Little Steven and Bruce Springsteen: “It’s Been a Long Time”

When Little Steven kicked off his tour in New Jersey to promote his new album Soulfire, it may not have been a big surprise that Bruce Springsteen joined him on stage.  But it was still pretty awesome for the two to perform “It’s Been a Long Time” together.  They look like they’re having a lot of fun with Steve as the front man too.

The song originally appeared on the 1991 album by Southside Johnny & the Ashbury Jukes, Better Days.  The wonderful album is worth tracking down. The album includes songs by Steven Van Zandt, a.k.a. Little Steven (and Miami Steve), as well as vocal contributions by both him and Springsteen.

The original “It’s Been a Long Time” recording featured Springsteen, Van Zandt, and Southside Johnny. It was the perfect song for the three, reflecting on their youth at the Jersey shore: “We lived in a time and a world of our own,/ Making up the rules as we went along.”  Van Zandt, who wrote the song, features it on his new album Soulfire.

Some of the lines in the chorus about lost comrades seem even more poignant now that Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici of the E Street Band have passed away. But the song remains a celebration of both the past and the future.

It’s been a long time since we laughed together;
It’s been a long time since we cried;
Raise your glass for the comrades we’ve lost;
My friend it’s been a long, long time.

The performance of Springsteen and Little Steven with the Disciples of Soul is from May 27, 2017 at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey.

Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Little Steven is Releasing “Soulfire”

    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.

    New E Street Band Sax Player: Eddie Manion?

    Yesterday, in The Record, Southside Johnny talked about his friendship with Bruce Springsteen, adding, “He’s stealing my saxophone players to replace Clarence, so we steal from each other’s bands occasionally.” Southside did not mention a saxophone player by name — and he did use the plural “players” unless that was a misprint. But one may assume that the theft at least includes Eddie “Kingfish” Manion. Manion played with Springsteen as part of The Sessions Band when Springsteen was touring to promote The Seeger Sessions. In addition to being an original member of Southside’s Asbury Jukes, Manion also played with The Miami Horns and Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. He also was part of the backing horns when Springsteen played the Super Bowl halftime in 2009, and he played baritone sax with the E Street Band in the Carousel House video shoot for songs from The Promise in December 2010. So, considering the long relationship, the rumor seems like it could be true. [Feb. 9, 2012 Update: As noted below, it has been confirmed now that Manion will be playing saxophone on the upcoming tour — with another saxophonist.]

    If you are wondering what will happen to “Jungleland” on tour, here is Manion playing a tribute to Clarence Clemons after the Big Man passed away.

    And here is Manion with Springsteen and The Sessions Band playing “Pay Me My Money Down” (video set to start at a Manion solo):

    Assuming Manion is part of the tour, it is unclear whether Manion will be a full-fledged permanent member of the E Street Band or whether he is just filling in for the upcoming tour or whether he will be one part of a larger horn section. Of course, Southside’s comment is not official and Springsteen has not made any announcements yet. Nobody can replace Clarence and those are some mighty big shoes to fill, but the music must go on. Welcome, Kingfish.

    Update: Blogness on the Edge of Town speculates on the addition of a horn section while noting that we may not know the makeup of the touring band until the first rehearsal show.

    Update 2 (Feb. 9, 2012): Bruce Springsteen’s website has now confirmed that Eddie Manion will be playing saxophone on the new tour along with another saxophonist, Jake Clemons — the nephew of Clarence. The tour will also feature singers Cindy Mizelle and Curtis King, trombonist Clark Gayton, and trumpeters Curt Ramm and Barry Danielian.

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