Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes had earned enthusiastic reviews and a loyal fan following on the strength of their first two albums, I Don't Want to Go Home and This Time It's for Real, but in the minds of many listeners they were still the little brother band of their friend and occasional benefactor Bruce Springsteen, and their third LP, 1978's Hearts of Stone, was an ambitious attempt by Southside and company to define themselves and step out of Springsteen's shadow. Gone were the cover tunes, the guest vocalists, and the goofy liner notes, and in their place Hearts of Stone delivered a set of tight and furiously passionate R&B influenced rock & roll tunes played by a mighty 11-piece band featuring one of the strongest horn sections in rock. While Springsteen wrote two songs for this album -- "Talk to Me" and the heart-tugging title cut -- this album really belongs to Southside Johnny Lyon, who rarely if ever sang with the force, emotional impact, and shades of detail he brought to these sessions, and Steve Van Zandt, who wrote the bulk of the songs, produced and arranged the album, and lends a superb guitar solo to "Hearts of Stone." In some respects, Hearts of Stone sounds like a dry run for what Van Zandt would later achieve with his band Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul on their debut album, Men Without Women, but as good a frontman as Van Zandt may be, Lyon's vocal skills are noticeably stronger, and he never had a better showcase for his talents than he did with this edition of the Asbury Jukes (especially with Max Weinberg guesting on drums and the whole band playing at the top of their form). Hearts of Stone would mark the last collaboration between Southside Johnny and Steve Van Zandt before 1991's reunion Better Days, and they inarguably parted ways on a high note.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming