(2 1/2 stars) Too polished to be solid MTB.
Jim Toms | W. Frankfort, IL (USA) | 04/05/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"One thing that comes across as I listen to great albums by The Marshall Tucker Band, like their debut self-titled effort and Searchin' for a Rainbow, is that they had a raw, down-home flavor that seemed free from musical preservatives or additives. Not so with Southern Spirit as the album seems as if it was left too long in the studio. What do I mean by that? In the early 90's, Top 40 country radio (what I refer to as artificial country) seemed to take off like a rocket. Everyone wanted to be another Garth Brooks, or Brooks and Dunn, or Clint Black (I can't believe I know all of these names), or whatever the top country artist du jour was. I can just see some record executive suit telling great acts like MTB that they had to get with the times, polish up the sound and attract newer, younger audiences if they wanted to survive. If that's the case they heeded his/her advice with this album and the outcome is less than inspiring.Southern Spirit, released in 1990 (more than a decade after the band had peaked), and without either of the Caldwell brothers who were the heart and soul of the band, is pretty much all over the map. There are a couple of very good songs including "Stay in the Country" and the best of the bunch "Chase the Memory" which sounds as if it could have been taken from one of their 70's albums. On it, lead singer Doug Gray and Jerry Eubanks remind me of what made the band great. Doug has his vocals sounding as good as they did 15 years ago and Jerry has the flute sound going that was present on great songs like "Take the Highway", "Can't You See", and "Hear It in a Love Song". Others are adequate such as "Destruction" and "County Road". Some however are low grade filler such as "Ballad of MTB" and "Love Will", which are both pure cornball tackiness. If your speakers drip maple syrup on the latter you'll know why.If you're hardcore MTB (isn't everyone?) you may want Southern Spirit in your collection. If not, do not fail to pick up just about any of their 70's albums. I don't think you'll be disappointed in those."
A good effort and a worthy addition to the MTB catalog.
CU82 | Atlanta, GA | 03/16/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Rating: 4.25 Stars
Tuckerheads will all agree that the original MTB was a unique collection of musical talents and influences. Even in the heyday of southern rock, no one else really sounded quite like them. The problem was that they didn't always sound exactly like we expected them to from one album to the next either. I was fortunate enough to have owned a copy of the debut album before the follow-up release, "A New Life", was even in the stores so I have plenty of practice adjusting to whatever it is that this fine band has decided to release. Nothing in their catalog has sounded exactly like the first album. Nothing in their catalog has sounded exactly like "A New Life". MTB didn't rehash popular musical ideas over and over again for the sake of sounding like we thought they should. Yet they always kept that familiar feel in whatever they did so that you knew you were listening to The Marshall Tucker Band. This release, "Southern Spirit", has that familiar feel and belongs alongside the best that MTB has offered over the years.
If you need a point of reference, "Southern Spirit" is a solid album that, to me, sounds like a melding of "Running Like The Wind" with "Greetings From South Carolina". Doug Gray's vocals are top rate as usual and the band really cooks when they decide to cut loose. Overall, there is a nice mixture of up tempo and laid back songs.
Stay in the Country - A good opening number with nice slide guitar work by Stuart Swanlund. One of the few numbers where the organ is featured prominently (albeit briefly).
Destruction (Confessions of a Junkie) - Tense, aggressive song with a nice sax solo by Jerry. Good change of pace.
Ballad of M.T.B. - Nice story song chronicling the history of the band. Fans should be able to pick out the lyrical and musical references to many of their older songs. Intended to be a good-natured celebration of the people, places, and things that have shaped their music, not a serious epic.
Chase The Memory - Nice flute throughout by Jerry. Subtle slide guitar playing underneath with a short solo spot just prior to the 3 minute mark.
County Road - Up tempo rocker with plenty of sax and guitar to get you moving. Tim Lawter thumps a pretty mean bassline to keep the energy level up throughout.
Why Can't You Love Me - A funky number with vocals by Stuart Swanlund and plenty of sax from Jerry. This one may grow on you as, despite the plaintive nature of the title, it is actually a rollicking number with a toe-tapping beat that is quite catchy.
Special Lady - This one sounds so much like the stuff that The Doobie Brothers were putting out during their "Toulouse Street" through "Stampede" era. High energy and highly produced.
No Mercy - More flute and slide guitar. Don Cameron's piano work is featured more prominently on this one. A very nice tune.
Love Will - Steel guitar, acoustic guitar, and piano combine to set the mood on this reflective number.
And The Hills - The steel guitar and piano stick around for this fun, up tempo song. Guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and perhaps even a chuckle. I suspect they enjoyed recording this one.
Modern Day Man - The opening vocals by Doug sound like he is sitting right there with you. Nice use of banjo and acoustic guitar.
Closer Today - A good gospel closer written by Doug Gray. Solo acoustic guitar provides the intro. This one ends a cappella.
Summary: "Southern Spirit" easily fits in with the classic Tucker releases. While I don't recommend it as the ideal starting point if you are looking to find out what the music of MTB is all about, it does need to be on the list of albums to be added to one's collection eventually. If you are a classic Tucker fan who has been hesitant to listen to the post Caldwell-McCorkle-Riddle stuff, go ahead and give this one a listen as Doug and Jerry do keep that "Southern Spirit" alive in the music.