Little Steven & The Disciples Of Soul – Summer Of Sorcery Live: Album Review

Little Steven and his magnificent troupe test the stamina with a passion-fuelled outpouring of Rock and Soul, live from the famous Beacon Theatre.

Release date: 9th July 2021

Label: UMC

Format: 5LP box set / 3CD / 5.1 Bluray

In what could pass for an extract from the New Testament, we begin with some words from our glorious leader:

“And so, the troubadour missionaries and part-time exorcists known as the Disciples Of Soul sprinkled enlightenment to a dark world from May 27, 2017 to November 6, 2019. First, as the Soulfire was lit in the overture and finally as the Summer Of Sorcery played out its magical denouement. Herein embodies the still sparkling evidence of the latter, that which began as stranger’s prayers imagined and ended as a family’s promise fulfilled.”

Hallelujah and Amen to that!

We saw the tour. Nay, make that witnessed and reveled in the magnificence. And it was indeed a most righteous occasion. Packed with a spectacle of joyful rock and soul and brimming with the sort of passionate zeal rarely experienced in any walk of life these days. An inspirational and life-affirming experience. While his mate Bruce does an intimate acoustic show on Broadway (surely Springsteen should cover Summer Of SorceryLittle Steven has taken up the baton of taking the message to the people.

Thankfully, we have a record of the events of the Summer Of Sorcery that brought the live extravaganza rolling into New York City’s historic Beacon Theatre on November 6, 2019. The album, mixed by Bob Clearmountain and mastered by Bob Ludwig, both career-long collaborators, includes thrilling performances of every song from Summer Of Sorcery alongside tracks from throughout Van Zandt’s solo career. Al the way back to the debut Disciples album, there’s the stax-fuelled Forever and then into the bolder rock on Voice Of America and Freedom No Compromise. It’s a real career-defining set.

It’s all delivered by a band who provide a musical tour de force via a fizzing organ, lashings of brass and a sequinned swagger. And don’t forget that snarling sneer that Johnny Rotten would give his right arm for. The opening of Communion with the band parading the stage carnival-style amidst the glitter and sparkling musical kaleidoscope leads into a Party Mambo and the knowledge you’re deep into a soul revue par excellence.

Yes, there’s a concession to some of the politics and social comment that comes as part of the Little Steven package. However, and more potently, namechecks and acknowledgment of the likes of Phil Spector and some of those “groovy groups” that empowered women as Steve takes us back to the days when the musical world was changing and guides us expertly through a history of rock and roll.

And there’s more as if the irresistible onslaught of an evening with Steven and the Disciples isn’t enough. We’re treated to seven previously bonus performances recorded throughout 2017-2019, including with such superstar special guests as Australian music legends Jimmy Barnes and Peter Garrett, longtime friend and E Street Band bandmate Nils Lofgren, and the legendary Nick Gravenites, who joins for a spectacular rendition of the Electric Flag’s Groovin’ Is Easy. In addition, Peter Wolf returns for an explosive cover of The Showstoppers’ hit, (Ain’t Nothin’ But A) Houseparty, recorded during the Soulfire Tour but, according to Van Zandt, “too good to leave on the shelf.

The Summer Of Sorcery has provided a bookmark in a career that over the last few years has suddenly taken off again. Albums and tours occurring with a heartwarming frequency after years when you wondered if he’d settled for an alternative coda. What comes through strong and clear is that Little Stevie Van Zandt, colourful and extravagant, is the keeper of the flame. It’s a genuine pleasure that he’s remained among the believers, revived the Disciples and returned to what he genuinely loves.

You’d best do as you’re told when Little Stevie Van Zandt implores you to “Enjoy it at as much as we did, at whatever volume is required to force your neighbors to call the cops.” 

Watch Camouflage Of Righteousness here:

Little Steven online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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