It's Alive

by: Ozark Mountain Daredevils

The Ozark Mountain Daredevils left A&M Records in 1978, and in lieu of the obligatory best-of compilation, which would follow a little later, the label put out the double-LP live album It's Alive. By this time the lineup was an eight-piece, with lots of guitars and a full-time keyboardist (Russell Chappell) and mandolin player (Jerry Mills). The original vinyl release left something to be desired in terms of immediacy, but the 2004 CD reissue solves that problem -- there's still less audience interaction than would be ideal on most live albums, but the band's sound is now fully in-your-face, running the gamut from soft rock to bluegrass to country blues, all of the instruments and the singing in sharp relief, and they never sacrifice energy for polish -- indeed, as the album progresses, the sound moves a bit more toward the raw and freewheeling, culminating with the encore of "It's All Over Now." One suspects there was a certain sweetening of the harmonies, especially on songs like "You Know Like I Know" and "Fly Away Home," while other songs, like "Following the Way That I Feel" and "Horse Trader," sound pretty raw and honest. The big hits are all here, with a crunchy-textured "Jackie Blue" and "If You Wanna Get to Heaven" saved for the end, but the best number here is an acoustic version of "Satisfied Mind" cut live in a men's shower backstage at an arena in Springfield, MO. The 1997-released Archive Alive concert from early in their history is rougher and more viscerally exciting, but this double-LP captures what concert work was like in the late '70s and represents a big chunk of the group's repertory, preserved from several gigs along their 1978 tour through Missouri and Kansas, close to their roots. ~ Bruce Eder

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