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Still holding that groove

Nudge it Up a Notch
Nudge it Up a Notch
By Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere

Stax / Concord: 2008

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This review first appeared in the August 7, 2008 issue of the North County Times.

Next time you hear some middle-aged baby boomer music fan sigh and then toss out the time-worn complaint (echoing their parents) that "They don't make music like they used to," pop this disc into the stereo.

In Steve Cropper, the longtime house guitarist for Stax during the glory years of the 1960s and early '70s, the man who played behind Otis Redding, who helped write and play all those great Booker T. and the MG's hits, who then found new fame as a member of The Blues Brothers, you have as good a guitarist as ever picked up a six-string, a man famous for never playing a wrong note.

And in Felix Cavaliere, lead singer for the Rascals, who co-wrote songs like "Good Lovin' " and "", you have a man who's never sang a wrong note.

The pairing of them has produced a magical album of near perfection. For starters, the two men write really well together (along with producer Jon Tiven, who co-wrote all 12 songs with them). Most of the songs find a common ground between Cropper and Cavaliere – marrying the hard-edged R&B of the MG's to the soaring, melodic soul of the Rascals.

Cavaliere's singing is, if anything, better today than 40 years ago. His voice has deepened some with the years, giving it a nice patina. And Cropper is playing better than ever – with that same muscular bite to his leads, but even more imaginative soloing and arrangements.

The best songs here equal the best work of either man. "Impossible" sounds like a lost Rascals hit, with Cavaliere's soaring soul vocals bracketed by a solid backing chorus. "If It Wasn't for Loving You" has the sound of an MGs set with a singer band backing vocalists added to the mix.

There are even a couple instrumentals, which let Cavaliere remind us that he's always been a solid keyboardist as well as great singer. The only drawback here is the mysterious decision by Concord Records not to issue this title on vinyl as well as CD. Because it's that kind of glorious, timeless music that a few pops and crackles would only enhance.