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Album Review

1978 was a rollercoaster year for Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes: they made the finest album of their career, Hearts of Stone, and saw it released to a fistful of rave reviews, but Epic Records showed little enthusiasm for promoting the record, and by the end of the year the band was looking for a new label. Adding to their troubles, their frequent collaborator Steve Van Zandt had taken a full-time gig with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and would no longer be working with them. So what does a great show band do in this predicament? They play some shows, and 1978 Live in Boston features the Jukes playing a fiery concert for an enthusiastic audience at Boston's Paradise Theater just two days before Christmas. While a few numbers from Hearts of Stone make the set list (most notably "Trapped Again" and "This Time Baby's Gone for Good"), the album's often somber mood wasn't always a good fit for a band that turned each live show into a house party, and for all the bluesy fire of "The Fever" and the soulful heartache of "Love on the Wrong Side of Town," this disc hits fifth gear when the Jukes crank it up on Sam Cooke's "Having a Party," Lloyd Price's "Stagger Lee," and their own "I Don't Want to Go Home." (And let no one say Southside Johnny lacks Christmas spirit, as two Yuletide numbers, "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" and "Merry Christmas Baby" close out the show.) While guitarist Billy Rush wasn't as strong a vocal foil for Johnny Lyon as Van Zandt, his guitar work here is sharp, and the band sounds rollicking and fiercely enthusiastic (especially the horn section) as Johnny Lyon confirms his rep as one of the great frontmen in East Coast rock, sounding confident and in control on every cut. 1978 Live in Boston doesn't quite match the scope of the Jukes' 1981 live set Reach Up & Touch the Sky, and the audio is a bit on the flat side, but this captures a top-flight band firing on all cylinders, and if you need a reminder of why Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes were regarded as one of America's best live acts in the '70s, this recording will answer all your questions and leave you shouting for more.

1978: Live In Boston, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes
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