Live from Texas

by: .38 Special

.38 Special's rousing 2011 album Live from Texas is a perfect example of why great songs stand up whether heard in concert, on record, or on the radio. The Jacksonville, Florida-based band was the last real commercial force of any artist remotely associated with the glory days of Southern rock, largely due to its pop and arena rock tendencies. Live from Texas was recorded in many cities across the Lone Star State in September 2009, and it features the longtime lineup of vocalist/guitarist Donnie Van Zant, vocalist/guitarist Don Barnes, lead guitarist/vocalist Danny Chauncey, keyboardist/vocalist Bobby Capps, bass guitarist Larry Junstrom, and drummer Gary Moffatt. The original intent was to sell the CD only at the band's shows, but they were so happy with the performances and the quality of the concert recordings that it was decided to release Live from Texas commercially on the band's own label. Virtually every significant chart hit and fan favorite is included, including solid versions of the radio mainstays "Rockin' Into the Night," "Caught Up in You," and "Hold On Loosely." The tough rocker "20th Century Fox" includes some keyboard fills that replace guitar parts heard on the studio arrangement. As demonstrated here, "Wild-Eyed Southern Boys" performed live almost always trumps the studio recording. The heartbreaking "If I'd Been the One" is a masterful blend of melody and lyrics, especially in the gut-wrenching, nakedly emotional chorus. "Help Somebody" was recorded in Clay County, Florida with Van Zant's younger brother, Lynyrd Skynyrd vocalist Johnny Van Zant, as a special guest; the brothers released a studio version of this country song in 2005 for their duo project. A powerful hard rock groove spurs "Trooper with an Attitude" along. Seven songs are woven together seamlessly in a lengthy medley: "Back to Paradise," "Somebody Like You," "Teacher Teacher," "Rough Housin'," "Stone Cold Believer," "Like No Other Night," and "Second Chance" (this 1988 ballad was the band's highest-charting Top 40 hit, reaching number six); the teasing nature of medleys makes them inherently disappointing, but it's better than not hearing the songs at all. Covers of Chuck Berry's "Back in the U.S.A." and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Travelin' Band" serve as encores. Live from Texas proves the importance -- and staying power -- of fine songwriting above everything else. ~ Bret Adams

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