Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Molly Hatchet “Live At The Agora Ballroom, Atlanta, Georgia” April 20, 1979 US Southern Rock (bootleg)


Molly Hatchet   “Live At The Agora Ballroom, Atlanta, Georgia” April 20, 1979 US Southern Rock (bootleg)
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After the Freebird fell to the ground in October of 1977, Southern rock fans began to look for another band that might have the cure for the contagious Florida guitar rock that Lynyrd Skynyrd had infected them with. Enter Molly Hatchet, also from Jacksonville, sporting a three-guitar attack, a growling lead vocalist, and songs that fused the best of English rock and Southern blues. 

With this never before released recording, Danny Joe Brown rocks Atlanta, Jacksonville style, with the original band – Dave Hlubeck, Duane Roland, and Steve Holland on guitars, Banner Thomas on bass, and Bruce Crump on drums – and delivers one of the most intense Southern rock concerts ever committed to compact disc. Like their brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Outlaws, Hatchet gave no quarter, scorching the stage of the venue with Dixie fire while bands like the Talking Heads held new wave court in the Fox Theatre directly across the street. 

The band comes out kicking like a 40-mule team on “Bounty Hunter” and rolls into “Let the Good Times Roll” with the momentum of a downhill train, before taking no prisoners with the Southern anthem “Gator Country.” Rock guitar never sounded more intense, except for maybe on their live rendition of Gregg Allman’s “Dreams (I’ll Never See),” or on their red hot version of Jimmie Rodgers’ “T for Texas,” a song that was, ironically, recorded at that venue right across the street by Lynyrd Skynyrd for their One More From the Road release. 

The set also features “The Creeper,” “Big Apple,” “Trust Your Old Friend,” “One Man’s Pleasure,” “Boogie No More,” and a power-soaked rendition of Robert Johnson’s definitive blues, “Crossroads.” Don’t forget the 12-plus minute “Harp Jam,” featuring Danny Joe on some straight-up explosive harmonica. 

Live at the Agora may not be the best live Southern rock document of all time, but it comes pretty damned close. It’s balls to the wall, no prisoners, flirtin with disaster, beatin the odds, swamp rockin’, gator music with the spirit of Skynyrd and the heart of Dixie, all rolled into one hard-working rock & roll band. As Ronnie Van Zant used to say, bring all my mules out here and kick ‘em one time. It don’t get no better than this, brothers and sisters….. by Michael B. Smith….~


While this does not have the polished mastering of a studio record, this is a great live album. Yes, the vocals are a little subdued at first, but they are not inaudible. Whoever mixed the recording realized after the first song the vocals were buried, so they turned 'em up a little. Keep in mind this record was mastered from TAPES of a LIVE recording that was never intended to be released to the general public. Throughout, however, the mixing is clean and balanced, the vocals are in front, as they should be, the bass and drums are present but not overpowering. The cymbals are crisp as are the guitar licks, however they are not clipping (exceeding the maximum volume input, causing square waves, basically fuzzy noise). Halfway through the album, the band is on fire, tight and firing on all cylinders. Hell, it DOES sound like a studio recording at points. 
There are shades of the Allman brothers in certain passages and echoes of Skynyrd in the slide guitar. And, yes, that good ol’ Northeastern Florida accent that we are all accustomed to hearing live from Donnie Van Zant, brother of Synyrd frontman and part-time frontman himself, from the band .38 Special. Also in common with frontman Don Barnes of .38 Special, Molly Hatchet doesn’t have the crowd in the palm of their hand, they have their arm around the shoulder of the crowd, like an old drinkin’ buddie. 
As a performing and recording musician myself, a son of the South and a lover of the raw, blues-influenced spirit of Southern Rock bands, I would highly recommend this record to Molly Hatchet fans. It’s also a great embarcation point for you younguns who are out there cuttin’ your teeth in the smoky bars and keepin’ it real. 
Enjoy, and have fun……~


