Little Steven is Releasing “Soulfire”

Little Steven

Steven Van Zandt rose to fame as “Miami Steve” during his work with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.  But on a hiatus from that band, the guitarist and singer released several outstanding albums as a lead singer in the 1980s under the name “Little Steven.”  Now, after 18 years, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul are returning with a new album, Soulfire.

Soulfire features a collection of songs written for various purposes throughout the years.  The album features some of Little Steven’s versions of songs he helped write for Southside Johnny, such as “I Don’t Want to Go Home” and “Love on the Wrong Side of Town,” the latter of which Van Zandt wrote with Springsteen.

The music sounds like the rock and soul of his earlier albums. Van Zandt explained to Rolling Stone:  “I tried to pick material that when you added it all up, really represented me. So there are a couple of covers, a couple of new songs, and some of what I feel are the best songs I’ve written and co-written over the years. This record is me doing me.”

I have always been a big fan of Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. I first listened to his work because of his association with Springsteen.  But one listen to his first album made me a Little Steven fan.

Little Steven’s 1982 album Men Without Women was a great debut. Yet, 1984’s Voice of America is one of my all-time favorite albums. Voice of America included fantastic songs like “Out of the Darkness,” which appeared as a video on MTV, and “I am a Patriot,” later covered by Jackson Browne and by Pearl Jam.

I also liked Little Steven’s Freedom – No Compromise (1987), which  continued building upon Van Zandt’s political voice with songs like “Trail of Broken Treaties” and “Bitter Fruit.”  His 1989 album Revolution flew below my radar.  Perhaps folks paid less attention because it digressed from the sound of his earlier albums, embracing even more of the electronic sound of the era.  Similarly, when Little Steven finally returned in 1999 with a new album,  Born Again Savage, the garage-rock sound disappointed me a bit.

Soulfire, however, finds Little Steven returning to the soul sounds of his early great albums. So, I cannot wait for the release.

The first single from Soulfire is “St. Valentine’s Day.” Van Zandt originally wrote the song for Nancy Sinatra but she never got to record it so he helped The Cocktail Slippers record it originally. Check out the version on Little Steven’s new album.

Soulfire will hit the Internet stores on May 19, 2017.

What is your favorite Little Steven song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

Sgt Pepper Documentary

Sgt Pepper

A new documentary celebrates the classic 1967 Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The film, It Was 50 Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt Pepper & Beyond, focuses on the 12 months around the recording of the album.

The movie, directed by Alan G. Parker, features archival video and interviews with people like John Lennon’s sister Julia and former Beatles drummer Pete Best. Check out the trailer for the movie.

It Was 50 Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt Pepper & Beyond will be in U.K. theaters on May 26, 2017 followed by release on DVD later in the summer.

Also, as part of the celebration of the anniversary of the album, a new box set special edition is being released of the album featuring 34 bonus tracks of outtakes.

For more about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, check out the video of “Things You Didn’t Know” about the album below.

Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Happy Birthday Butch Cassidy

    Butch Cassidy

    Butch Cassidy was born on April 13, 1866 in Beaver, Utah as Robert Leroy Parker. His nickname “Butch” may have later come from working in a butcher shop.

    Cassidy was first arrested at around the age of 14 when he left an IOU after taking a pair of jeans and a pie from a store for a pair of jeans. After a jury acquitted him, he pursued various jobs throughout his youth, including work on ranches.

    Cassidy’s first bank robbery occurred on June 24, 1889 in Colorado. While he continued to do some ranch work, his illegal activities increased.

    He formed his “Wild Bunch” gang of criminals after getting out of prison in 1896. After that, it was not long before he added Harry Alonzo Longabaugh — “The Sundance Kid” — into the gang.

    Of course, it would be the association between Butch and Sundance that would inspire the classic 1969 movie directed by George Roy Hill and starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

    The fate of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid remains somewhat of a mystery. Two bandits were killed in San Vicente, Bolivia as shown in the film. But many debate whether those two men were actually Butch and Sundance. Some speculate they returned to the U.S. where they lived out their days.

