Review: The Georgia Satellites Blast Off on This Resurrected and Rousing 1988 Concert

Georgia Satellites
Lightnin’ In a Bottle
(Cleveland International)
4.5 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

It’s only rock and roll but I like it, famously sang the Rolling Stones. That simplistic yet compelling sentiment was such a driving force in the Georgia Satellites that they not only covered it live but tacked it onto the concert version of their biggest hit, “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.”

Strap in and buckle up to experience that moment, along with 17 more on this long overdue document of a typically rowdy and raucous Satellites gig from beforetimes, ie: December 11, 1988. The basic four-piece lineup of two guitars, bass, and drums is all they needed to lay out their Southern-tinged, garage rock and roll with no frills or strings attached for a club full of the roots rock faithful. The show was recorded and broadcast live on the radio, but unless you were listening that snowy night, you likely haven’t heard it before. Even 33 plus years later, it hasn’t lost any of its charm, intensity, or unvarnished power.

The Satellites were on tour supporting their second album, Up All Night, released earlier that year. They reprise six of its tracks, add a handful from their wildly successful 1986 debut, and pepper the proceedings with a batch of unexpected yet perfectly chosen covers. There aren’t many bands, then or now, who would combine the classic jump blues “Shake, Rattle & Roll” with the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” but that neatly sums up the Satellites at their most unorthodox.

They dedicate the gig to Roy Orbison who passed away five days earlier, yet there isn’t much of that icon’s subtle melodramatic mystery in the gritty, Faces-styled mayhem the Satellites ladle out over these 80-plus electrifying minutes.

Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Whole Lotta Shakin’” is a perfect way to kickstart this pulse pounding party that also includes frontman/singer Dan Baird spitting out George Jones’ “White Lightnin’,” a swampy take on Del Shannon’s “I Go to Pieces,” and barreling into six nasty slide guitar minutes of Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” as if these guys had no idea, or didn’t care, that the Stones got there first.  

But they really tear it up on their own “Railroad Steel,” a set closer that doubles the studio version’s time, exploding with dueling guitars and the raw energy that only occurs when a band is burning up the stage.

That and more is on display, leaving any listener wondering why these guys called it quits after just one more album, letting this gather cobwebs in the vaults. The dust has been blown off in a big way with this dynamic document of one characteristic night displaying that the Georgia Satellites know that it’s only rock and roll, and how much they like it.

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