SJ & the Jukes' Forgotten Masterpiece
FRANCIS PETTIT | Los Angeles, CA USA | 10/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't believe this CD is so underrated, O.O.P. and nobody but me bothered to even review it. First, for those of you who don't know: Southside Johnny & the Jukes are one of the best R&B bands ever. They're totally old school, with great musicianship all around and soulful singing from Southside Johnny. Their early CD's featured the Miami Horns, a large horn section of the sort that today's so-called R&B synthesized crap wouldn't even attempt. The horn section gives their music strength and power that's been totally missing from R&B since the mid-80's. SJ & the Jukes' first 3 CD's--"I Don't Want to Go Home", "This Time It's for Real" and "Hearts of Stone"-- are undeniable masterpieces of R&B; almost every song on those CD's is a gem, and many are really required listening if you have ANY I mean ANY fondness for old school R&B. Many of the songs on those 3 CD's were written by Bruce Springsteen and/or his guitarist Little Steven Van Zandt.
And I think that's the problem with "Love is a Sacrifice", the reason why it's so underrated: the first 3 albums are so great, that this GREAT album suffers unfairly because, supposedly, it's not as good. Well, that's unfair; this album is indeed different but it's still great. The first 3 albums were on the Epic label, and the production and horn arrangement then were handled masterfully by Little Steven. This album is their first on the Polygram label, and the songwriting and production were taken over by Southside Johnny and the Jukes' Billy Rush. Admittedly, Springsteen and Little Steven's songwriting skills are hard for anyone to match, but Billy Rush and Southside have written and arranged some really impressive songs here, so I don't miss Bruce and Little Steven at all.
As Billy Rush is a guitarist, not surprisingly, the songs on this album are much more hard-rockin' than on the first 3 (which were more old school) and this album has more prominent guitar riffs. Nevertheless, the songs here still have that Southside soulfulness; and the horn section still figures prominently, giving the songs that blast of power you want and expect from the Jukes. The horns blasting away really make you feel the power and grandeur of love. Serious. Horns + guitar + Southside singing = bliss for me.
Most of the songs here -- e.g. "Why", "Goodbye Love", "Murder", "Restless Heart"-- are filled with romantic pain, disappointment and confusion, yet are really rocking and up-tempo numbers. It's not easy to write a song that is up-tempo and full of pain at the same time; you try it! Consider the first tune out of the box, the rockin' "Why", starts with these lyrics: "Whoa, whoa, whoa, Why, Baby? Whoa, whoa, whoa, what did I do?" OK, simple lyrics, but anyone's who's ever been abruptly dumped can identify with it.
I bought this CD just to get "Why" on digital media, but while listening to it I was reminded how really great the other songs on the album are. "Restless Heart" is another brilliant, up-tempo howl of romantic pain, with a CLASSIC guitar riff, that you have to hear. The title song, "Why is Love Such a Sacrifice", has Southside Johnny giving perhaps his most forceful vocal performance ever, against a huge wall-of-sound production, which reminds me a little of Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High"; except that "Why is Love Such a Sacrifice" has much better audio quality and sounds much less muddy than the Turners' masterpiece.
This album is comparable in quality to the Jukes' first 3 albums for two reasons:
1. The sound quality. The Jukes' first 3 albums weren't that high up on the audio quality; much of those albums sound muddy, and "This Time It's for Real" sounds like it was recorded in a garage; it sounds like the oldie it is, even on digital. This album, on the other hand, has crystal clear audio quality that comes through great on digital. It does not sound like an oldie or dated at all.
2. Guitar parts. This album has more guitar riffs than the first 3 albums. I like it for that reason.
A last factor for you to consider is that, unless I'm mistaken, none of these songs show up on the Jukes' "Best Of" compilations, so you have to get them here.
Yes, this CD is out of print and you will have difficulty finding it.