Review of the album “Graprefruit Moon” (2008) sung by Southside Johnny with LaBamba’s Big Band

I envisioned that Tom Waits would be right up Southside’s alley, and I was optimistic about the combination of Southside Johnny’s vocal talents and a jazz section. One can justify that jazz is not a terribly distant departure from Southside Johnny’s decades-long tenure performing with The Asbury Jukes.

The first track, Yesterday is Here, sounds somewhat promising, and conveys the message to the listener that this is not going to be a Jukes album. Some people may have trouble get used to his singing over woodwind instruments and to a less bluesy, more jazzy stying. The experiment sometimes succeeds, and sometimes fails. And when it fails, it sounds like they were trying too hard. Yesterday succeeds in not crossing that line. It sounds like everyone is comfortable with the material, and the result is quite listenable.

The title track, Grapefruit Moon, sounded strained in contrast, as though Southside and the Jazz ensemble backing him up were competing for attention. I would have appreciated it if the band would get out of the foreground, out of Southside’s way, and support his singing. Too many flourishes of horns, too much background which seem to jump into the foreground. And there were too many changes in texture and tempo. It made it too confusing, leaving the listener not knowing what to make of the song. There wasn’t a feeling that the musicians and the vocalist were agreeing on what mood the song should convey, a feeling that they were playing as a band.

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