This is an all-star CD, and most all-star CDs are disappointing. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to hear this one. With B.B. King, Sharon Jones, Delbert McClinton, Bettye LaVette on board, among others, there’s not much disappointing here.
Dedicated is a salute to the fabulous Five Royales. Before James Brown, Sam Cooke, Solomon Burke, Smokey Robinson and Otis Redding, the Five Royales were the incubators of soul. In the words of Dr. John, “You ain’t never lived unless you saw the Five Royales.” This CD features the long-time Stax guitarist paying a debt as the Five Royales’ guitarist, the sensational showman Lowman Pauling, was his major influence.
Dedicated gets off to a powerful start with Steve Winwood taking the vocals on the mind-boggling romp, “Thirty Second Lover.” Bettye LaVette and Willie Jones follow with a spirited duet on the pleading “Don’t Be Ashamed.” Other highlights including John Popper guesting on “My Sugar Sugar,” Delbert McClinton’s racy take on “Right Around the Corner,” Sharon Jones’ grooving on “Messin’ Up,” and Buddy Miller’s telling take on “The Slummer the Slum.” Cropper is in spectacular form throughout, and he is instrumentally spotlighted on the soulful “Think” and “Help Me Somebody.” Lucinda Williams guests on a couple of tracks but her depressing voice makes these songs the low point of the CD.
Despite the occasional slip, this one comes with the highest recommendation. Dedicated will also make one search out the original Five Royales recordings, which upon listening, will enhance anyone’s life.