THE MARSHALL TUCKER BAND - Together Forever (1978) & Tenth (1980)
The expanded reissue of Marshall Tucker's Together Forever, originally issued in 1978 and the follow-up to the platinum-selling Carolina Dreams, was not so much a change in direction, but a musical expansion of their various strengths. Working with veteran jazz producer Stewart Levine, the Tuckers looked outside the Southern rock paradigm a little farther for inspiration and sustenance. Jazz had always been a fringe element of the band's sound, and here, Levine brought it closer to the surface. That is not to say that Marshall Tucker abandoned their rock & roll aesthetic, far from it. They just deepened the open-ended nature of their tunes to include more improvisation and took a more textural approach to composing and recording. The set opens with Toy Caldwell's stellar "I'll Be Loving You." His stiletto-edged guitar is the catalyst for the song's drive, but the gorgeous suspended and major sevenths that created new harmonic vistas made Doug Gray's highly emotive vocals sound as if they were coming from the land itself. Likewise, "Love Is Mystery" was progressive country at its best in the 1970s. The jazzy stroll of "Dream Lover," with its lilting funk undertones, was something from outer space. The 2004 expanded remaster includes a live reading of "Bound and Determined," which is jazz-funk cowboy music. And if that sounds awful, its groove is over the top and riddled with knots and grease. The recording quality on the tune isn't so great, but the performance is so inspired it's a welcome addition here.
Riding high from such late-'70s classics as "Carolina Dreams" and "Together Forever," the Marshall Tucker Band appeared to be running on full cylinders heading into 1980. With the success and return to their cowboy roots on 1979's Running Like the Wind, many thought the tradition would continue with their next record. That said, Tenth was almost a 90° turn for the band, favoring the slick, warm radio-friendly production and boogie rock a la the Doobie Brothers and other contemporaries. Things only go back to the ranch ever so slightly on the jam-friendly "Cattle Drive," which could easily be backdrop music for a scene on Dallas rather than a "hands-down-back-at-the-ranch" working man's anthem. This isn't the band in their finest form, but it's nowhere near their worst, either. This 1980 release, recently reissued on theWounded Bird imprint in 2005, was the last recording by the Marshall Tucker Band to feature the original lineup. Founding member Tommy Caldwell died tragically a month after the album's release from injuries sustained in a severe automobile accident.