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"I felt a bit guilty about having walked away from Little Steven the artist," says Steven Van Zandt. "I left that part of myself behind and I shouldn't have done that. I let the material down by not continuing to perform it.... I betrayed the work and I want to fix that. I didn't give up on the material -- there were a lot of other factors -- but I do have a sense of wanting some redemption for it."
Enter Soulfire, Stevie's sixth solo album and his first in close to two decades. This 2LP edition features the album's 12 tracks spread across three sides of vinyl, with artwork etched on Side 4.
The album sees the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer revisiting songs that span the length of his career as artist, performer, producer, arranger, and songwriter, focusing directly on the hugely influential "soul horns-meet-rock 'n' roll guitars" approach he first pioneered on Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes' classic first three albums.
In fact, Soulfire includes four of Stevie's songs that originally appeared on Jukes albums: "I'm Coming Back," "Some Things Just Don't Change," "Love on the Wrong Side of Town" (co-written with Bruce Springsteen), and "I Don't Want to Go Home."
"I've always been very thematic with my work, very conceptual," Steven says. "I need a big picture, I can't just do a collection of songs, that doesn't work for me. In this case, the concept became me. Who am I? I'm kind of my own genre at this point. So I tried to pick material that when you added it all up, really represented me. So there are a couple of covers, a couple of new songs, and some of what I feel are the best songs I've written and co-written over the years. This record is me doing me."
Soulfire was arranged and produced by Van Zandt at his own Renegade Studios in New York City. It was co-produced and recorded by Geoff Sanoff, and co-produced and music directed by guitarist Marc Ribler. (Ribler was recruited by Stevie as Darlene Love's music director for 2015's Van Zandt-produced Introducing Darlene Love and then "borrowed back" to serve that same role with The Disciples of Soul.) Background vocals on "I Don't Want To Go Home" and "The City Weeps Tonight" come courtesy of renowned a cappella group, The Persuasions. Soulfire was mixed and mastered by Van Zandt's career-long collaborators and friends Bob Clearmountain and Bob Ludwig.
"This was the most fun I've ever had making a record," Van Zandt says. "We did it quickly, while we still had the fire and energy from the  London show. We just took it into the studio and banged it out, six weeks from start to mix. It's one of those strange things, it really seems like it was meant to be."
Wicked Cool/Big Machine/UMe
2. I'm Coming Back
3. Blues Is My Business
4. I Saw the Light
1. Some Things Just Don't Change
2. Love on the Wrong Side of Town
3. The City Weeps Tonight
4. Down and Out in New York City
1. Standing in the Line of Fire
2. Saint Valentine's Day
3. I Don't Want to Go Home
4. Ride the Night Away