    Happy birthday Butch, wherever you are. And as a bonus, here are Six Things You May Not Know About Butch Cassidy.

    Photo via public domain. What is your favorite scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    October 1992: They Were So Much Older Then

    Dylan 30th

    Our video for the day is the performance of Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages” at The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration.  The concert — held at on October 16, 1992 at Madison Square Garden — celebrated Dylan’s 30 years of recording.  And this performance featured Dylan, Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and George Harrison.

    It is an amazing collection of legends onstage doing on of Dylan’s great early songs.  “My Back Pages” originally appeared on his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan.

    What is amazing about this performance is how at the time of the concert, the singers were already legends and they seemed old at the time.  But looking at it now, they all seem so young.  Or maybe part of that is because I am so much older now.

    Check out the video, which begins with Roger McGuinn singing the song, which he had previous recorded with The Byrds and released in 1967.  Then, the others follow until Dylan takes the lead himself.  In the meantime, one may watch Dylan’s face to make any guesses about what he is thinking as the others sing his song.

    There are various interpretations of “My Back Pages,” although most read it as Dylan’s rejection of his younger idealism.  But like many of his songs, listeners may find their own meaning and a little of their own life in the song.  And, more than two decades ago, we found a little more connection to the song through many of the rock legends of our youth.

    What is your favorite version of “My Back Pages”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    P. Jay Sidney: The Heroic Actor Who Fought to Integrate Early TV

    Sidney Route 66

    P. Jay Sidney, who was born as Sidney Parhm Jr. on April 8, 1916 in Virginia, was a groundbreaking actor who fought to help integrate television starting in the 1950s. He often was relegated to small walk-on parts such as doormen and waiters.  But the African-American actor also played some substantial parts as he struggled to both make a living and to fight against the racism of the times.

    Sidney’s Acting Career

    Sidney started out with a career on stage and on radio.  But then he began making a living in TV starting in 1951.  He garnered some substantial roles such as that of Private Palmer on The Phil Silvers Show.

    Sidney continued to take what roles he could get.  He appeared in more than one-hundred and seventy shows. He also did voice-over work and took roles in advertisements, such as Waxin Jackson in Ajax commercials.

    Sidney’s Battle Against Discrimination

    Sidney’s activism was fueled by the discrimination he saw in the limited roles given to African-American actors. He marched. And he advocated for a boycott against Lever Brothers for only using black talent for commercials aimed at African-Americans. He testified before the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962. He picketed. And he spoke out when he saw discrimination and encouraged others to do the same.

    A December 7, 2015 article in The New Yorker, “American Untouchable,” by Emily Nussbaum discusses some of the toll that the discrimination took on Sidney.  His story is also recounted in Donald Bogle’s book, Primetime Blues. As in the case of baseball player Jackie Robinson, one may see that standing up to racism is not easy.

    But as in the case of Robinson, we need to remember P. Jay Sidney.  He was a dignified man who did a job while also standing up for something greater.

    Below, Sidney plays a small role as a doctor in a 1961 episode of Route 66, “Goodnight Sweet Blues.” In this opening clip of the episode, you may see Sidney at around the 3:16 mark, as a family doctor getting some assistance from a white cardiologist.

    Sidney never got to see equal representation of African-American actors on TV or in Hollywood.  But he helped us take an early step toward that destination. Moses never made it to the Promised Land, and Sidney’s final role in a movie was playing a bellman in A Kiss Before Dying (1991).

    Yet, other actors, like Ossie Davis recognized that they were able to get jobs because of Sidney’s activism. Sidney passed away on September 30, 1996, and while an increase in television channels has created more opportunities for non-white actors, Sidney’s legacy can be seen in critiques like the recent Oscar So White campaign in Hollywood.

    Sidney’s battle, which is a battle for all of us, continues.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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