Probably the best-known soul guitarist in the world, Steve Cropper came to prominence in the early '60s, first with the Mar-Keys ("Last Night"), then as a founding member of Booker T. & the MG's.
A major figure in the Southern soul movement of the '60s, Cropper made his mark not only as a player and arranger (most notably on classic sides by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Wilson Pickett) but as a songwriter as well, co-writing the classic "In the Midnight Hour." After the breakup of the MG's, Cropper spent most of the '70s producing Jeff Beck and Mitch Ryder, among others. In the '80s, he rode the classic Stax sound (which he helped shape) back to popularity with a new audience when actors John Belushi and Dan Aykroydtapped him for service in the Blues Brothers, a Saturday Night Live skit that stretched into several albums and a movie. Cropper remained in demand as a session man, producer, and collaborator into the new century, although very little appeared under his actual name as a recording artist. That changed in 2008 with the release of the affirming Nudge It Up a Notch, a project recorded with former Rascals frontman Felix Cavaliere and tracked at Jon Tiven's Hormone Studio in Nashville, on the revitalized Stax Records imprint. A second collaboration between Cropper and Cavaliere, Midnight Flyer, appeared in 2010. In 2011, Cropper released Dedicated: A Salute to the 5 Royales on 429 Records. The concept album was an all-star celebration and acknowledgment of the influence of seminal soul guitarist Lowman “Pete” Pauling and his mid-'50s to early-'60s group the “5” Royales on his playing. Co-produced with Tiven, some of Dedicated's guests included, B.B. King, Brian May,Steve Winwood, John Popper, Bettye LaVette, Lucinda Williams, Sharon Jones, Shemekia Copeland, Delbert McClinton, Willie Jones, Buddy Miller, and 21-year-old Louisiana singer/songwriter Dylan LeBlanc.
After years of being a team player, Steve Cropper got to make a solo album for the label he helped put on the map, Stax Records (actually their Volt subsidiary). As you might figure, it turned out as an instrumental soul album, and a darn good one, too. It's a bona fide Telecaster-soaked dance workout, with Cropper turning in signature versions of "Land of a Thousand Dances," "99 1/2," (which features a particularly nasty period fuzz guitar), "Funky Broadway," "Boo-Ga-Loo Down Broadway," "In the Midnight Hour," and original instrumentals like "Crop Dustin'" and the closer "Rattlesnake." A solid and soulful little side project that holds up quite well years later. AMG.
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