For many rock listeners, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmenâ€™s 1971 debut, Lost in the Ozone, was a taste-expanding experience. The groupâ€™s catalog of country, western swing, boogie-woogie, jump blues and rockabilly was broader than the country excursions of 1960s rock bands like the Byrds, and though others – notably NRBQ – blended multiple genres, the Airmenâ€™s cover of â€œHot Rod Lincolnâ€ turned commercial attention into a following. The band hit the road in 1973 in support of their third album, Country Casanova, with a new-used tour bus and ace steel player Bobby Black in tow. The tour schedule was apparently quite grueling, but produced superb shows, including this stop in Denver, Colorado.
The groupâ€™s core lineup – George â€œCommander Codyâ€ Frayne, Billy C. Farlow, Bill Kirchen, John Tichy, Lance Dickerson, Andy Stein and Bruce Barlow – had been steady since their debut, and the chemistry theyâ€™d developed in San Francisco Bay Area clubs is evident in this set. They weave together a handful of originals with a wealth of brilliantly selected covers, including sad truckinâ€™ songs, rockinâ€™ rave-ups, Cajun and swing dance numbers, novelty tunes and a cowboy closer. The stereo recording is well preserved, though there are major dropouts on â€œAll I Have to Offer You (Is Me)â€ and â€œDiggy Liggy Lo,â€ and the live mix lets some of the instruments and vocals peak in the red.
The set features three tracks from Country Casanova, including the original â€œRock That Boogie,â€ but skips the earlier hit â€œHot Rod Lincoln.â€ The Commander gets a spotlight on Merle Travisâ€™ â€œSmoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),â€ and the crowd seems quite pleased with the set and six song encore. The 1973 tour has now produced several albums, including the classic Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas and the more recent Tour From Hell. There are a few overlaps in the set lists, but the groupâ€™s huge repertoire provides eleven songs here that donâ€™t appear on the other two. Thereâ€™s a bit of stage banter to give you a feel for the 68-minute show; all thatâ€™s missing is the eveningâ€™s second set! [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]