Dedicated – Steve Cropper’s newest project on his on 429 Records is a humdinger and is a tribute to writer and guitar player Lowman Pauling’s band The 5 Royales.
Steve Cropper was a staff songwriter and in-house guitarist at STAX records, playing on hits such as Otis Redding’s ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay’, Wilson Picket’s ‘In the Midnight Hour’ and during Sam and Dave’s ‘Soul Man’ the famous line “Play it, Steve” is a call out to Mr. Cropper. As a member of Booker T & the MGs Cropper was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 for his contribution is shaping the soul and rock sound of the 1960’s. (Really this does not even scratch the surface of Cropper’s accomplishments, so if you aren’t familiar with his work be sure to look into this amazing artist.)
The 5 Royales are one of Steve Croppers greatest influences and after a lifetime of in the music industry Cropper pays homage to his roots; with the help of some big names such as Lucinda Williams, Steve Winwood, Brian May, and Delbert McClinton has put together an album truly magnificent in nature.
First, the recordings are top-notch, well mastered and balanced perfectly the entire album sounds phenomenal at both an average listening level and cranked loud enough to rattle the windows. The album also comes with a booklet, designed to give some background on the 5 Royals, their impact on Cropper the first time he saw the group, as well as some background information on how the album came together. This review is based on the vinyl version of the album, but have no fear you can still hear the album in your car as it comes with a full cd-version as well. The album is also available for download or on cd.
“Dedicated To the One I Love” will likely be the most recognizable song for many, and with the opening chords its obvious that something special is going to happen. Lucinda Williams and Dan Penn take on this number. Dylan Leblanc, Keb Mo, and Leroy Parnell add backing vocals to this well-done classic and Jo Tiven covers the Hammond organ. A slow, sexy song Lucinda takes it to a new level with her throaty delivery and sultry sound it’s hard to imagine anyone else singing this tune.
BB King joins in on “Baby Don’t Do It” and Shemekia Copeland is the perfect partner for this song, the back-and-forth of the pairing makes the song fun, and allows both to shine as the duo sings about the agony of a break-up and emotional shrapnel that comes with it.
Steve Cropper shows us what he’s really made of on the instrumental “Help Me Somebody”, words are not needed and the timeless song and playing would be just as comfortable in the 1950s as they are today.
Bettye LeVette makes an appearance on two songs, as does Lucinda Williams. Sharon Jones version of “Messing’ Up” is fast moving, dripping with soul it harkens back to the hey-day of STAX and a number that will sit will with lovers of soul.
Overall the album is a fun listen, and a window into the influences of one of the greatest guitarists and producers of all times. The sounds that influenced Steve Cropper come through on this tribute and the talent of many guests on this album helped create a timeless tribute to The 5 Royales.
Tribute albums can be “iffy” at times, with the quality and selection of material ranging from great to simply un-listenable, however Cropper and Jon Tiven have put together an album of remarkable sound, delivered by artists perfectly suited and appropriately enthusiastic. The artwork and the vinyl are well worth the purchase for those of you waffling on the vinyl crossover. Take a listen and then run out and get your own copy.
By – Meredith Underhill