Kenny Loggins - vocals; Jim Messina - lead guitar, mandolin, vocals; Woody Chrisman - guitar, fiddle, mandolin; Doug Livingston - keyboards, pedal steel; Vince Denham - horns, woodwinds; Jon Clarke - horns, woodwinds; George Hawkins - bass; Willie Ornelas - drums
As the 1970s began, aspiring singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins had begun establishing himself as a staff writer, contributing songs to The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band among others, before being signed to Columbia as a solo artist. Former Bufallo Springfield and Poco member, Jim Messina was brought in to produce the first album sessions. The two hit it off so well that before long they were actively collaborating on material and considering teaming up. The debut album was titled Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sittin' In and it soon became an FM radio staple which stayed on the charts for over two solid years, a major accomplishment at the time. By the follow-up, they were Loggins & Messina proper and over the first half of the decade, most of their albums would hit the Top Ten and spawn numerous Top 40 singles. The two were well aware of the monumental success of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and combining that same strong harmony vocal focus over a feel-good country-rock formula similar to Poco, they struck gold and platinum for several years. By 1975, however, they had fulfilled contractual obligations and were running out of steam as a team. They decided to go their separate ways, but agreed to complete a final album and embark on one last Farewell Tour to support it. They formed a hot new band for the tour, but during rehearsals, Loggins sliced a tendon in his wrist, leaving him unable to play guitar. Woody Chrisman is added to the lineup, to fill in Loggins' guitar parts and he brings additional instrumentation such as fiddle and mandolin to the group.
Here we have a Farewell Tour Loggins & Messina concert, recorded at San Francisco's Winterland, headlining a bill that featured old friends The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Dead's country-rock friends, New Riders of the Purple Sage. The concert serves both as a retrospective of the band's career as well as a showcase for material off their final album, Native Sons. Not surprisingly, the album found the duo in a reflective mood, which sometimes permeates the proceedings here, but for the most part it's a night of feel-good music before an extremely appreciative audience.
Not unlike CSNY's concerts, the first half of their set features the more acoustic-oriented material, while the second half showcases more adventurous electric material. The ever popular "Danny's Song" and "Listen to a Country Song," both show up early in the set, the later expanded into a nice country-western medley that includes "Oh Lonesome Me" and "I'm Movin' On" sandwiched in the middle. The new material is represented by the sobering "Be Free" and title track "Native Son." On these songs, as well as a smattering of material from previous albums, the vocal harmonies are nearly always spot on and the group provides elegant and tasteful backing.
However, it is the more electric last half hour of the show that shows the group in the best possible light. Not only do they play two of their best compositions, "Angry Eyes" and "Vahevela," but here both are stretched well beyond twice the length of their studio counterparts. Although the jams within these songs are highly structured, they cook along quite respectfully. Both feature impressive arrangements with catchy breaks and insidious lead guitar from Messina. The added instrumentation, with the exception of the occasionally cheesy mid-'70s synthesizers, adds considerably to the group's dynamics and diversity. Denham and Clarke add tasteful sax and flute solos, and Chrisman's fiddle adds additional flavoring. "Vahevela," here, is almost 14 minutes long, including a new outro coda, and closes the set with a bang.
They return for an all inclusive sing-a-long encore of "Peace of Mind" to end the night and say goodbye on a happy, but reflective, note.