Molly Hatchet

Greatest Hits (Epic '85, Sony '01) Rating: A-
Although often dismissed as a second rate Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet was in fact one of the best of the second generation of "Southern rock" bands. True, they sounded a lot like a more hard rock Skynyrd, and they lack the overall depth, variety, and songwriting chops of that superior band, but that doesn't mean that Molly Hatchet doesn't have significant virtues of their own (they certainly had cooler album covers courtesy of Frank Frazetta). Their three guitars (played by Dave Hlubek, Steve Holland, and Duane Roland) really cook on songs such as "Gator Country" and "Boogie No More," both of which feature extended guitar jams, while Danny Joe Brown's gruff, growling vocal style is very effective. Sometimes their lyrics are even worth paying attention to, too, such as on "Whiskey Man," another standout track which describes the dangers of alcoholism ("you have your highs, you have your lows, nobody knows which way you'll go"), though most of these rugged, macho rockers are more likely to glorify gambling, drinking, hunting, and the general carousing that comes about from being in a rock band. As such, this well-selected compilation album can best be appreciated as an "it's Saturday night so let's go rustle up the boys for some drinking" kind of album. Expanded from 12 to 15 tracks on the reissue, Greatest Hits focuses primarily on their first (and best) two studio albums, Molly Hatchet and Flirtin' With Disaster (four songs apiece on the reissue), as well as the live album Double Trouble Live (three songs), and it covers only the Danny Joe Brown era of the band (he left the band for a couple of years in the early '80s). Still, though it may be incomplete, what is here is mostly a very good representation of the band's peak years, even if some of the songs ("Satisfied Man" and "Shake The House Down") are unworthy of inclusion. Other highlights include "Bounty Hunter," their strong cover of the Allman Brothers Band's "Dreams I'll Never See," "Flirtin' With Disaster," the band's signature song (for good reason) and the lone one that still gets played on "classic rock radio," and especially the excellent "Fall Of The Peacemakers," a soulful extended guitar epic that gives the classic likes of "Free Bird," "Green Grass and High Tides," and "Highway Song" a serious run for their money. Molly Hatchet were never critics favorites, and Southern rock may have fallen out of favor during the MTV years and beyond, but good music will always outlast any trends, and Molly Hatchet still have a (mostly male) following of people who appreciate straightforward, kickass guitar-based rock music. The majority of the band's best songs are on this aptly titled collection, which is the one I tend to grab whenever I want to listen to these guys.

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