R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

A Soulful Pairing


New on Stax, Nudge It Up A Notch brings together legend Steve Cropper (who must have played guitar on hundreds of Memphis-made tracks) and Felix Cavaliere, the vocally distinctive lead singer and keyboardist with The (Young) Rascals, best known for '60s classics like "Groovin,'" "People Got To Be Free" and "How Can I Be Sure."

Pop music is indeed replete with inspired, if sometimes unusual, pairings. Examples abound: Tony Bennett and Christina Aguilera ("Steppin' Out") and Tanya Tucker and Little Richard (a cover of Eddie Cochran's "Somethin' Else") come to mind. The catalyst for Nudge is producer Jon Tiven, whose eclectic discography includes Robert Plant, bluesman Little Milton and soul legends Wilson Pickett and Sir Mack Rice. The solid album features great support players, like drummer Chester Thompson, who has worked with Frank Zappa and John Fogerty, and bassist Shake Anderson, a Curtis Mayfield protégé.

Opening cut "One Of Those Days" marries Cropper's renowned bluesy licks with Cavaliere's R&B-tinged vocal style, the result, a groover. "If It Wasn't For Loving You" is a personal favorite, with echoes of '60s sweet soul music. There are fine Cropper-led instrumentals such as "Full Moon Tonight," "Cuttin' It Close" and the ska-flavored "Jamaica Delight."

With David Z (of Prince fame) mixing, Nudge It Up A Notch is a satisfying example of a musical match that truly works. Now, Cropper and Tony Bennett might be a real interesting follow up.