Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen - Live at Gilley's
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Live at Gilley's (Smith Music Group, 2000)

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

There was a time in the early '70's when the most unlikely hippie stoners could be found digging the hardcore twang and jumpin' jive of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Early songs, like "Seeds and Stems (Again)," mixed country sentiment with hippie lifestyle, and their covers (e.g., "Hot Rod Lincoln") introduced classics to a whole new audience. The Airmen flushed out earfuls of overblown progrock with twangy pedal steel, boogie woogie pianos and a wicked sense of cultural mayhem.

The original band was also a superb live outfit. Before drifting apart in 1977, they released three live albums by the core lineup. Two posthumous live LPs provide additional coverage of their California gigs, Texas honky-tonkin' and European tours.

This 1982 recording features a latter-day edition of the Airmen, and sports only Cody and guitarist Bill Kirchen from the original lineup. Bassist Dave Brown is a solid replacement for Buffalo Bruce Barlow, and the rest of the players are certainly competent. But despite Cody's energetic leadership and an enthusiastic crowd, the magic of the early days is gone. Older tunes sound rehashed rather than refreshed and filled with stoney wonder, and newer tunes such as "Two Triple Cheese," just don't measure up to the classics.

Cody completists will enjoy this document of the Commander's 1980's work, but for those wishing full immersion into the original experience, the Airmen's debut ("Lost in the Ozone") or an earlier live LP ("Live From Deep in the Heart of Texas") are better picks.

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