Steve Cropper

Band members                         Related acts

- Steve Cropper -- vocals, lead guitar, percussion


  supporting musicians (1981)

- Donald Dunn -- bass

- Dan Ferguson -- rhythm guitar

- Steve Foreman -- percussion

- Jack Hale -- trombone

- Willy Hall -- drums

- Jerry Hay -- trumpet

- Jim Horn -- alto sax, flute, baritone sax

- John Jarvis -- keyboards

- Bobby Kimball -- backing vocals

- Craig Krampf -- drums

- Andrew Love -- tenor sax

- James Mitchell -- baritone sax

- David Paich -- keyboards

- Bill Payne -- keyboards

- Bruce Robb -- backing vocals

- Joe Robb -- backing vocals

- Steve Robb -- backing vocals

- Rick Schlosser -- drums

- William D. Smith -- organ

- Neal Stubenhaus -- bass

- Trevor Veitch -- guitar


  supporting musicians (2021)

- Felix Cavaliere -- keyboards

- Nioshi Jackson -- drums, percussion

- Simon Kirke -- drums, percussion

- Roger C. Reale -- vocals

- Jon Tiven -- guitar, bass, sax




Booker T. & the MG's

- Cropper, Steve (Albert King and Pops Staples

- Levon Helm's RCO All Stars

- The Mar-Keys





Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  With a Little Help From My Friends

Company: Volt

Catalog: VOS 6006

Year: 1971

Country/State: Will Springs, Missouri

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3167

Price: $25.00


Increasingly unhappy with Gulf & Western's purchase of Stax Records, by 1971 namesake Booker T. Jones ended his longstanding relationship with the label.  In the process he effectively ended Booker T. & the MGs.  Guitarist Steve Cropper responded by releasing his debut solo album - 1971's self produced "With a Little Help from My Friends".  


Unfortunately, no matter how talented, at least on paper an instrumental set of ten-popular hits didn't appear to be the most promising way to launch a solo career.  Packaging it in a pseudo-psych cover also seemed like a questionable move for an act best known for his soul moves.  The good news was that Cropper's solo debut was surprisingly enjoyable and impressive.  Featuring an all instrumental mix of popular hits (many penned by Cropper) and a pair of new originals ('Crop-Dustin' and 'Rattlesnake'), musically the set wasn't all that different from most of the MGs' catalog.  In fact, you couldn't be blamed if you confused it for the former.  True, without Jones' B-3 keyboard to compete, Cropper's slinky Telecaster was a little more prominent this time around, but not to the point of turning the album into one of those showcases for megalomaniac behavior.  That said, Cropper's guitar was the only reason to buy the album.  For someone who readily recognized Cropper's tasteful soul stylings, the set had plenty to enjoy, including the two new originals ('Crop-Dustin' and 'Rattlesnake'), though his occasional forays into fuzz and feedback stood as personal highlights - check out his performances on '99 1/2' and the title track.  


"With a Little Help from My Friends" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Crop-Dustin (instrumental)     (Cropper - Miles) - 2:58

2.) Land of 1000 Dances (instrumental)   (Chris Kenner - Fats Domino) - 5:34

3.) 99-1/2 (instrumental)   (Steve Cropper - Eddie Floyd - Wilson Pickett) - 3:20

4.) Boo-Ga-Loo Down Broadway (instrumental)    (Jesse James) - 4;28

5.) Funky Broadway (instrumental)   (L. Christian) - 4:49


(side 2)
1.) With a Little Help From My Friends (instrumental)   (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 5:31

2.) Oh, Pretty Woman (instrumental)   (A.C. Williams) - 3:32

3.) I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water (instrumental)    (E. Miller) - 3:10

4.) The Way I Feel Tonight (instrumental)   (Steve Cropper) - 3:00

5.) In the Midnight Hour (instrumental)    (Steve Cropper - Wilson Pickett) - 3:36

6.) Rattlesnake (instrumental)   (Steve Cropper) - 4:57



Ironically shortly after the album was released Cropper left Stax, forming Trans-Maximus Records with ex-Mar-Key Ronnie Stoots and Jerry Williams.