Finally a live album that captures the incredible power behind these kings of southern rock, recorded in Atlanta’s Agora ballroom in 1979 and featuring 12 unforgettable moments in the life of Danny Joe Brown’s sextet. Just like musical heroes Lynyrd Skynyrd, MH uses three guitars to create a pulsatingly virile sound. Featuring hits “Bounty Hunter,” “Gator Country,” “Let The Good Times Roll,” and versions of classics like “Crossroads” by Robert Johnson, “T for Texas” by Jimmy Rodgers, and “Dream You’ll Never See” by the Allman Brothers, and of course, the mind-blowing “Harp Jam.” They just don’t make blues rock like this anymore! The Akarma reissue on LP is long out-of-print, so don’t miss the CD!….~


Of all the “good-ol-boy” bands that came out of the Southern Rock explosion of the '70s, possibly one of the biggest bands forgotten by history is Molly Hatchet. Oh, sure, they had their share of the spotlight in the late '70s, but as time passed and the currents of popular music turned in their ever-changing course, the band seemed to quickly fade into the background, becoming a blip on the musical radar screen. 
Of course, they’ve been around all this time, fighting it out for recognition among the crowded rock scene. And with the addition to their discography of Live At The Agora Ballroom, Atlanta, Georgia, April 20, 1979, people can travel back in time to try and re-discover the spark that made these guys something special way back when. 
Like many live concerts from this time period, this particular album already has to fight an uphill battle in that its sound is quite dated. Led by the triple-guitar attack of Dave Hlubek, Duane Roland and Steve Holland, Molly Hatchet plow through 12 tracks which run from the exciting to the bland, even to the “didn’t-we-just-hear-this-before?” style. More on that momentarily. 
Admittedly, Live At The Agora Ballroom gets better the more you listen to it. Maybe this is because Molly Hatchet really isn’t a band you’ll get into with just one cursory listen. You need to allow yourself to be swept away by the music and the grooves the band lays down – and it’s not always the easiest thing to allow yourself to do. Maybe it’s because sometimes, as on “Gator Country” and “The Harp Jam,” the trip is a bit stormy. 
Yet Molly Hatchet does redeem itself often throughout the course of the disc. From their cover of The Allman Brothers Band’s “Dreams (I’ll Never See)” to their originals such as “Bounty Hunter,” “Boogie No More” and “The Creeper,” vocalist Danny Joe Brown and company demonstrate that there was some substance to the southern style these guys absolutely oozed from every pore. 
Yet sometimes it’s that reliance on being a Southern band that threatens to derail Molly Hatchet’s train. Listen to their versions of “T For Texas” and “Crossroads,” and don’t be surprised if you find yourself thinking you’ve heard these before. If you own Lynyrd Skynyrd’s One More From The Road, or you’ve ever listened to the whole album, you’ll realize that Molly Hatchet’s versions are almost carbon copies (except for the minor obscenity Brown drops in “T For Texas”). I don’t know if this was necessarily the best strategy for Molly Hatchet – but you could look at it as being a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd, who had suffered the tragic plane crash 18 months prior to this show. So I’m willing to cut a little slack here. 
The only real drawback to Live At The Agora Ballroom is that I question whether this disc will win the band over a new group of fans. For those people who followed the band back in their early days, this disc should be like manna from the skies. But the younger generation might be better served checking out the studio albums such as Flirtin’ With Disaster or the band’s self-titled effort before diving into this one; if anything, it might provide them with a little more understanding of what this band was (and is) all about….by… Christopher Thelen….~


Credits 

Bruce Crump drums 
Dave Hlubek guitar 
Steve Holland rhythm guitar, guitar 
Duane Roland rhythm guitar, guitar 
Banner Thomas bass guitar




Tracklist 
1 Bounty Hunter 3:28 
2 Let The Good Times Roll 4:07 
3 Gator Country 6:43 
4 The Creeper 3:57 
5 T For Texas 9:24 
6 Big Apple 3:08 
7 Dreams (I’ll Never See) 7:42 
8 Trust Your Old Friend 4:07 
9 The Harp Jam 12:17 
10 One Man’s Pleasure 3:22 
11 Crossroads 5:01 
12 Boogie No More 7:49 

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