Album sales notwithstanding, the main objective of a live album should be to provide the listener with the next best thing to being there. It should not be just a collection of hits that were needlessly doctored up in the studio, accompanied by stadium-size applause carefully mixed in at the appropriate cues, clocking in at a mere 35 or 40 minutes. Due to prominent deficiencies and superfluous embellishments, very few live albums actually measure up. However, 88, by the arcane roots/garage rock band the 77's, does. Recorded in 1988 in their old stomping grounds of Sacramento, CA, shortly after an unceremonious dumping by Island Records, the album wasn't released until 1991. Taking full advantage of available disc space, 88 provides 77 minutes of brisk, gritty, and aggressive rock & roll. The jams are aplenty (three tracks in excess of 11 minutes), but thankfully lacking are the obligatory and clichéd guitar and drum solos that pollute every other live rock album. The bandmembers do, however, take the opportunity to showcase their abilities at the appropriate times, with much more spontaneous and tasteful results. Perhaps Island's rejection added fuel to their fire during that period, because (while the 77's have always been a tight and intense live act) the concerts from 1987 and 1988 were their finest hour. Mike Roe's guitar playing can easily rival that of most of rock & roll's guitar heroes, but regrettably, his is a forgotten and ignored name. Realistically, the 77's have resigned their quest for stardom, opting just to play honest, impelling music for whoever is fortunate enough to cross their path.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Sleger