Album Review of
By Request

Written by Joe Ross
April 9, 2021 - 10:42pm EDT
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With ten studio albums under his belt, the eclectic A. J. Croce decided to keep the party going strong during the 2020 pandemic by taking requests. Croce invites us to stop in for a private gathering with friends, food, beverage and plenty of splendid music. It’s a raucous gathering of blues, soul, jazz, pop and rock n’ roll grounded by Croce’s piano, organ and emotive voice.  By Request also features his full touring band, Gary Mallaber (drums), David Barard (bass) and Garrett Stoner (guitar), as well as a horn section, background vocalists and others. A multi-instrumentalist, Croce plays some guitar on The Zombies’ “Can’t Nobody Love You” and his lively arrangement of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee’s “Better Day,” that also includes guitar legend Robben Ford.

A real palatable set of fun, spirited music, By Request ranges from the rollicking opening strains of Billy Preston’s “Nothing From Nothing” to the less oft-heard soulful closer, Motown artist Shorty Long’s “Ain’t No Justice.” Croce’s cover of Randy Newman’s “Have You Seen My Baby?” is a tribute to his dad, singer/songwriter Jim Croce, whose great success was cut short when he passed in a 1973 plane crash. The first show that A. J. attended as a baby was a double bill featuring his dad and Randy Newman. He reinvents The Beach Boys’ “Sail on Sailor” with a spiritually-infused gospel groove.  By Request covers many moods, but all the tracks are very party-friendly. Other standouts include The Five Stairsteps’ “Ooh Child,” Alan Toussaint’s “Brickyard Blues,” Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” Tom Waits’ “San Diego Serenade,” and Sam Cooke’s “Nothing Can Change This Love.” This album will further increase A. J. Croce’s visibility, build his legion of fans, and definitely keep the party hopping. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)