with another timeless sound before 'She's So Fine', which is another soulful number with a fabulous rockin' beat. Gives me a real Wilson Pickett vibe.
'Two Wrongs' is a bluesy and well constructed track with a flow that will carry you along with the song, while 'Heartbreak Street' is a funkier number that bounds along at a very comfortable pace and has an addictive beat.
'The Go-Getter Is Gone' is another with a great soul sound, and mixed with Steve's vocals create a lethal combination that works beautifully.
'The Bush Hog Part 2' follows on where track one finishes, continuing the groove only this time as the outro to round off this excellent release.
'The Bush Hog' is just tracks one and twelve with no break for those that want the entire musical experience of the instrumental beauty.
Steve Cropper is definitely worthy of the title of musical legend, his CV contains a who's who from the musical world and justifiably he is classed as one of the greats by his peers. This latest release is just wonderful and contains aspects of all that is good in his music for decades past and present. The album has a fabulous vibe throughout and if you love the older soul classics then this will definitely bring back some good memories.
TFM gives 'Fire It Up' by Steve Cropper 9.5/10, a truly wonderful release by a true gent of the musical world.