Eddie "Kingfish" Manion is celebrated for his tenor and baritone saxophone work as a member of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and as horn director for Little Steven's Disciples of Soul. He is an additional member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band as well as an original member of Springsteen's other group The Sessions Band. As a long-standing member of The Miami Horns, he appeared on Gary U.S. Bonds' terrific 1981 comeback album Dedication and in the early 90's was a member of the Robert Cray Band.
Full disclosure: not only have I witnessed Mr. Manion in concert as a member of the Jukes, the E Street Band and the Disciples, I once briefly joined him and the Miami Horns onstage during a club show in Belmar, New Jersey back in 1989. But perhaps the less said about that, the better.
With Coastin' In ,the follow-up to his 2015 Nightlife release, Manion steps to the frontlines to present a highly personal piece of work. The album consists of a selection of well-chosen rock and R&B favourites to which the saxophonist applies his rich tones to.
The quickly-likeable album opens with the Charlie Chaplin standard "Smile," leading directly into the classic mid-paced "Spooky." Here Manion's Disciples of Soul bandmate Marc Ribler unloads razor-sharp guitar licks while Andy Burton adds soulful organ.
Originally released by Bread in 1971,"If" has Manion inhabiting the melody with mournful but appropriately elegant shading.
The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" from 1966 features a sweet female vocal chorus, a lush string section and fellow Disciple of Soul Jack Daly's rumbling bass guitar while Manion's bright sax pierces the proceedings.
For the album's upbeat title track, Manion shifts to a fun, funky mode. Welcome support is provided from Clifford Barnes' B-3 organ and Paul Thompson on stand-up bass trading off during the solo. "Coastin' In" is a Manion original composition.
"He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother," recorded by the Hollies in 1969, has Manion replacing Allan Clarke's vocal melody with aching sax shapes matched by Rob Paparozzi's delicate harmonica.
In an inspired move, Manion and crew blend Steve Winwood's 1988 hit "Roll With It" with the 1966 song "(I'm a) Roadrunner" by Junior Walker & The All Stars. Since Winwood's tune borrowed so liberally from the earlier song, this medley makes perfect sense. The track features a blasting saxophone, forceful drumming from Rich Mercurio and soulful female support vocals during the chorus.
The jazz standard "Deep Purple" features a clean, ringing guitar solo from Mark Strickland.
Coastin' In wraps up with "Yeh, Yeh" a 1965 #1 U.K. hit for Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames. This brief, up-tempo number has a barking sax throughout and returning female vocals on the chorus.
The CD version of Coastin' In includes the bonus track "The Lights are on at Old St. John's." Another Manion original, "St. John's" is a celtic-flavoured seasonal number featuring the saxophonist on lead vocals. A limited edition vinyl release, pressed on translucent blue wax, consists of just the proper 11 song album.
And for fans looking for more music from Eddie "Kingfish" Manion, the saxophonist is already looking forward to a Coastin' In follow-up project in the near future.
Robert Lawson 2022.