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A.J. Croce
Fit to Serve,  Ruf Records CD 161 358, 1998

 Soulful pop debut

The piano-pounding, gravel-voiced blues-rocker A.J. Croce doesn’t sound much like his old man, the late Jim Croce. And while his father often waxed philosophical about saving time in a bottle, A.J. sounds like he has a much more potently inebriating beverage sizzling in his cup.

Croce serves notice with this, his third release, that he intends to leave nothing bottled-up on what can best be described as a rollicking roadhouse musical review. Whereas the elder Croce appealed to fans of Elton John, A.J.’s sounds will certainly be welcomed by a different breed of music lover altogether, such as followers of the New Orleans great, Dr. John.

The album’s second song, "I Don’t Mind," gets this party started with a rump-shaking, horn-honking groove that spotlights Croce’s limber and rolling piano fingers. This is followed by "Lover’s Serenade," a lover’s lament worthy of something straight out of the old Otis Redding school of soul ballads.

Even though each of these 13 songs on "Fit to Serve" sound like compositions that could have easily been written inside the doors of the Stax recording studio, back in the ’60s soul heyday, all but one in the bunch were written by Croce himself. This proves that when it comes to the great old stuff, Croce can both write ’em, and play ‘em.

You can call this retro if you like, but honestly, what isn’t retro these days? No matter what you call it, though, you have to admit that it’s one consistently entertaining and soulful release; one that just may make you feel like it’s Mardi Gras every day of the year.– Dan MacIntosh

Copyright © 1998 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.