Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Outlaws - Outlaws (1975)

When The Outlaws debut LP was released in 1975 it instantly became one of my all-time favorite rock albums. Thirty-four years later I still love it to death.

In many ways this is a typical Southern rock album. The Outlaws employed the sub-genre's usual country influences and multiple lead guitarists but instead of the dual lead setup used by many Southerners they assaulted your speakers with a loud electric trio. Fronting the quintet were Hughie Thomasson, Billy Jones, and Henry Paul. They were supported by the rhythm section of Frank O'Keefe on bass and Monte Yoho on drums. Keyboards were nowhere to be found.

What made these Floridians, and especially this album, so outstanding? The boys from Tampa could rock with wild, reckless abandon and be tasteful at the same time. The trio were among the most melodic of Dixie's electric axemen. Add sterling three part vocal harmonies to the mix that were worthy of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and the clean production of Paul A. Rothchild who became famous for producing the early Doors albums, and we were all treated to some of the best Southern rock 'n roll ever put on vinyl. The album's opener, "There Goes Another Love Song," became the band's biggest hit and is a perfect showcase for everything they did well.

Other standout tracks include the Jones ballad "It Follows From The Heart," and Paul's "Stay With Me" and "Song In The Breeze." The LP closes with the arena anthem, "Green Grass & High Tides," a song that followed in the footsteps of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird." It's 9:47 of guitar-jamming, speaker blowing, head-banging, rock 'n roll.

The Outlaws never made a bad record but their debut was so phenomenal they were never able to top it. The album charted for sixteen weeks, peaked at number thirteen, and was deservedly certified gold in 1977.

Their follow up album, Lady In Waiting, contained "Breaker Breaker" a minor hit that took full advantage of the CB radio craze that was peaking around 1976. O'Keefe then left the band and was replaced by Harvey Dalton Arnold for 1977's Hurry Sundown. Soon the band's lineup became a revolving door of personnel changes until they broke up in 1982. There was one more hit single, "Ghost Riders In The Sky" from the 1980 album, Ghost Rider.

Unfortunately, only two of the original band members survive today. O'Keefe, a chronic alcoholic, died at age 44 in February 1995 and Jones was found dead less than a month earlier of unknown causes. Thomasson passed away from a heart attack in 2007. Paul and Yoho continue to play today in the most recent version of The Outlaws.

The current lineup's official website has a video of a fine live arrangement of "Green Grass & High Tides."

You can buy the album on CD from Amazon.

3 comments:

  1. I was lucky enough to work on a radio station where this album got airplay when it was first released. I loved to play "Green Grass & High Tides", haven't heard it in way too long, thanks for the reminder of this great record.

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  2. Please go to facebook at....Billy Jones the Outlaws..wow great new site !

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