I was expecting that this collection would be just the sort of thing I dislike, as here The Marshall Tucker Band combine the worst aspects of Southern rock (half-written songs, endless soloing) with prog (flutes, endless soloing). And yet, for a couple of years when I was young, I had great affection for this record. But listening to it now, I'm baffled.
The only explanation I've come up with for my change of demeanour is that there's a definite homey quality to these songs that caused me to appreciate the personality behind the songwriting. There's also a sense of wry self-deprecation in the lyrics, though that's unfortunately undermined by some macho 'ramblin' man' posturing, yet it's still heaps better than the same type of bullshit delivered by Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers, for whom irony is an adjective ('that meteorite seems less stony and more irony'). But then musically, these boys take an under-developed idea and then drive it into the ground.
I have to confess my great weakness as a reviewer is I just don't get guitar solos. I mean, I appreciate a snappy 8- or 16-bar break - it can liven up an arrangement, serve as a focus for the energy in the track, even establish a second theme. But a bad solo can wreck an otherwise excellent song, and once the guitarist goes on longer than 20 seconds or so, I really can't judge if he's doing well or not. It all seems kind of pointless to me.
Toy Caldwell - lead guitarist for the Marshall Tucker Band (none of whose members are named Marshall Tucker by the way) - certainly likes to indulge in solos. There's one that's pretty striking, the way he leads off "Ramblin'" has a great jazzy quality, but I can't say much about the rest of them, and the rest of the band doesn't do much to help him make things more interesting.
George McCorkle is actually a pretty decent picker on rhythm guitar, especially on "Fire on the Mountain", but he just keeps playing the same old progressions, and the band's rhythm section is competent but undistinguished. Doug Gray is a lead vocalist of remarkably anonymous quality, sounding just like some guy in a country band playing at your local bar, and the melodies he's given to work with are the same old country/12-bar tunes all the other southern rockers turn out.
The one element that makes The Marshall Tucker Band stand out is Jerry Eubanks' flute, but it's sure made to go a long way, as this group were never one to use just a little of anything.
It's not so much that this record is bad, as it's bland - there's just nothing here to hold the listener's attention (unless you're one of those people who can actually follow a 3-minute guitar solo), except that is for one great moment - the piano solo in "24 Hours at a Time" - which has a brilliantly-skewed bebop line that comes out of nowhere, flown right into the middle of a country-shuffle. I can't tell you how weird that sounds, and it's so effervescent in the midst of so much guitar sludge. Now ... put that
on a loop, and you've got some good listening.Rated:
by Reviewer: Steve Knowlton
Posted: Sunday 2nd Aug 2015 1:01 PM
These guys get a bad rap from critics. Why? Hell if I know. But the difference between Queen and a million other bombastic in-your-face 1970's groups is that Queen did it well.
Three of the four band members were talented songwriters, the rhythm section was solid albeit unimaginative, Brian May was a first-rate guitarist, and Freddie Mercury was a truly talented singer who really knew how to arrange vocals to great effect and make any song his own.
Not that it worked all the time. Some of the 'let’s see how many synths we can cram into this one' songs like "Play the Game" and "Body Language" nauseate me, and others are just plain unmemorable. But most of their good songs are masterpieces, from "We Will Rock You" and everybody’s favorite bet-you-didn’t-know-it’s-a-gay-anthem "We Are the Champions", to Mercury’s delightfully prissy "Killer Queen", or the multi-layered vocals of "Bicycle Race".
My favorite songs though are the operatic "Somebody to Love", with its gazillion Mercury vocals piled one on top of another, and the cute 50's throwback "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" - the production and playing on both songs is great.
But as I mentioned, some of the tracks here aren't especially memorable - even though I’ve owned this album for years, I couldn't remember how they went. Still, Greatest Hits
does showcase the talents of one of the cooler groups of the 70’s and 80’s, and there weren’t many of them believe me.Rated: no rating
by Reviewer: Cosmic Ben
Posted: Monday 3rd Aug 2015 12:50 AM