excellent distillation of a career

The Best of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (Epic Legacy)
All I Want Is Everything: The Best of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (1979-1991) (Rhino)
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

By Allen Howie

Between them, these two anthologies cover all the bases in the stellar career of blue-eyed soulman "Southside Johnny" Lyons and this band, the Asbury Jukes.

The 19 tracks on the Epic collection encompass the New Jersey band's first three albums, picking the plums from their first two releases, tossing in four previously unavailable live cuts and a B-side, then wisely devoting nearly half the collection to the landmark LP, Hearts of Stone. The fruitful result of a collaboration between Lyons, Springsteen guitarist "Miami" Steve Van Zandt (a.k.a. Little Steven) and the Boss himself, these eight songs caught the band at the top of their game, dishing out a bracing mix of rock, rhythm and blues behind Southside's soulful, gritty vocals.

The Rhino disc picks up where the Epic collection leaves off, as Van Zandt returned to his chores with the E Street Band and Lyons teamed up with Jukes guitarist Billy Rush on most of the writing. These 18 songs, culled from seven albums, offer the highlights from a career in transition, including a couple of personal favorites, covers of Tom Waits' "New Coat of Paint" and the soul classic "Walk Away Renee," both recorded for Atlantic in the mid-'80s.

1991's Better Days received a warm welcome from the critics, but soon turned up in cut-out bins. With any luck, this solid pair of anthologies will help put a talented band back on the map — and back in the studio.