Commander Cody

Rock 'N Roll Again

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At the other end of the decade from Commander Cody's influential early records, the 1977 threat to Rock 'n Roll Again is very short on sidemen associated with the original version of the group. What is presented as the "new" Commander Cody band is in turn long on sidemen drawn from the same pool that fed various versions of New Riders of the Purple Sage, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Jefferson Starship. The bandleader here whips his extended line-up of players into much finer fettle than they had been or would be in the previous list of bands, all of which veered toward the casual and sloppy. "Pretty well tamed" is nonetheless how a fan of Commander Cody described this album in the scheme of things, since moments of tight, exciting synchronized instrumental interplay are likely to lead to passages that have all the momentum of a load-bearing wall. The production is somewhat graced by the presence of vocalist Nicolette Larson and her sidekick, Charra Penny, giving many of the tracks a strong female singing presence that works to coddle up the warmth of Commander Cody's own vocals. These sound darn good, it has to be said, even on some of the cornier material. He must be a recording engineer's dream, a voice that like a trickling brook naturally finds the path of least resistance in the mix. His singing accomplishments are impressive in this regard, considering how many instruments might be featured at any given time and how strangely some of them might be processed. Not to mention other details in arrangements that sometimes resemble a musical version of the culinary revolution of the '90s, a flexi-tone merrily sharing space with a pedal steel, followed by a smooth tenor saxophone solo. "Widow," a title that comes from the chorus "rock & roll widow," is one of the amusing anthems in a program that retains appeal despite what seems overall like a shift in Commander Cody's musical goals, from the earlier delightful influence of Western swing to a more homogenized, funky-butt posture more typical of a local bar band. The arguable significance of this is further watered down by unnecessary string arrangements.

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