Molly Hatchet

Flirtin' With Disaster (Epic 79) Rating: B
Some bands have a brief moment and then fade into obscurity, and though they existed before and after, Flirtin' With Disaster was Molly Hatchett's moment. The classic title track can still be heard on classic rock radio, but though that great groove rocker is clearly the high point here, other solid songs also make this '70s relic well worth having. Sure, the band never really overcomes their reputation as a second rate Lynyrd Skynyrd, lacking the depth and songwriting chops of that superior Southern rock band, but that doesn't mean that Molly Hatchet doesn't have virtues of their own. Their three guitars (played by Dave Hlubek, Steve Holland, and Duane Roland) can really cook on songs such as "Long Time" and "Boogie No More," the latter of which flat out smokes, 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 obvious highlight that describes the dangers of alcoholism ("you have your highs, you have your lows, nobody knows which way you'll go"), and "One Man's Pleasure," which contains this choice tidbit: "Now when I left this town, it was for her and me, Now I'm all alone, with a paper that says I'm free, I guess I'll hit the road again and do what I do best, To hell with her, to hell with him, to hell with all the rest." Those thoughtful songs are the exceptions rather than the rule, however, as most of these macho rockers are more likely to glorify gambling, drinking, and the general carousing that comes about from being in a band. As such, this can best be appreciated as an "it's Saturday night so let's go rustle up the boys for some drinking" kind of album. However, even then you'd be better off if you had a programmable cd player. Their version of "All Over Now" is solid but superfluous (the Rolling Stones version makes all others superfluous), "Jukin' City" is annoyingly rednecky, and my intelligence seems to shrink with repeat listens to "Good Rockin'." Better are "Gunsmoke" and "Let The Good Times Roll," but even these are merely competently performed, somewhat generic Southern-styled boogie rockers. Still, I'm glad I own Flirtin' With Disaster. After all, I can only listen to so much Skynyrd...

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, 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" especially) are unworthy of inclusion. Other highlights include "Bounty Hunter," their excellent cover version of the Allman Brothers Band's "Dreams I'll Never See" (even if I prefer the original), "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 for my money gives the classic likes of "Freebird," "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 when I want to listen to these guys.

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