By: Greg Barbrick
The Outlaws may not be as well remembered today as such Southern Rock luminaries as Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers, but they should be. If ever there were a music that belonged to the ‘70s (besides disco), it had to be Southern Rock. For this dyed-in-the-wool Yankee, Southern Rock was a revelation. The best bands incorporated a wild stylistic mix into their music, including country, blues, R & B, straight-ahead rock, and even jazz-like extended soloing.
The Outlaws covered all these bases and more, as the new four-CD box-set Anthology (Live & Rare) 1973-1981 shows to great effect. I first heard them in 1975 with their hit single “There Goes Another Love Song.” Then one day I flipped the dial over to the FM band, and heard the anthem “Green Grass and High Tides Forever.” Both tunes hailed from their self-titled debut album, and I was hooked.
I know that the group achieved a fair level of success, but it may have been mostly in the South. In the Northwest, I often felt like I was their only fan. So I set about turning my friends onto them, and what better to do that with than with their double-live Bring It Back Alive album? This is actually the first Outlaws album I bought, because back then, live was where it was at. To be honest, I was sold when I saw that all of side four was a 20-minute version of “Green Grass and High Tides Forever.”
Killer stuff to be sure, but teens are a fickle lot, and I kind of moved on afterwards. About the only other song I remember was their killer version of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” in 1980. So when this Anthology came along, I was very interested. As it turns out, this is a pretty great way of filling in the gaps of a band who I appreciated, but never fully got to know.
Three of the four CDs are live, culled from eight different shows, spanning the years 1975-1981. The Outlaws were an especially powerful live act, and I recommend all of this material to anyone interested. But of the three CDs, I would have to single out the second one as the “must.” In contrast to discs one and three, which contain excerpts from multiple shows, disc two is a full set. Titled “Live 1976,” this nine-song program was recorded live at The Record Plant in Los Angeles in November of that year.
The band were on fire, without question. The set-list is much closer to that of the 1975 material on the earlier disc, rather than that which was to come in 1978 on Bring It Back Alive. They open with the smoking “Waterhole” and just tear it up all the way through. While Bring It Back does contain both “There Goes Another Love Song,” and “Green Grass,” they are separated by quite a bit of distance. This Record Plant gig finds them closing with a great version of “Green Grass” first, followed by the hit “There Goes.” I don’t know, it just seems they were completely on for this one, and it is fascinating to listen to it now, after being so used to what I had previously heard.
Disc three is similar to disc one, as it contains excerpts from multiple shows. Two are from 1977, and the final one is from 1981. The ‘81 set closes with a very cool “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” As something of a fair weather fan who has only owned their live album, (and still do), these three CDs are a welcome addition.
What I have always needed though is to hear their studio work. On that front, the demos contained on the fourth CD are pretty intriguing. I know that when I hear the word “demo,” I kind of dismiss it. And to be honest, if this set were offered as four separate CDs, I probably would have skipped the demo one out of the feeling of it most likely containing inferior product. Well, you cannot get away from the fact that these are not the final, studio polished tracks. But what I can say is that the music on disc four is definitely worth hearing.
There is some great stuff here, and what is most surprising is how much of it has remained unreleased until now. The Purple Pyramid imprint of Cleopatra Records has always done a great job of packaging their various releases, and this is no exception. What The Outlaws fans consider their “classic” years are the first three albums, The Outlaws; Lady In Waiting; and Hurry Sundown. Demos from all three are included, as well as eight songs from 1973-1977 which have been unreleased until now.
There is a plethora of excellent material on this Anthology, and fans of The Outlaws would be well advised to check it out.