Album Review: Little Steven – “Soulfire”
Little Steven Van Zandt is probably best known for two things – firstly, being a key member (and co-songwriter) of Bruce Springsteen’s band, and secondly for his excellent “Underground Garage” podcast, one part great tunes and one part musical history lesson (actually, add a third, he also played Silvio in “The Sopranos”). Having, I’ll admit, not heard any of his output away from the Boss, I was intrigued to hear what his first solo album in almost two decades would sound like.
Answer – it’s okay, ta for asking. Essentially sounding like a cross between (inevitably) Springsteen and later era stones (think Voodoo Lounge or Bridges To Babylon), this is a simple old-school rock album that could honestly have been recorded any time since Little Steven’s last effort. Packed with Stax style horns, chiming Hammond organs, gospel backing singers and a huge full-on production, it’s polished and slick but with enough good tunes to keep your interest ticking. The likes of the title track, I Saw The Light and Ride The Night Away are all good efforts, although it does descend into anonymity a bit on the sprawling likes of Blues Is My Business and Down And Out In New York City.
Sure, there’s the odd curveball in there such as the spaghetti western atmospherics of Standing In The Line Of Fire (which is actually one of the strongest songs on here) and the cheesy doo-wop rhythms of Wrong Side Of Town (which, erm, very much isn’t), but mostly this is comfortable AOR rock ‘n’ roll which is mainly just concerned with going to the show and having a good time.
And there’s the rub a little bit to be honest with you, while it’s an enjoyable enough hour or so of your time, Soulfire isn’t really an album that you’ll be cueing up for a second listen once it’s done. It’s all perfectly nice and pleasant but there’s nothing in there that really leaps out, grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. If Soulfire just had one or two tracks like that, it’d really elevate it up from being a good album to a great one.
This certainly isn't a bad effort and trust me, I've heard a lot worse. The trouble is that while it's the sort of album that you'd be more than happy to give a mortgage character reference to if it asked you, it just lacks a bit of an edge to really move it up into "must listen" territory. Soulfire is a good laid back summer rock album, but there are better releases out there to spend your hard-earned on. Sorry.