You Had to Be There: Recorded Live

Jimmy Buffett

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You Had to Be There: Recorded Live Review

by Johnny Loftus

Jimmy Buffett's first live set established the treasure chest of gags and grooves that would make the singer impossibly successful over the next 20-plus years. As an easygoing, '70s-sounding Buffett says at the beginning of "Grapefruit-Juicy Fruit," "I've been wanting to do a live album for (a long time) since that's where we have the best time." And he proves to be a gracious, goofy host, straying into rambling tangents of conversation and storytelling that are at least (if not more) entertaining than the music itself. Musically, "Pencil Thin Moustache" becomes amped-up barroom boogie rock, complete with a honking harmonica. The Coral Reefer Band imbues "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" with the creaking charm of a comfortable deck chair; with Buffett's smiling vocal on top, it sounds better than an open bar tab at a Caribbean beach café. Later, Buffett introduces his biggest hit with some prescient banter. "People ask me, 'Where the hell is "Margaritaville"?'" He suggests that the famed, fictional island might be at the bottom of a Cuervo bottle before saying "It's anywhere you want it to be." And with that, Buffett launches into the song that caused a thousand unplanned sick days. While his big hits sound great, low-key acoustic numbers like "God's Own Drunk" and "Captain and the Kid" show off his songwriting and guitar playing while keeping things light with funny asides. Fans of Buffett's show will recognize You Had to be There as a prototype of his later summertime extravaganzas; for everyone, it's simply an entertaining live album from an era when the concert industry wasn't yet contaminated by greed, gold level seating, and rote performances.

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