When they strode onto the stage at NOLA’s fabled Warehouse, The Marshall Tucker Band was still riding high on their hit “Heard it in a Love Song,” played here in all its glory.
Thrilled too, that 3,500 holiday revelers packed the huge place, they went to town for them, and also for the largest radio audience in broadcast history at the time. “New Year’s In New Orleans: Roll Up ’78 and Light Up ’79” jumps with the excitement of a band that, to this day, remains one of a kind.
Guitarist Toy Caldwell wrote songs such as “Can’t You See” and “This Ol’ Cowboy” that by these five players, conveyed charismatic Southern goodness, foot-stomping Western twists and swings, and just plain great rock ‘n’ roll. Caldwell ripped at a guitar like nobody’s business. His jazz and blues and chicken pickin’ mixture, relentlessly delivered, certifies him among the greatest stylists ever, and one matchless in tone.
This album’s version of “Blue Ridge Mountain Sky” may be the best on record, and Caldwell gets down in it, and then sails to the heavens. The tapes of this show have been expertly restored, with a final stamp by the band’s original producer and auxiliary piano player, Paul Hornsby. That level of care, and the band’s hot performance, places it among Tucker’s top live albums, right next to the classic 1974 pieces appended to the seminal “Where We All Belong” album.
Listen to bassist Tommy Caldwell’s thunderous punch at the outset of the swinging “Desert Skies,” and know why the late, great Allen Woody of The Allman Brothers Band looked to Caldwell as a hero. The grand “Fly Like an Eagle” soars on vocalist Doug Gray’s huge range and rich character before it kicks hard into the instrumental cowboy classic, “Long Hard Ride.” All the essentials are present, so “New Years In New Orleans: Roll Up ’78 and Light Up ’79” serves as an excellent introduction to The Marshall Tucker Band, and is essential for fans, just the same.
— Tom Clarke
Marshall Tucker Band
‘New Year’s In New Orleans: Roll Up ’78 and Light Up ‘79’
Release: Jan. 17, 2020