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Havin' a Party With Southside Johnny

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Album Review

The title of this record is appropriate in more ways than one — it is, in fact, one of the great party albums, and well it should be, comprised of some of the best work by one of the finest R&B/bar bands of the 1970s. And although it's been supplanted by other collections since, it's still a great place for the unconverted to discover Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes. In 1979, the group left Epic Records after releasing three killer albums that got great reviews but precious little chart action. As was usually the case in those days when group and label parted company, the label released a compilation album, in order to get a last shot at recouping its investment. The resulting collection, a distillation of the band's three albums, single sides, and some live stuff, is just as potent in the 21st century as it was in the 1970s — Steve Van Zandt's production shines, and the sound is amazingly good. And the collection reaches out past the obvious cuts, such as the Springsteen-authored (or co-authored) classics, to "Broke Down Piece of Man" and "Without Love" — the latter is just a great vocal performance and offers some of the finest horn and piano work from this end of the group's history. And then there's the title track, seven minutes representing some of the band's most renowned live repertoire, as the finale — there was no better way to end the record. There are bigger Southside Johnny compilations out there featuring this same repertoire and more, but song for song and note for note this collection is as potent as any of them, and a great listening experience 30-plus years on. It was also, ironically — thanks to the band's unrecouped royalties — one of the first budget-priced CDs ever issued by a major label, back in the late '80s, and that makes it one of the great musical bargains of the digital era. But like any truly great record, whether it's on vinyl, CD, cassette, or whatever works for you, it's worth owning any way you can get it.

Havin' a Party With Southside Johnny, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes
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