Clarence Clemons & the Red Bank Rockers

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Narada Michael Walden produces most of this album by Mokshagun Clarence Clemons, known to the world as the "Big Man." His unmistakable saxophone that lifted many a Bruce Springsteen tune sounds like it was lifted right out of a Phil Spector session on Hero. "You're a Friend of Mine" by Jeffrey Cohen and Narada has Jackson Browne dueting on the lead vocal with Clemens and his then-girlfriend, Daryl Hannah, on backing vocals. The same songwriting duo comes up with "Temptation," a hooky, smart, mid-'80s thick-pop sound with Booker T. Jones again on keyboards. For "It's Alright With Me Girl" it's the very hip Jonzun Crew backing up Clemons: Michael Jonzun, Gordon Worthy, guitarist Tony "Rocks" Cowan, Maurice Starr on bass, and Princess Loria on vocals, with stunning dynamic switches from Narada Michael Walden to Michael Jonzun in a flash. Clemons and Jonzun put "It's Alright With Me Girl" together, and it's a shame there aren't four or five more of these collaborations. One oddity on the album is the closing to side one, the Arthur Baker-produced remake of the Walker Brothers' hit "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore," with Stu Kimball from Face to Face and Phil Spector singer Darlene Love. The title track, which kicks off side two, is a tremendous song about being a lover and a friend. "Crossin' the Line" works, as does "Kissin' on You," where Clemons' nickname, the Big Man, is one of the hooks. The leadoff track with Jackson Browne went Top 20 in 1985, four years before his first go-round with the E-Street Band was concluding. It's great to see a musician step from the shadows of a legend and make a mark on his own, and Clarence Clemons does that remarkably well here. This is a record where dropping names means something, because the names are allowed to do what is expected of them. It's a beautiful work that will appeal to those who never found the Boss all that exciting. Of course, it might appeal to Springsteen fans as well.

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