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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: A.J. Croce “Just Like Medicine”

Singer-songwriter Adrian James Croce (from here on out to be referred to as A.J. Croce) has spent the last few years picking up where his father had left off. While only a toddler when Jim died, A.J. Croce grew to know his father through the music that Jim left behind. He has even spend time on stage creating concerts of Jim’s music under the concept name of Croce Plays Croce. And that music from A.J’s father plus the music of his father’s contemporaries have helped to shape A.J’s songwriting. Through the last few decades, A.J. Croce has released a total of ten albums of music, some of which contain a few tracks from Jim Croce. The latest album from A.J. Croce is entitled Just Like Medicine.  

The Just Like Medicine album from A.J. Croce begins with one of A.J’s original songs called “Gotta Get Outta My Head”. While Croce has followed in his father’s musical footsteps, he also has gone in his own direction as far as his writing style is concerned. Nowhere is that more apparent than on this first track of the album. The track feels more like a song that Dr. John would have composed. The track’s musical approach combines elements of Rock and Roll with some Funk to create a track with a rather strong groove to it.

For the title track of the release, A.J. Croce creates a track in “Cures Just Like Medicine” that brings to mind a style that seems to have been largely influenced by the like of Harry Connick Jr. “Cures Just Like Medicine” features a Jazzy, Connick-like musical approach. The somewhat raspy voice of A.J. Croce and the musical approach once again brings to mind the sound and feel of Dr. John but with more of a jazzy feel.

Staying in a jazzy state of mind, the next track entitled “Move On” features A.J. Croce continues with the Connick influence but with a stronger stressing of jazz to the music. On this track, what ends up coming across is an “American Songbook” era track that would have come from Rod Stewart. The easy feel to the music and the lyrical delivery that is unmistakably Stewart creates a track that transcends age as the track feels both timeless and retro at the same time.

While the Just Like Medicine album from A.J. Croce features A.J’s songs, the album is not completely about the singer-songwriter. The album features one song co-written by AJ and another musician, and one track that was actually written by Jim Croce himself.  

Just Like Medicine from A.J. Croce features the song “The Heart That Makes Me Whole,” a track that was written with the help of Steve Cropper of Booker T & the MG’s fame. With Cropper playing the guitar on the track, A.J. Croce creates a song with a strong groove that features a little Soul influence in the music. Because of Cropper’s musical background and with the various people he has played with over the years, the track “The Heart That Makes Me Whole” created by Cropper and Croce seems to draw inspiration from the artists of the past, giving the song a strong musical feel that would have felt right at home with the tracks that appeared on the albums produced by The Blues Brothers.

While “The Heart That Makes Me Whole,” is a track co-written by A.J. Croce, one track on Croce’s latest release of Just Like Medicine isn’t his. That track is the song “Name of the Game”. This song was written by Jim Croce but was never released. The reason for that was because Jim passed away before the release it was to be included on could be completed. Right from the beginning few notes of the track, it is absolutely clear that “Name of the Game” is Jim Croce’s song. The main reason why the track sounds like a Jim Croce tune is because of the way A.J. sings the song- he chose to sing the song in Jim’s “voice,” as A.J’s delivery on the track is a very strong impersonation. The guitar-driven track ends up being something that would have been right at home next to a song such as “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”. In fact, the two tracks feel as if they could have been together on the same album.

Just Like Medicine, the latest album from A.J. Croce is brought to a close with the track called “The Roads”. With this track, Croce creates a track that seems to draw inspiration from the likes of singer-songwriter Chris Isaak as the song has a feel with a slight throwback feel to the music, much the same way Isaak’s songs do. “The Roads” is a track with an equal blend of guitar-based and keyboard-based music. The two main instruments both shine on their own and support the other instrument at the same time. This creates a track with a strong Rock and Roll approach. And with that Rock and Roll approach, the track brings the release to a close on a strong musical note.

