Live on Long Island 04-18-80 – The Marshall Tucker Band
Shout! Factory/Ramblin’ Records 86663-10113
April 18, 1980 would be the final performance for the original lineup of the Marshall Tucker Band. Only ten days after the tour finale at Nassau Coliseum, bassist Tommy Caldwell would die in a car accident and the band would never be the same again. Uncut and preserved in its entirety, Live on Long Island 04-18-80 is essentially a tribute to the bassist’s influence on the famed rock group from South Carolina.
Unlike most Southern rockers of their time, the Marshall Tucker Band was not only anchored but led by their bassist. With tremendous dexterity, Caldwell deftly alternates between the jazzy pop lines of “Last of The Singing Cowboys,” the thumping groove of “Cattle Drive,” and the power-chord rock of “Sing My Blues.” Of course, the jams were where Caldwell’s leadership really shined. The typically sprawling “Ramblin’” is a bit more condensed in this concert, squeezing its intensity into six frenzied minutes with Caldwell’s rumbling bass leading the way. As if Caldwell’s blazing fingers weren’t fast enough on “Ramblin’,” he takes it up another notch with the frenetic pace of “24 Hours at a Time.” In what is certainly the best jam of the evening, Tommy Caldwell and brother, guitarist Toy, lock in for a wild ride, pushing the tempo to ridiculous heights over 16 explosive minutes.
Speaking of Toy Caldwell, this concert is, by and large, not one of his better moments. While one can certainly appreciate some of his solos and lines in this show, his overall playing is a far cry from the virtuosity showcased on the brilliant Stompin Room Only. Toy Caldwell’s Herculean efforts on that live album from 1974 and 1976 certainly made a case for his place as one of the most underrated guitarists in the history of rock. Unfortunately, those lilting, lyrical lines are missing from this 1980 concert. His mellifluous and swirling leads from ’74 evoked shades of vintage Jerry Garcia, but his choppy phrasing, intermittent solos, and scratchy vocals on 04-18-80 sound more like the Garcia of 1995.
In the years between ’76 and ’80, Toy’s tone changed from lush and smooth to tinny and angular, creating a less inviting sound that plagues this concert. Compounding the problem, he’s less assertive on this latter day performance, shooting out very brief solos and lines and opting for sloppier, more muddled phrases rather than precise clusters of notes. Of course, it should be noted that this playing would be considered more than adequate for most guitarists, but after hearing Toy lead a soaring “Searchin’ For a Rainbow” on Stompin’ Room Only and then comparing it to the less invigorating version on Live on Long Island 04-18-80, it’s impossible to walk away without a little disappointment. Toy Caldwell’s previous output forces him to live up to a higher standard, and he can’t quite re-capture that glory in this concert.
Nevertheless, this 04-18-80 performance is a raucous show, with the band busting out spirited versions of all of their hits, including “Heard It In a Love Song,” “Can’t You See,” and “Fire On The Mountain.” The extremely vocal Long Island crowd seems to be having the time of their lives, although at certain points, they sound a bit too present in the mix, which seems to rely too heavily on the audience feed and could have used a little more guitar. Typical for the time, the band has a blast ripping through their unique country-fueled and jazz-tinged repertoire, and Tommy Caldwell frequently grabs the microphone between songs to exhort his praise for the audience and his fellow band members. Sadly, that exuberant voice would be forever silenced only ten days later, and The Marshall Tucker Band would be forced to move into a new and less proficient chapter of their lives.