Pure Prairie League “Great American Radio Vol. 8”

Retroworld, 2021

Not a lot of country, but plenty of rock on a great archive live release.

This 2 CD set is taken from a show at the Calderone Concert Hall in  Hempstead New York on April 30th 1978. The recording comes from a broadcast on local Long Island station WLIR-FM. Opening with Gene Clark’s ‘Kansas City Southern’ the set focuses on the then newly released ‘Just Fly’ album with nine of the albums’ ten songs being played. These songs head in a more soft rock direction than some of the earlier material. The departure of Steel Guitar and Banjo player John David Call is probably responsible for the change in sound between this show and the previous year’s ‘Live! Takin The Stage’ official live album. ‘Love Will Grow’ sounds like it could have come from a Little River Band album, and only the guitar solo roughens things up from the smooth AOR sound. Like a number of the songs here it peters out rather than comes to a definite endpoint. Presumably the studio version faded rather than finished.

The second disc starts with ‘Amie’ and is a great version of one of their better known songs. Both that and ‘My Young Girl’ which follows have a definite Allman Brothers flavour to them. ‘Bad Dream’ is a guitar showcase for George Powell and the Goshorn Brothers and is one of the highlights of the record. The well known songs stack up towards the end of the set as you might expect, with the closer being ‘Two Lane Highway’. According to the setlist.fm website this is the complete show from the night including all four songs played as encores. The final song ‘Came Through’ is clearly Pure Prairie League’s ‘Freebird’ and as a song that only featured on the Live album in 1977 this highlights the shift from country-ish rock to a place that sits in Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allmans territory, at least live. Having been back to listen to a couple of their studio albums, they are a far less rock proposition with ‘Just Fly’ being very much in the late 70s AOR camp.

The constant references to “the people out there in radio land” betray the recording’s origin. It sounds like at least part of the show was taken from an off air source as there is some loss of quality on ‘Place in the Middle’ which sounds like FM radio distortion. The second disc has a noticeably better sound quality compared to the rather compressed on air sound, so that may have come from the original tapes. Having the audience noise higher in the mix than would be typical on a “proper” live album does distract a little from the listening experience. The ethics of releasing radio broadcasts as semi-official live albums are dubious at best and we have to hope that performers and writers are being properly remunerated for this release. The Great American Radio series includes a number of other Americana acts, Guy Clark was volume 1 with Asleep At The Wheel and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band also getting releases. If you want to hear where American roots rock was in the late 70s before the bland years of the early 80s, this Pure Prairie League release is a good place to start.

7/10
7/10

About Tim Martin 95 Articles
Back to bouncing between Clevedon and Crianlarich, with all sorts of Americana music to help the journey. I then write about some of it here and elsewhere...

1 Comment

  1. Interesting to an already confirmed PPL fan, but be aware of previous semi-official live albums, ‘Concert Classics Vol 1.’ (1999) which is clearly a later show as Vince Gill is present and ‘Songs of Pure Harmony’ (2001) which is a show from Denver in 1974. The former has some good moments but suffers from variable sound quality, the latter had such dire sound quality that I sold it off pretty smartly.
    So regarding this one, tempting as it sounds “caveat emptor”.
    Thanks for the heads-up though.

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