Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen

Tales from the Ozone

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Tales from the Ozone was the second album Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen cut for Warner Bros. in 1975. It was to be their last studio effort with the label, but what a way to go out. Like their eponymously titled set earlier in 1975, Tales from the Ozone featured a plethora of great songs, from writers as diverse as Cab Calloway ("Minnie the Moocher," which opens the set) to Billy Joe Shaver ("I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train") to Hoyt Axton ("Lightning Bar Blues" and "Paid in Advance"), who produced the band here, to Leiber & Stoller ("The Shadow Knows") to Blackie Farrell ("Tina Louise"), Mel McDaniel ("Roll Your Own"), George Hawke ("Honky Tonk Music"), and Hank Williams ("Cajun Baby"). There was also room for a couple of group originals, the swinging rockabilly of "It's Gonna Be One of Those Nights" and the stomping "Gypsy Fiddle." Critics have been critical of the production on this set in the past, but Axton knew exactly what he was doing in the studio. The "flat" sound is the dynamic the band had live, with everything up in the mix. Check out the country subtleties in "Connie," where the story comes across full and plain despite the outrageous chops of this very large-voiced octet. The Shaver tune rocks far harder than it ever did in either its original or Waylon Jennings' versions, especially with the Commander (George Frayne) riding the upper register with Bobby Black's steel and Billy Kitchen's Telecaster struggling for dominance against the horn section -- provided courtesy of Tower of Power. There is care and delicacy put into country songs like "Honky Tonk Music" and "Lightning Bar Blues." The latter is one of the great party songs ever put on wax, and equals Jerry Jeff Walker's "Pick Up the Tempo" in singalong quotient. The Williams tune, "Roll Your Own," and "Tina Louise" are equally driven country gems, rounding out one of the most consistent and live sounding records the Lost Planet Airmen ever cut.

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