Carolina Dreams: Tour 77

The Marshall Tucker Band

Carolina Dreams Tour’77, a double-CD/single-DVD set from the Marshall Tucker Band, was recorded at one of my favorite hometown concert spots, the Capital Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey. I lived (and still live) one town over in Clifton, and the dear, sweet Capital was the venue of choice for us mid 70s teens. It was perfect for any band who could scare up 3,000 or so fans, which the Marshall Tucker Band could easily do at this stage of their career. This show was performed after the release of Tuckers’ fifth album, Carolina Dreams, which includes the group’s top 20 single “Heard It In A Love Song.” We’re talking the classic MTB lineup with Jerry Eubanks on woodwinds and harmony vocals, George McCorkle on electric, as well as 12- and 6-string acoustic guitars, Doug Gray providing the distinctive lead vocals, Paul Riddle on drums, and brothers Tommy and Toy Caldwell on bass and lead guitar, respectively. This version of MTB was a strong six-piece, pure Southern rock band at the height of their powers, just about to hit it big.

Even non-Southern rock band fans like myself (though I do harbor a bit of a thing for Skynyrd), MTB does have the added distinction (and I think the one thing that makes them stand out, really) of having such a virtuoso reed player in Eubanks. Nowhere is this more evident than on the first CD as he plays melodic flute runs in “Love Song,” and later jams on “Take The Highway.” The recording is noisy at times, and though cleaned-up somewhat, it properly presents Marshall Tucker in that wild, wacky and pot-smoke filled setting of the Capital, very much like all those brittle old theaters you across this country. You can hear the effort they put into their live shows, most notably when they flow easily from the opening track, “Fly Like An Eagle” right into “Long Hard Ride.” Then there is that almost telepathic connection Doug Gray talks about in the booklet’s liner notes: “We’d look at each other with our heads down, but we’d be paying attention. It wasn’t a competitive thing between us we — all wanted to make things creative for everybody.” This is certainly evident on a song like “I Should Have Never Started Lovin’ You,” another highlight on the first CD.

The second CD opens with “Never Trust A Stranger,” a chugging mid-tempo number, followed by “24 Hours At A Time.” which sounds like it was taken from a different source. “Ramblin,’ is pure MTB at their bluesiest fun, followed by the crowd-pleasing “Can’t You See,” which ends the regular set. The DVD is taken from the same concert at the Capitol, with the exception of “24 Hours At A Time,” which was ‘reconstructed’ from a few sources (it seems the band didn’t have sufficient footage of this song, so we get a little footage and interspersed video instead). And while it’s nice to have all this visual accompaniment, I dare say watching Marshall Tucker perform, especially from a video source this rough, is only the most diehard fan will appreciate. The DVD stands as a historical document and nothing more for the causal fan. There is also some commentary from lead singer Doug Gray, which is nothing more then a stilted interview playing over the show, instead of being specific to the action taking place. Despite a few misfires on the DVD, there’s a lot to dig about this set. It’s nice to hear the Marshall Tucker Band from back in the day, just about before they broke big with “Love Song.” And it’s especially nice to see and hear them play a venue that meant so much to me personally.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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