Album Review ? Steve Cropper & Felix Cavaliere: Nudge It Up A Notch

Doesn’t it seem like this collaboration of old soul-music hounds — one the voice of blue-eyed, ’60s pop and the other a premier architect of organic, Southern-fried R&B   — should have happened years ago? Long overdue, Nudge It Up A Notch is everything you’d expect from such an inspired pairing, and more.

Evidence of why Felix Cavaliere, the driving force behind The Rascals, and Steve Cropper, Otis Redding’s go-to producer/songwriter/guitarist, are so revered is found everywhere on this hotly anticipated release.

Glints of Cropper’s golden guitar licks shimmer and flash throughout the blues-driven, chunky funk instrumentals “Full Moon Tonight” and “Cuttin’ It Close,” and on the simmering opener, “One Of The Days,” he emits enough heat and smoke to roast a pig. Meanwhile, Felix Cavaliere, pushed here by Cropper’s artistry and the unsung heroes of this record, the rhythm section of bassist Shake Anderson and drummer Chester Thompson, delivers some of the most expressive, nuanced vocals of his illustrious career on the bittersweet laments “Without You” and “If It Wasn’t For You,” where Cavaliere also fills the air with smoldering organ sounds.

Were it not for the occasional lapse in judgement — namely the staggered reggae pacing of “Jamaica Delight” and cringe-inducing rap of “Make The Time Go Faster” — Nudge It Up A Notch might just be a leading candidate for album of the year.

As it is, the gorgeous tonality, wonderful songcraft and impressive production quality are reasons why some may still nominate it as such. The infectious grooves of “To Make It Right” and soulful longing of “Impossible,” too, make compelling arguments. A Nudge… for Cropper and Cavaliere is way more satisfying than a wink.

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