By the way, Cropper has a suitably modest website at:





Genre: soul

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  Playin' My Thang

Company: MCA

Catalog: MCA 5171

Year: 1981

Country/State: Will Springs, Missouri

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: promo stamp on cover; original custom inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $20.00


1981's "Playin' My Thang" served as Steve Cropper's first solo album in twelve years.  To be honest, the album's most interesting facet came in the form of Cropper's unexpected decision to showcase his singing voice.  I'm guessing that like a lot of other folks, this was the first time I'd heard the man's singing voice.  To be honest, Cropper wasn't any great shakes as a singer.  He was certainly competent; his voice didn't have a lot of range, but within those boundaries he exhibiting an interesting gravely Southern twang.  I've struggled to come up with an apt comparison - perhaps a flatter version of The Band's Leon Helm ...  A less talented Delbert McClinton  ...  A Southern-tinged Christopher Cross ...   Interestingly, the focus on Cropper's voice came at the expense of spotlighting his guitar chops.  Sure, Cropper provided lead guitar on all nine tracks, but with the possible exception of 'What Do You Say You Love Me' his patented sound was largely absent.  Cropper also largely avoided the Stax sound that made him a household name.  In its place tracks like 'Give 'Em What They Want', 'Fly' and the ballad 'With You' he opted for a smoother, quasi-Yacht rock sound.  The results were listenable, but hardly inspiring.


Interestingly, MCA released two promotional 45s off the album, but that was about it in terms of pushing the album.


"Playin' My Thang" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Give 'Em What They Want   (Steve Cropper - Richard Wolf) - 4:20   *** stars

To be honest, I don't think I'd ever heard Cropper's singing voice prior to 'Give 'Em What They Want.'   It wasn't a bad instrument, showcasing a pleasant country-twang, but clearly not in the same league as his guitar chops.  The fact this was a smooth, easy-going, mid-tempo number that didn't pose any major challenges to Cropper's voice certainly didn't hurt.  Even Cropper's guitar solo was low-keyed on this one.  Pleasant and mildly catchy in an early-'80s fashion.

2.) Let the Good Times Roll   (Leonard Lee) - 3:57  rating: * star

While I can understand wanting to include a couple of rock classics, one of the problems doing so was you were setting yourself up for comparisons and in this case there was simply no way Cropper was going to fair well against any of the earlier classic takes - Louis Jordan, Shirley and Lee, B,B. King ...

3.) Playin' My Thang   (Steve Cropper) -  4:43   *** stars

Stax-meets-funk ...  David Paich on keyboards; Donald Dunn on bass and The Memphis Horns all helped the medicine go down.  Cropper's gravelly voice actually sounded pretty good on this one, though this time out his guitar solo was kind of perfunctory.  





- 1981's 'Playin' My Thang' b/w 'Playin' My Thang' (MCA catalog number MCA-51078)







4.) Fly   (Steve Cropper) - 3:10   rating: ** stars

Complete with glossy production and a mandatory sax solo, 'Fly' sounded like an '80s yacht-rock ballad - think along the lines of a Southern version of Christopher Cross.  Nothing wrong with that genre, but it was a waste of Cropper's talents.


(side 2)
1.) Sandy Beaches   (John Jarvis - Delbert McClinton) - 3:35
   *** stars

First off, Delbert McClinton's version is the classic take ...  That said, Cropper's cover stay very close to the original arrangement; his vocals actually sounded a bit like McClinton with a bad head cold.  Extra star for the good taste in outside material.  The album's second promotional single:





- 1981's 'Sandy Beaches' b/w 'Sandy Beaches' (MCA catalog number MCA-51115)






2.) With You   (Steve Cropper - John Jarvis) - 3:25   rating: ** stars

Competent, but largely anonymous ballad ...

3.) Feet   (Danny Kortchmar) - 2:58   rating: ** stars

Danny Kortchmar wrote it, but 'Feet' sounded like a bad Little Feat boogie tune.  Cropper's vocals sounded particularly flat on this one.

