Live At The Agora Ballroom, Atlanta, Georgia April 20, 1979
Phoenix Gems Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/04/2000
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.