The Music Band Live

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As grim as War's overly ambitious release of 1979's The Music Band and The Music Band 2 albums could be, the following year's live compilation of the two, spread over a triple-LP package, was even more so. Acting as the third in a truly odd -- and oddly conceived -- triumvirate of separate but related albums, The Music Band Live emerged surprisingly poorly played, offering up a sound that was more damaged disco-jazz than their jamming world-funk. And, although there was a smattering of the group's old-time rhythm, it's readily clear that, by the time it hit the shelves, most of the group's fire and snap were well in the past. Offering up what amounted to an extended hits package, The Music Band Live falls ever flatter across early treasures "Spill the Wine" from their 1970 debut and a nearly eight-minute version of "Slippin' into Darkness," a Top 20 hit from 1971's All Day Music. The 11-plus-minute "Gypsy Man" at least manages to capture some of the mantric opus of the original but, sadly, even the band's own sure-to-please staples fail to spark, as both "Low Rider" and "The World Is a Ghetto" fall flat, with the latter little more than an elevator-lite version of its former self. It's too bad, really, that this series of albums proved to be such a critical and commercial disaster. Indeed, The Music Band Live didn't even trip into the charts -- the first time that War missed their mark completely.