The music on the latest release from A.J. Croce called Just Like Medicine features the spirit of Croce’s father as well as the many talents of Steve Cropper and the many other talented musicians who help to create an album of music with a straight-out Rock and Roll soul to it. The combination of the original compositions from A.J. Croce and the few tunes he chose to include on his latest album are all rather well-rounded, musically-speaking; especially given the fact that the tracks borrow from several different musical directions at once. While A.J. Croce may not gain the same notoriety that his father had when he was alive, that doesn’t mean that the he is any less talented. And Croce’s latest original album of Just Like Medicine is strong proof of that.

As the release of Just Like Medicine from A.J. Croce came out in 2017, Croce is currently creating new music. He recently released a new single. That new single is entitled “I Got a Name” which, of course, was one of Jim Croce’s more popular recordings when he was alive. As mentioned earlier, A.J. Croce has been touring under the concept of Croce Plays Croce for a while now. And with this tour concept, A.J. plays the music of his father Jim in concert the way Jim would be doing if he was still alive today. And that is exactly what you get with this new recording of “I Got a Name”. The arrangement of the track sounds like a note-for-note recreation of Jim Croce’s single, keeping the feel of the original intact. While not making any new strides in originality, A.J. keeps Jim’s memory fresh in people’s minds with this version of the old tune from his father.   

For a taste of the music from A.J. Croce, check out the album’s “title track” of “Cures Just Like Medicine”:

Also check out A.J. Croce’s latest recording of his father Jim’s song “I Got a Song”: 

To check out the entire Just Like Medicine release from A.J. Croce, click on the album cover below: 

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Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Safe Haven “Sermon for No One”

Safe HavenChicago-based Safe Haven started when lead guitarist Patrick Lyons got together with drummer Tony Tabor. And while the two musicians created yet another drum and guitar duo to add to the number of musical duos that have formed since the success of The Black Keys, Safe Haven is so much more as they draw upon the talents of other musicians to help flesh out their sound. When other two-member bands have a hollow sound to their music because of the lack of other musicians, Safe Haven is a musical outfit that has plenty of body to their music.

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Reviews and Suggestions

Small Town Talk, Big Deal Album

Bobby Charles – Timeless
Rice and Gravy Records

One of the true enigmas of rock and roll music has his posthumous album released on his own label, a label with an uncertain future I am guessing, so you may have to spend a little time hunting this release down. Please do, though (and quickly as I am not sure how long it will be in print) as it is one of the mostg poignant musical statements I have heard in quite a while. There no secret Charles was hurting while making this final disc, and perhaps he knew it would be his last musical statement, one can never tell. What one can tell, however, is that no matter how much he was hurting, how much the pretty much constant health problems over the past decade or so were wearing him down, Charles kept his humor and his sense of humanty intact. It’s in his songs, the little homespun homilies and the musical parables he recorded pretty much through his career and scattered on his much-too-infrequent albums. And what a career!

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Artists and Bands Record Labels

Alive and Rocking: Part 2

This is the second part of this round-up review/label profile so let me repeat:

Let me tell you, I get a decent bit of music in the mail thanks to this gig right here and although every day brings a package with a little bit of melodic lovin’ inside, there are days where the bounty is just so fucking cool it makes me glad I decided to become a music writer. The day I received this fat package of music from the Alive label was one of those great days. Alive is one of the few labels left which is dedicated to keeping rock and roll…ahem…alive in many ways, but most importantly in spirit. The label is a throwback to the days when substance meant more than anything else and sticking by your bands while they grew and matured was more important than milking them for one monster hit. I mean, while I am sure Alive would love to sell a ton of records and have a huge fat hit on their hands, they seem incredibly loyal to their bands and are nurturing their roster as each band builds their own reps and fanbases which will eventually help the label as a whole. As it is, the label has one of the best young rosters out there and will soon be able to compete with any other label out there is the discs contained in this package is any clue. Since they sent me so many wonderful releases, I am splitting this article into two parts so I don’t hit you with too much good stuff at one time. This is, of course, the second part!