Gary U.S. Bonds: ‘Dedication’

Originally posted February 15, 2008

I came late to all things Springsteen.

I remember seeing his picture on the covers of Time and Newsweek in late October 1975, when both magazines examined the hoopla surrounding the release of Born to Run. The cover stories were more about the hype than the music, and I didn’t find myself intrigued. I didn’t buy the album or look into Springsteen’s music at all.

I think I was waiting to see what happened with his career, to see what came next. And, as is well known, a conflict with his manager and the resulting legal entanglements kept Springsteen from recording for a couple of years. When Darkness on the Edge of Town came out, I heard “Badlands” on KQRS in the Twin Cities. I thought it was all right, but I wasn’t really in a rock frame of mind, so I let the album slide.

And slide they continued to do: The River, Nebraska, and Born in the U.S.A. came out and were, for the most part, ignored. The last of those could not truly be ignored, of course, what with seven of its twelve tracks being Top Ten hits. I liked what I heard, but still, I didn’t go out and buy it. I wasn’t buying much new music at all in those years. It was an odd time; I was listening but I wasn’t collecting. So it wasn’t until 1988, after I’d started a new chapter of my life in Minot, North Dakota, and had my interest in music and record collecting revived, that I bought my first Springsteen album: Tunnel of Love. And I thought it was great.

By the time I left Minot a little more than a year later, I’d caught up: I had everything from Greetings From Asbury Park through the massive live collection released in 1986. And from then on, I doubt that more than a few weeks have elapsed between the time of a new Springsteen release and its arrival at my home. (Well, it took longer than that for 1993’s In Concert/MTV Plugged to make its way home as I never saw it on vinyl.)

Along the way, especially during the 1990s, I got caught up on the work Springsteen had done for other performers. And I found Gary U.S. Bonds and the two albums that Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt helped produce, Dedication and On the Line. Bonds, of course, had his string of hit singles in the early 1960s, the most famous of which is “Quarter to Three,” which went to No. 1 in 1961. Springsteen has never been coy about his love for Bonds’ music and its influence on his own work, and “Quarter to Three” has been over the years a frequent fixture on Springsteen’s set lists.

So when I found the two albums – Dedication is from 1981 and On the Line came out the next year – I took them home and liked them. Bonds was always a limited vocalist, but he acquits himself pretty well on both records. Having shared On the Line here earlier, today I’m offering Dedication. Springsteen and Van Zandt produced four of the tracks together, and five others are credited to Van Zandt alone. (Bonds, along with Lanny Lambert and Rob Parissi, produced the remaining track, “Way Back When.”)

In addition to producing, Springsteen and Van Zandt brought some along songs and some friends. Although other musicians are credited as well, the bulk of the work on the album, one guesses, comes from Springsteen, Van Zandt and the other members of the E Street Band: Danny Federici, Garry Tallent, Max Weinberg, Roy Bittan and Clarence Clemons. Not surprisingly, nine of the record’s ten tracks have a familiar sound, a combination of the E Street Band’s sound with the sound of Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, for whom Springsteen and Van Zandt did a fair amount of production work around the same time. (“Way Back When” isn’t out of place on the record, though, and Clemons has a nice sax solo at the start of the song.)

In addition to all that, Springsteen adds some vocal solos, on “Jolé Blon” and “This Little Girl.” A look at the credits also shows vocal work by legends Ben E. King (“Stand By Me” and many more) and Chuck Jackson (“Any Day Now”) on “Your Love.”

As to the songs, Springsteen contributed “This Little Girl,” “Your Love,” and “Dedication,” while Van Zandt wrote “Daddy’s Come Home.” All four of those songs are on Side One of the record, following the album opener, the Cajun tune, “Jolé Blon.” That give the first side of the record a resonance that maybe the second side can’t sustain.

There are some interesting covers on Side Two, however: Bonds does a pretty decent job on the Lennon-McCartney tune “It’s Only Love,” which was pulled from Rubber Soul, and he also manages a good take on Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender.” But he falls short, it seems to me, on Bob Dylan’s “From A Buick 6.” It’s an interesting choice, but Bonds ends up fighting Van Zandt’s lumbering, echoing production and comes in second. It’s maybe the only real misstep on the album. The record’s closer, “Just Like A Child,” is a nice ballad — Bond’s wife Laurie Anderson is one of its co-writers – that includes large doses of gospel before it ends.

Overall, it’s a good record, though maybe not quite as good as On the Line would be a year later. It did pretty well when it was released, reaching No. 27 during a seven-week stay on the album chart; “This Little Girl,” released as a single, went to No. 11.

Tracks:
Jolé Blon
This Little Girl
Your Love
Dedication
Daddy’s Come Home
It’s Only Love
The Pretender
Way Back When
From A Buick 6
Just Like A Child

Gary U.S. Bonds – Dedication [1981]

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One Response to “Gary U.S. Bonds: ‘Dedication’”

  1. A Wake, A Funeral & A Smile « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] Jukes Not long ago, I shared the second of two early 1980s albums by Gary U.S. Bonds, and when I wrote about Dedication, I said: “Not surprisingly, nine of the record’s ten tracks have a familiar […]

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