Better Days

From the first horn bleat on Better Days, it’s clear that Southside Johnny is rehashing his late-’70s glory days, pumping out more of that muscular, R&B-laced rock & roll. Listen with an open mind, enjoying the record’s buoyant charm without fooling yourself into believing it’s as terrific as, say, Johnny’s 1978 Hearts of Stone. This album is something of a sentimental reunion: Longtime collaborator Steve Van Zandt produced and arranged, and another old friend, Bruce Springsteen, supplies guitar or vocals or both on several tracks. Johnny sounds wiser now, so it’s easy to believe lines like ”I don’t want to lose you/Just when I found myself” (on ”Coming Back”) when they’re rendered by a voice as gritty as coffee grounds. The arrangements (punchy horns spar with taut, wiry guitar lines) are gutsy too, even if they sound naggingly familiar. One track, though, stands taller than the rest: On the Springsteen ballad ”All the Way Home,” Johnny gallantly offers to see a woman home from a bar at closing time, not minding that he’s only her second choice. It’s as if he’s holding out an invitation to his lost audience. ”My confidence is a little rusty,” he tells us, and it sounds like a confession that comes from the heart. B

Better Days
  • Music