ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, NOV. 6, 2012
By Steve Newton
One of the best things about being a teenaged guitar freak in the ’70s was waiting on the release of a new album by the Outlaws. The Florida quintet–which blasted onto the scene with its self-titled debut album in ’75 and hit its peak two years later with the brilliant Hurry Sundown LP–was overshadowed by fellow southern-rockers like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but still made a huge impression with its twangy, country-edged sound. And with three talented pickers in the lineup–Hughie Thomasson, Billy Jones, and Henry Paul–there was no shortage of white-hot guitar licks.
Cleopatra Records recently issued a four-disc boxed set, Anthology (Live & Rare) 1973-1981, which collects a ton of previously unreleased live tracks and demos from the band’s heyday. The bad news is that the sound quality on several tracks is pretty grim.
The set kicks off on a high note with a live-in-Denver recording of “Waterhole”, the raging two-minute instrumental featured on the band’s debut. Of the live material included on Anthology, the best stuff was recorded at the Record Plants in Sausalito and L.A. in November of ’75 and ’76, and includes such gems as Paul’s “Song in the Breeze”, Jones’s “Cry No More”, and Thomasson’s “Green Grass and High Tides”–his blistering, 10-minute answer to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”.
Of particular interest to Outlaws fanatics are the previously unheard demos from the Outlaws, Lady in Waiting, and Hurry Sundown sessions. It’s cool to hear how the shit-kicker guitar solos from those LPs progressed over time, and how the lyrics and tempos of the songs were adjusted before release.
As great as the Outlaws were, though, this package would have been better off as a three- or even two-disc set rather than four. If they’d deleted the weakest-sounding live tracks and found a way to improve the quality of the demos this would have been an anthology to die for.