Florida’s finest purveyors of earthly pleasures shoot for the moon and bask in the stage lights.
One of the least celebrated, yet immensely respected for their stylistic breadth, Southern rock ensembles, this collective have always been severely underserved on video front, with only a single public outing preserved for posterity on VHS and a couple of their television broadcasts landing on unofficial releases. The earliest of those, the band’s Loreley gig, made it to YouTube – in low quality and missing opening numbers – but the recording was eventually restored in all its nigh-on pristine, hour-long glory to end up on CD and DVD and show the veterans in their arguably finest hour, with a very different repertoire than what is represented on the “Bring It Back Alive” concert set from 1978.
Even though it was the group’s debut appearance in Germany, the quintet must have felt like home in front of the Confederate flags-strewn crowd, so they wasted no time on building the momentum and delved head first into a still-fresh cut “Devil’s Road” – rocking and rolling through this easygoing, albeit increasingly heavy, number with a friendly attitude, filigree delivery and much gusto. All of these qualities will also seep into a playful, and powerful, “Hurry Sundown” which should make the listeners appreciate the ensemble’s approach to tunes and instrumentation outside of the studio and hear their interplay soar.
It’s a majestic moment when the Celtic-tinctured twin-guitar weave at the beginning of “Holiday” gets simplified to give way to an infectiously breezy boogie romp as if to show there’s more panache than swagger in these hippie-looking bunch’s method, and it’s also very touching when Hughie Thomasson damps Billy Jones’ string at the piece’s end before Freddie Salem – with legs astride and eyes closed – leads the roaring assault on “Long Gone” and bares the band’s harder, but no less exquisite, edge. The three six-stringers pass vocals around from song to song only to reveal their country-hued heavenly harmonies on the chorus of “Angels Hide” where solos are exchanged, too, in most spectacular, yet unpretentious, manner, and to also trade bluegrass licks on “Waterhole” where drummer David Dix goes for a short showcase.
He’s going to unfold a longer cannonade in the 20-minute epic “Green Grass And High Tides” that is the measure not only of the band’s on-stage stamina but also of their dynamic range, while the gravity-defying encore “Ghost Riders In The Sky” sees Thomasson take vocal performance to a whole new level. In a weird way, the Americans bit hit “There Goes Another Love Song” gets lost among these elaborate jam gems, which is a sign of the collective’s concert greatness – never properly documented in the halcyon days and so perfectly captured here. An essential release.