Songs are usually most closely identified with the singer or group that made them famous. A tune like “Dedicated To the One I Love” will be linked to the Shireilles -- or the Mamas and the Papas if you’re into acoustic rock. James Brown is the person who comes to mind when someone mentions the cut “Think (About the Good Times).”
Legendary Stax guitarist Steve Cropper knows that the Shirelles, the Mamas & the Papas and the Hardest Working Man got more commercial mileage out of those numbers than The 5 Royales – the group that originally recorded those records. However, Cropper will always consider those tracks to The 5 Royales songs. In the years before Cropper found fame playing with Booker T. & and the MG’s and Otis Redding, he was enamored with The 5 Royales. Cropper was a big fan of the group’s guitarist and primary songwriter Lowman Pauling. Pauling, like many musicians in the early days of R&B and rock music, had a distinct playing style. The strap on his guitar was long, and the six string hung down by Pauling’s knees. Cropper said that Pauling was a major influence, and his new record Dedicated: A Salute to the 5 Royales allows Cropper to resurrect The 5 Royales for long time fans while also introducing the uninitiated to the group’s music.
Cropper and co-producer Jon Tiven recruited a who’s who of soul, blues, rock and country musicians and vocalists to sing the 15 tracks included on Dedicated. Steve Winwood’s muscular tenor energizes the rollicking R&B number “Thirty Second Lover.” Delbert McClinton glides through the rockabilly cut “Right Around the Corner.” Retro soul fans know that Sharon Jones can tear up a church infused up-tempo number or a mid-tempo torch number, and she does not disappoint on the high energy “Messin’ Up” and on her disturbingly funny duet with Dylan LeBlanc , “Come On & Save Me.” The showcase track on Dedicated takes listeners to the church of love. That ballad, “Someone Made You For Me,” uses imagery and language derived from the church so that the vocalist – in this case Dan Penn – can express his undying love. If this track finds new life as a wedding first dance song, that would be true justice because the words to this song are beautiful.
Although Dedicated sports a wide number of voices – Brian May, B.B. King, Shamekia Copeland and Bettye LaVette are among the vocalist who singing on this record – this record has two constants: One is Pauling’s writing. These songs may have been penned nearly 60 years ago in some cases, but they do not sound dated. Cropper’s guitar work is the other constant. The guitarist gets a chance to display his chops on “Help Me Somebody” and “Think,” but Cropper shows that he can deftly move from blues, to rock to soul and country.
The one thing I wish that I could do as a music fan is to reintroduce the music of some of my favorite bands to a new generation. My ability to do that is limited. Cropper’s legend and his skills, as well as those of his collaborators provide a much larger platform to put some much deserved shine on The 5 Royales. Highly Recommended
By Howard Dukes