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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Album Review: Molly Hatchet - Greatest Hits II

Molly Hatchet - Greatest Hits II
2011 SPV Steamhammer
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Molly Hatchet is one of those beasts of a band that both nobody and everybody wants to claim for their own. By this, we're to say the Hatchet has long been buried in the Southern boogie rock and headbanger sanctions. Still, for as long as Molly Hatchet has been tearing ass through the rock world, one would assume they'd dominate classic rock stations like Skynard, The Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, Kansas and Bad Company do.

More than likely the only Molly Hatchet song anyone outside of the band's pack of beer-chasing mongrels knows is "Flirtin' With Disaster," about the only tune any radio station ever spins of theirs. Like Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town" and Nazareth's booming take on "Love Hurts," Molly Hatchet should have at least a few more of their late seventies' hauls such as "Bounty Hunter," "The Creeper" and "Whiskey Man" played with regularity over the airwaves.

Similar to Nazareth, Molly Hatchet once disbanded and has been on the prowl in the 2000s with a steady stream of loud 'n proud revival albums: Devil's Canyon, Justice, Warriors of the Rainbow Bridge, Kingdom of XII and Silent Reign of Heroes. Guitarist Dave Hlubek has been the last man standing in a band that once ran a stint without him in 1989 on the ill-fated Lightning Strikes Twice. That being said, the sextet comprising Molly Hatchet today has been fortified by the songwriting and axe slinging prowess of Bobby Ingram.

On their more recent albums, Molly Hatchet has mixed up the thunder with some prog and it is this reason SPV Steamhammer brings you Greatest Hits II. This double album brings you a pocketful of tunes from the group's past five studio albums and their two live albums, Locked and Loaded and Live in Hamburg. For good measure, a previously unreleased seven minute cut "Sacred Ground" is tossed into the goodie bag.

Say what you will about Molly Hatchet. They have the best goddamn sword 'n sorcery album covers in the business courtesy of Frank Frazetta, even if this compendium dispels with tradition. Instead, Greatest Hits II opts for the less-striking though bluntly-stated message of the South making amends with the North. Under one God, under one joint flag, under one post 9-11 shared conflagration. In other words, Molly Hatchet.

The selections chosen on the first disc of Greatest Hits II may not knock on the door of Molly Hatchet's early catalog, but no doubt every hellraiser in a dinged-up Nova is going to holler along madcap to "Son of the South," "Heart of the USA," "American Pride" and "Mississipi Moon Dog." All of these songs punch the card within four-to five minutes max, capitalizing on anthemic patriotism and their payday-driven masculinity. It's the more progressive "Fall of the Peacemakers," "I'm Gonna Live 'til I Die," "The Journey" and "Rainbow Bridge" which shows a near-bipolar duality to Molly Hatchet in its second life. One thing to note about Bobby Ingram and Dave Hlubek: together, these guys cover as a tag-team what used to be expounded by a threesome. You're listening to these newer compositions with the delivered promise of sparkling solos and mammoth riffing. Somehow Ingram and Hlubek still manage to pass off as a trio.

While many of the studio songs range from good to average on Greatest Hits II, the label is banking on its live selections to keep fans interested. Really, there's nothing amongst the accumulated studio tracks constituting a "hit" in the fiscally measurable sense. Nearly all of the live choices on the second disc are culled from the 1978 self-titled album and subsequent Flirtin' With Disaster. It's been many sundowns since Danny Joe Brown howled overtop "Bounty Hunter," "Gator Country," "Dreams I'll Never See" and "Flirtin' With Disaster." As ralphed by Phil McCormack, these vintage Hatchet tunes are still well-passable and are the reason diehards will want Greatest Hits II if they don't already own Locked and Loaded and Live in Hamburg.

Frankly, Phil McCormack can be a tough pill to swallow at times and Molly Hatchet carries a jughead nuance about them that is often hard to push away when they strive for articulation. Somehow, for all the seriousness of "Fall of the Peacemakers" and "Tatanka," you still have the subliminal image of foxy Southern belles dumping Bud Lights overtop their stretched-out white tees and sloven perverts wearing Johnny Reb bandanas pitching what lies beneath their sterling silver belt buckles. Hell yeah, sons of the South, as McCormack and company bellow.

For diehards and those looking to catch up with Molly Hatchet's doings after bailing on No Guts...No Glory and Deed is Done.

Rating: ***

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