Fire It Up
Provogue Records/Mascot Music
Steve Cropper is the Memphis born guitarist, songwriter and record producer who began as a member of the Stax Records house band, Booker T. & the M. G.’s. Besides backing artists Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Rufus Thomas and Johnnie Taylor; he played on the Mar-Key’s hit single “Last Night” in 1961; and on the M.G.’s mega-hit “Green Onions” in 1962. Until 1994 Cropper recorded thirteen albums with the M. G.’s; and seven with Otis Redding. He appears on countless more with the Jeff Beck Group, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Carla Thomas, Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd, Albert King, the Blues Brothers, and Tower of Power; just to name a few of those he played with. Eleven collaborations followed including 2017’s the Original Blues Brothers “The Last Shade of Blue Before Black”; so this can actually be called the first Steve Cropper album since 1969. Cropper was inducted into the Rock and Roll Fame of Fame as a member of Booker T. and the M.G.’s in 1992, and has been called the greatest living guitar player since 1996.
Co-producer Cropper states “This album is different from everything out there now, it’s made from old grooves, because during a lockdown, you work on stuff that’s been in your head for years”. Guitarist Cropper is backed by lead vocalist Roger C. Reale; multi-instrumentalist and co-producer Jon Tiven, saxophone, keyboards, harmonica and bass; and drummer Nioshi Jackson. Additional musicians include keyboardist Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals; and seven additional drummers including Anton Fig.
Cropper and Tiven, live near each other in Nashville, and together came up with the ideas for the songs, and reworked the tracks. All of the songs, including the instrumental, were written by Cropper and Tiven; nine with Reale, two of them including Cavaliere, and one including Paul Rodgers. Cropper states the title track “Fire It Up” features the high energy Reale and adds that he is a vocalist like Floyd, Redding and Thomas, as he sings like it’s the last song he’ll ever sing. The album opens and closes with the sole instrumental “Bush Hog”; thus, we have Parts 1 and 2.
A new solo album by Cropper is an event not to be missed; and as expected Cropper does not disappoint. It’s great to once again hear this master guitarist.
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