REVIEW BY: Michael Broyles
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/19/2009
Long before I knew who Loggins and Messina were, my dad would sing “Danny’s Song” to my mother in a half-pitched voice and a pseudo-country draw. That melody has followed me around since. I find it seeping into my most stressful days, assuring me that tomorrow will be better. I assume that to my parents, who had 3 children and little income at the time, “And even though we ain’t got money / I’m so in love with ya honey / And everything will bring a chain of love” likewise gave them reassurance.
Loggins and Messina’s Onstage starts with Kenny Loggins singing “House On Pooh Corner” and “Danny’s Song” while strumming a solo acoustic guitar. Both songs have infectious melodies—the type that pop into memory upon hearing a similar interval during a bird’s whistle or a telephone’s ring. Loggin’s vocals sound strong and confident on these tracks. They convey a powerful sense of urgency. Urgency for what? For enjoying the simple things in life and not letting life’s complications ruin your spirit. When Winnie the Pooh tells Christopher Robin in “House On Pooh Corner” that he needs to return home by 1:00 to “count all the bees in the hive” and “chase all the clouds from the sky,” I thought maybe Loggin’s poetic extraction was the inspiration for Benjamin Hoff’s exegesis on Taoism entitled The Tao of Pooh. Regardless, Winnie The Pooh author A.A. Milne would be proud.
The rest of the album never quite matches up to those first two tracks. Recorded over 3 concerts between 1972-1973, the album contains hits and misses, but nothing as exciting or adventurous as Loggins with only his voice and guitar. The Dixie-inspired “Long-Tail Cat” and the backyard country-blues “To Make A Woman Feel Wanted” are fun, danceable songs, and the ballad “Peace Of Mind” brings the cathartic power of old soul ballads to a country context, with surprisingly good results. Songs such as the slow “Golden Ribbons” and the shoo-bop “Your Mama Don’t Dance” lose their appeal quickly, while the Loggins and Messina hit “Angry Eyes” goes on too long and contains a seemingly endless guitar solo.
The song I was most concerned with was “Vahevala.” Clocking in over 20 minutes in length, I wondered how much I could take of a song I loathed in the first place. I always thought “Vahevala” sounded like a rock ‘n’ roll version of “La Cucaracha.” I still do. But after the vocals, Loggins, Messina, and band launch into an entrancing jam more reminiscent of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew than anything Kenny Loggins or Jim Messina ever put out commercially. I was also thoroughly impressed with “Another Road,” an acoustic guitar duet more appropriate for a coffee house than a concert hall. As shown by “Another Road,” Loggins and Messina sound best in their most simple form: guitar, vocals, shaker and violin.
Looking back at my parent’s musical influence on me and listening to “Danny’s Song” as a young twenty-something, I cannot help but feel moved. What drew my father so fondly to that song about a young couple starting a family? How did the song inspire him to so unabashedly sing it to my mother? What was he trying to impart to my brothers and me—his “Dannys”? I have never asked him, and I do not think I ever will. Still, when I hear Loggins sing “Love the girl who holds the world in a paper cup / Drink it up / Love her and she’ll bring you luck,” I can not help but think that, with or without money, my father taught me what was truly important in life.