4.) What Do You Say You Love Me   (Steve Cropper) - 4:53   **** stars

Well, at least 'What Do You Say You Love Me' opened up with some of Cropper's patented guitar and then found a semi-funky groove that Cropper rode in relative safety.  Extra star for the guitar work.

5.) Ya Da Ya Da   (Steve Cropper - Duck Dunn) - 4:00   *** stars

Co-written with former M.G.s bassist Donald Duck Dunn, 'Ya Da Ya Da' was the album's funkiest number.  That's not saying it was particularly good ...  Okay, another extra star for the guitar solo.




Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Fire It Up

Company: Provogue

Catalog: 10020 50374 

Year: 2021

Country/State: Will Springs, Missouri

Grade (cover/record): NM/NM

Comments: sealed

Available: 2

Catalog ID: --

Price: $40.00


At the time I'm writing this Steve Cropper is in his early 80s, yet he remains very active in music.  A longtime member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cropper has produced  hundreds or albums and stretching back to the 1950s, has played on thousands of recording sessions.   Against that background, I think 2021's "Fire It Up" stands as his first studio album since 2011's "Dedicated (A Salute To The 5 Royales)."  Other than a pair of collaborations with Felix Cavaliere (where much of the material on this album came from), I think his last true solo effort stretches back to 1982's "Night After Night."  Quick warning - For a lot of folks this album might be problematic.  There's not a single rap tune.  There's not a single auto-tuner enhanced performance.  Cropper did not include any collaborations with current chart topping artist.  There were no samples.  He didn't hire any cutting edge production teams.  If those musical attributes were essential to your ears, then I suggest you avoid this one.  Yeah, from start to finish this was a prime example of OLD SCHOOL.  I say that with pride. 


Co-produced by Cropper and multi-instrumentalist Jon Tiven, "Fire It Up" featured a mixture of songs Cropper had been working on over the years and outtakes largely drawn from the "Nudge It Up a Notch" and "Midnight Flyer" sessions with ex-Rascals front man Felix Cavailiere.  Cavaliere was credited with co-writing 'One Good Turn' and 'Out of Love' and his keyboards were featured on the performances.  The set was recorded amidst COVID protocols and featured backing from a top notch band including Tiven, Nashville sessions drummer Nioshi Jackson, and vocalist Roger C. Reale.  In interviews Crooper repeatedly underscored the collection as a team effort, rather than a solo product.  Listening to these 13 tracks it's easy to see where he was coming from.  As you'd expect on a Cropper solo effort, the man continued to shun the spotlight.  Anyone expecting to hear a Cropper wank-a-thon was going to be disappointed.  Exemplified by performances like the title track, the funky 'I'm Not Havin' It' and 'Out of Love', Cropper's styled remained instantly recognizable, but unlike most rock guitarists, his styled was lean, mean and without excess.  Lead singer Reale was good, if an occasionally an acquired taste.  ( I'd love to hear a collaboration with the similarly minded Mark Knopfler.)  With a raw, ragged instrument, Roger Reale was a good choice for the soul and blues numbers like 'Far Away' and 'Two Wrongs.'  His performances were a little more mixed on some of the slower tunes like 'One Good Turn.' The performances were all stripped down and tight.  Nothing glitzy.  No extras.  Pure music that you could easily pack up and perform at your local dive bar.   A nice way to resume a solo career and when you look at some of the stuff attracting airplay, it was shameful the album didn't attract more attention, or sales.       


"Fire It Up" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Bush Hog Part 1 (instrumental)   (Jon Tiven - Steve Cropper) - 1:13  rating: *** stars

The vibe and sounds were instantly recognizable, through the song was little more than a snippet.  YoutTube has a live clip at: Steve Cropper - Bush Hog - 5/19/2021 - Paste Studio NVL - Nashville TN - YouTube

2.) Fire It Up   (Jon Tiven - Roger C. Reale - Steve Cropper) - 3:02  rating: *** stars

'Fire It Up' initially sounded like a pedestrian soul workout until Cropper's solo kicked in and lifted the song up a notch.  After a couple of spins, the initial disappointments faded, recognizing this one was nothing but fun.  Only comment is that the harmonica solos weren't the most imaginative efforts I've ever heard.

