If joy had an official sound it would be the music of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
I’ve been a fan ever since around the time that this album we are about to announce and discuss was initially recorded. My first experience of attending the party that is an SSJ show was sometime in the late 70s – it was at Blossom Music Center, a double bill with Gary US Bonds if I am remembering correctly. Rumor had it that The Boss might show up – having heavy ties to both acts. He didn’t, but it did not matter. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes blew the roof off that place that night (no, the fact that it’s an open-air venue didn’t matter) and earned a lifelong fan in the process.
The power, the energy, the literal wall of sound that I experienced that night affected me and I have never felt it before or since – until I listened to the band’s latest release, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes – LIVE IN CLEVELAND -’77.
Clevelanders have always held Southside and his Jukes close to their heart. Back in the day, WMMS championed the band – as is evident on this recording as legendary disc jockey Kid Leo helps navigate the evening’s activities. An interesting fact – as I am typing this announcement/review, I am doing so exactly 45 years to the day that the tracks involved were recorded. The show took place at the Cleveland Agora on May 2nd, 1977.
This is not the first live SSJ album – but it is certainly one of if not THE BEST captures of the power and passion that the band brings to the live stage. From the opening riffs of THIS TIME IT’S FOR REAL to the final note of YOU DON’T KNOW LIKE I KNOW this recording is sheer excellence. The recording is crisp, clean, and not overproduced. It is simply the best live band in the country doing what they do and doing it at the top of their game.
Along the way through the album, there are some truly spine-tingling moments. WITHOUT LOVE is simply chill-inducing – when the horns kick in mid-song, if the hairs on your arm don’t stand up you had better check for a pulse because it doesn’t get much better than that. Pure magic.
Also of note is Ronnie Spector joining the band on stage putting her spin on the Billy Joel song SAY GOODBYE TO HOLLYWOOD – a true legend who we lost earlier this year, it is great to hear her amazing vocals once again, and backed by the Miami Horns, we are treated once again to a truly special performance.
It’s so great that the folks at Cleveland International Records have decided to bring this memorable show to the fans. Speaking of that – here is all the info on the release, which will be available wherever you buy, download, or stream your passion.
“Since the mid-1970’s Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes have always had a second home with their huge base of fans and audiences in Cleveland, Ohio. Celebrating that magical time, when Cleveland was the rock Mecca of the entire country, Cleveland International Records is now releasing “Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes Live in Cleveland ‘77”, set for CD release in early June 2022 and a limited-edition vinyl release later this year.
This thirteen-track live performance CD was recorded live at the famed Agora Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio in one of their Monday night concert series events, co sponsored by WMMS FM Radio, who had already been giving the band frequent airplay long before they even had an album. This new release will be Cleveland International’s second release in the label’s CLE Rocks Series: Live from the Rock & Roll Capital of the World.
The legendary Monday night shows at The Agora, most of which were broadcast live on WMMS, considered to be the most progressive FM radio station in the country at that time, hosted every top act in music during those heyday years including Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, KISS, Todd Rundgren, Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople, AC/DC, Boston, Patti Smith, The Runaways, Bob Marley and the Wailers, The Hello People, Buddy Miles, Average White Band, Boz Scaggs, The Tubes, Cheap Trick, Mick Ronson, Sparks, and so many others.
This 1977 particular performance at the Cleveland Agora was the group’s second outing at the legendary venue in less than a year. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes Live in Cleveland ‘77, the recorded evidence of that night, is presented here for the first time by Cleveland International Records. Songs like “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” Springsteen’s “The Fever,” “Havin’ a Party” and “Without Love” were already well-loved favorites with the local audience, thanks to the major support by DJ Kid Leo and WMMS Radio. Even in the new CD’s liner notes, Steven Van Zandt refers to WMMS as “one of the most important radio stations in history” and Kid Leo as “one of the most important DJs in history”!
Tracks on Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes Live in Cleveland ’77 spotlight those songs and many more including “This Time It’s For Real”, “Got to Get You Off Of My Mind”, “It Ain’t the Meat, It’s the Motion”, “When you Dance” and, of course, “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” featuring the iconic Ronnie Spector.
As a special bonus for The Agora audience, it was pure magic when Ronnie Spector joined Southside Johnny on stage that night to perform Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” and making the soon-to-be-legendary version of the song her own. Spector had joined the group in the studio when recording the track and came to Cleveland to share the stage with The Jukes. This musical collaboration led to a lifelong mutual admiration and friendship between Spector and Southside Johnny, as he comments “Ah, yes…1977. Back when we were young and beautiful. Well, at least Ronnie Spector was beautiful. We had a great show in Cleveland as usual, and Ronnie was spectacular. We may have been a little raw, but man, were we enthusiastic. It was a fun evening and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I loved working with her and it was a thrill getting to sing with one of your vocal influences. And yes she was an influence. Her vibrato was something I stole to use in certain songs. Of course, once she walked on stage I was dead meat!” – He went on to say…. “The Jukes and I loved what Steve Popovich and Cleveland International were doing back then as a label and I love that they’re now getting this live show out there for all to hear as part of the CLE Rocks Series”.
Steve Popovich, Jr. whose father founded Cleveland International Records back in the 1970’s commented that “Southside Johnny & the Jukes are part of the musical fabric of Cleveland’s legendary rock scene. The whole purpose behind this live series was to unearth some of the best live shows from Cleveland’s past as a testament to why Cleveland was and is the Rock capital of the world”.
“This show is pretty personal for me. It was recorded right around the time my father launched Cleveland International Records after leaving CBS/Epic Records and having just signed Ronnie Spector and releasing her first single Say Goodbye to Hollywood on the label”. From Kid Leo’s introduction, to Stevie Van Zandt as band leader to Ronnie Spector, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes Live in Cleveland ’77 really is an incredible recording that captures why Cleveland Rocks.”
As the “Jukes” part of their name would suggest, Southside Johnny and his group were spiritually a band from another time. They had a big sound (and a full horn section, courtesy of The Miami Horns) that conjured a vision of a large band, jammed together on the bandstand. Mixing carefully chosen blues and soul covers with their own originals (and some choice songwriting contributions from Bruce Springsteen), they had a live show that was even more potent than what had been laid to tape in the studio.
Now, with the release of “Live in Cleveland ‘77”, you can be in the audience to hear a bit of the early magic that has continued for decades. Southside Johnny and the Jukes still thrill audiences with their live performances worldwide to this day, bringing their brand of raucous, roots-tinged rock and bluesy reverie to audiences around the globe, having done thousands of live performances worldwide, while enjoying a legion of famously-dedicated and enthusiastic fans, and a vibrant legacy of classic songs that have become “hits” to their international fan base.
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes Live in Cleveland ’77 was recorded at the Agora Ballroom & Theater in Cleveland, Ohio May 2nd, 1977 and is Executive Produced by Steve Popovich Jr. The album is dedicated to Steve Popovich Sr., Hank Loconte, and Kevin Kavanuagh. The musicians include Southside Johnny on guitar, harmonica, and lead vocals, Stevie Van Zandt on lead guitar, Billy Rush on rhythm guitar, Allan Berger on bass, Kevin Kavanaugh on keyboards, Mr. Popeye – Kenny Pentifallo on drums, and the horn section features Ed Manion, Eddie Marion, Bob Muckin, Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg, Rick Gazda and Stan Harrison.”
I urge you to CLICK HERE and get in on this special, amazing, recording.