There is so much to like about this archival release from The Marshall Tucker Band. Not the least of which is the fact that it captures the legendary South Carolina band likely at its peak, both in strength of songs and performance. By the last night of 1978- this being a New Year’s Eve recording from the famed Warehouse in New Orleans- the MTB had not only a few certified hits under their belt, but also had reached up into a range of group improvisation allowing their various instrumental talents to soar to their highest of heights.
It’s easy to start with Toy Caldwell’s often underappreciated guitar-playing and its melodious blend of blues, swing, jazz, and country that carried the jams- and there is a lot of jamming here. Yet, just as crucial to the group’s sound, and to its ability to separate itself from the ‘Southern Rock’ tag, is the dynamic saxophone and soothing flute of Jerry Eubanks; the latter instrument an essential tempering color of the FM staple, “Heard it In A Love Song.” Both are truly alive on this recording of the show, drawn from a nationwide radio broadcast (and featuring cameos by an extremely excited emcee introducing the band); the tapes blessed with relatively strong fidelity and a mix that balances the sextet quite well. Even if Caldwell’s voice is self-admittedly nearly gone by the time they hit “Can’t You See,” there is no hiding it- and that’s a good thing.
That tangible working-band instinct, nurtured by endless touring over their (at the time) six-year existence, is readily apparent on this two-disc set, particularly on extended takes such as the 13-minute “24 Hours At A Time.” Not to mention how those stretches of improv served to fuel a distinctly liberating party-in-New-Orleans atmosphere- illustrated so perfectly by the booklet photo of longhaired countdown revelers in the front row raising bottles of liquor overhead. At once, this terrific addition to The Marshall Tucker Band’s archival catalog is both a full-color sonic photograph of 40 years ago and a current notice, perhaps, of a group that deserves a second listen in these times to fully appreciate just how good, and unique, an ensemble they were as they rolled up ’78 and lit up ’79.