3.) One Good Turn   (Felix Cavaliere - Roger C. Reale - Steve Cropper) - 3:44  rating: **** stars

The album's sweetest ballad ... lovely refrain.  And as much as I liked Reale's gruff voice, this might be the one track where there was a mismatch between the melody and his voice.  Admittedly his performance has grown on me.  Cropper turned in another melodic and mesmerizing solo.

4.) I'm Not Havin' It   (Jon Tiven - Roger C. Reale - Steve Cropper) - 3:13  rating: **** stars

Perhaps the album's most overtly commercial performance, the ballad 'I'm Not Havin' It' was built on a fly-paper sticky chorus and a classic Cropper solo - clean, brief and resonating.  Shame not all breakups are as enjoyable as this one.  

5.) Out of Love  (Felix Cavaliere - Roger C. Reale - Steve Cropper) - 3:42  rating: **** stars

Talk about "old school" ...  Powered by Cropper's instantly recognizable guitar and some awesome horns, 'Out of Love' effortlessly re-captured prime Stax greatness.  With Tiven's bass pushed up in the mix, the live performance may be even better: Steve Cropper - Out Of Love - 5/19/2021 - Paste Studio NVL - Nashville TN - YouTube

6.) Far Away   (Jon Tiven - Roger C. Reale - Steve Cropper) - 3:26  rating: *** stars

Well, 'Far Away' was released as the debut album and even though it wasn't the album's strongest performance, I'll admit Reale had the real thing in terms of a soulful voice.  Does anyone else play with such economy and taste?  There's a promotional video at: Steve Cropper - Far Away (Lyric Video) - YouTube  Thre's also a live take at: Steve Cropper - Far Away - 5/19/2021 - Paste Studio NVL - Nashville TN - YouTube


(side 2)
1.) Say You Don't Know Me
   (Jon Tiven - Roger C. Reale - Steve Cropper) - 3:18  rating: *** stars

'Say You Don't Know Me' had a '50s vibe and a melody that I swear I've heard before ...  I've listened to the track a dozen times and still can't pen it down.  Ex-Free and Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke was featured on the track.

2.) She's So Fine   (Jon Tiven - Paul Rodgers - Steve Cropper) - 3:08  rating: **** stars

Another rollicking bar-band performance, 'She's So Fine' actually benefited from Reale's ragged, raspy vocals.  I'd pay to see him perform in a dive bar.

3.) Two Wrongs   (Jon Tiven - Roger C. Reale - Steve Cropper) - 3:11  rating: **** stars

Sounding like he had just rinsed his mouth with lye, Reale brought some real texture to the ballad 'Two Wrongs.'  The other highlight came in the form of Simon Kirke's rock steady drums.  And here's the live performance: Steve Cropper - Two Wrongs - 5/19/2021 - Paste Studio NVL - Nashville TN - YouTube

4.) Heartbreak Street   (Jon Tiven - Roger C. Reale - Steve Cropper) - 3:30  rating: ** stars

To my ears 'Heartbreak Street' was the album's first misstep.  The song's mash-up of R&B and soul moves sounded plodding and uninspired.  

5.) The Go-Getter Is Gone   (Jon Tiven - Roger C. Reale - Steve Cropper) - 3:10  rating: **** stars

'The Go-Getter Is Gone' was built on a funky rhythm that sounded like The Meters were playing in the background, I've always loved the title and the goofy lyrics.

6.) Bush Hog Part 2 (instrumental)   (Jon Tiven - Steve Cropper) - 1:18  rating: *** stars

Not sure why the instrumental was split into segments to bracket the album.  

7.) Bush Hog (instrumental)    (Jon Tiven - Steve Cropper) - 2:26  rating: ** stars

Yeah, I liked the song, but enough for a third go around.