Ever since Chuck Mangione was stamped and branded as "commercial," we have tended to forget that his first album with a full orchestra was a considerable risk at the time. Then serving on the faculty of the Eastman School of Music, Chuck had not made an album as a leader in eight years; suddenly, out comes an extravagant yet likable double-LP fusion of jazz, pop, rock, folk and lush orchestrations, recorded live in Rochester and issued independently with the aid of borrowed funds until Mercury picked it up. Occasionally, Mangione can be heard offering some bop flugelhorn lines, but the emphasis is on his melodic compositions and his spirited conducting of members of the Rochester Philharmonic. Most of the prominent soloing is left to the beam-of-light soprano sax of Gerry Niewood (this would be his launching pad, too), Marvin Stamm's trumpet, and brother Gap on funky electric piano. The concert's 26-minute centerpiece "Friends and Love" quickly establishes itself as a multi-faceted, often intimately folk-based vocal suite, with interludes of orchestral Dixieland and Latin jazz, though it trails off inconclusively. The best tune of the concert -- and perhaps the most artistically successful fusion of Mangione's life -- is the gently insistent "Hill Where the Lord Hides," which exudes a life force that remains irresistible. Although nothing else here reaches this peak, we still feel the charged atmosphere of a young talent bursting the boundaries of his time while open-heartedly embracing his audience. A single LP containing most of the concert was also issued by Mercury.
AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell