Live At Sturgis

.38 Special

CMC International Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Donnie Van Zant and 38 Special might be a band who have not exactly kept a high profile in the last decade - I can only see two albums released in the '90s, and I wasn't even aware of 1997's Resolution, their most recent studio effort.

Yet this is the kind of band who, when you listen to them, make you wonder why you stopped listening to them in the first place. Why they ever fell out of the public's good graces I don't know, but their most recent effort, Live At Sturgis, should be more than sufficient to get them back into our midst.

Recorded at a biker festival in South Dakota - probably the last place in the universe you'd want to utter the phrase "redneck," even if you are Jeff Foxworthy - Van Zant and Don Barnes lead the crowd through some old favorites. What you're left with is actually a very entertaining live disc.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Oh, sure, there's a little hesitancy in the crowd when 38 Special whips one newer track, "Fade To Blue," on them - prompting Barnes to say to the audience, "So I guess you want to hear an old one now, huh?" In the band's defense, this track sounds like it could have come from their glory period; it has all the nuances and hooks that their radio hits had as well. But the candle just isn't lit on this one for the crowd, and the band goes back to the career retrospective. Oh, well - the crowd's loss.

When you listen to Live At Sturgis, don't be surprised to find yourself saying, "I didn't realize that 38 Special did that song" - or, "Man, I haven't heard that one in years!" Songs like "If I'd Been The One," "Fantasy Girl" and "Rebel To Rebel" (dedicated to Van Zant's brother Ronnie, the late lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd) are as refreshing as a glass of ice water on a summer day. Go ahead; crank up the volume and sing along with these full blast. And let's not forget about their best track that you probably don't know about - "Rockin' Into The Night".

Of course, the big hits are here in the guise of live versions of "Caught Up In You" and "Hold On Loosely". (If you want to hear "Teacher Teacher," you're gonna have to invest in the DVD version - and, in my case, re-invest in a DVD drive.) While the band might not still be heard outside of the oldies stations, these tracks demonstrate that 38 Special have lost none of their fire.

The one stumbling point comes on the one new track, "Just One Girl". For some reason, this track just seems out of place with the lively nature of the others - and it's not because this is the lone studio track. It just is not up to the same caliber (please, no gun jokes) as the other tracks - though there's a chance it would have stood out on its own in a different setting.

Live At Sturgis might be the kind of disc that could dislodge the best-of collection Flashback from regular rotation in your CD library. 38 Special is the kind of band who were driven from fame for no good reason, and through no major faults of their own. Live At Sturgis reminds us that it's time to give these guys another chance.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of CMC International Records, and is used for informational purposes only.