Just Like Medicine
Adrian James (A.J.) Croce, son of the late Jim Croce, was not yet two years old when his famous father died in a plane crash in 1973 at the age of 30. Following in his father’s footsteps, the younger Croce grew up to forge a solid music career and recently released his ninth studio album, Just Like Medicine, on his own Seedling Records label. Produced by industry luminary and Muscle Shoals legend, Dan Penn, who has written hits for everyone from Aretha Franklin and Percy Sledge to Otis Redding and The Boxtops, this 10-song gem offers some incredible music and the talent to go with it. Unlike his father, Croce chooses the keyboard over the guitar, and his vocals are amazingly diverse on each track. I enjoyed this record immensely on the first listen, which is always a good sign. There is a healthy mix of lighter and darker material peppered throughout with an enormous amount of heartbreak woven in, but it all melds together quite nicely in a swirl of funky blues-based soul.
The opener, “Gotta Get Outta My Head,” is decidedly dark with a great beat, and then the mood quickly shifts gears to one of the real album highlights, “The Heart That Makes Me Whole” (co-written with Leon Russell and intended to be recorded with him before his death). It offers brilliant guitar from Steve Cropper and gets a dose of funk on this and several other tracks from The Muscle Shoals Horns and The McCrary Sisters, who round it out with their always-stellar backing vocals. Long-time Muscle Shoals icon, bassist David Hood, also lends his talents throughout the collection.
From the first moment you listen to “Name of the Game,” which features Vince Gill on acoustic guitar, you immediately hear Jim Croce. It literally smacks you in the head and it’s no wonder, since the senior Croce penned the song but never got the chance to record it. A.J. does it serious justice.
“Cures Just Like Medicine” is another golden nugget and Croce’s vocals truly shine while the horns offer the perfect accent. The doleful “Move On” echoes Bob Dylan-esque vocals while “The Other Side of Love” (co-written with Penn) and “Full Up” are loaded with NOLA-inspired flavor. “I Couldn’t Stop” reflects loss while “Hold You” suggests a glimmer of hope. The closer, “The Roads,” smacks strongly of Fastball’s “The Way.”
This is a top-notch batch of music with a crisp, fresh sound, mainly piano-driven and mingled with both hope and heartache. Stepping out of the shadow of his father’s legacy, the boy for whom “Time In A Bottle” was written is now the man who has come into his own as a musician and done his father proud.