Judge Chris Claro's next get-rich-quick-scheme: 1. Introduce Jim Messina to Art Garfunkel. 2. ??? 3. Profit!
Old friends, back together again.
Kenny Loggins: love him or hate him—I pride myself on being in neither camp—his popularity can't be doubted. In the late '70s, his solo work and duets with artists such as Stevie Nicks ("Whenever I Call You Friend") made him a pop mainstay. In the '80s, his songs became cultural avatars in films like Footloose, Caddyshack ("I'm Alright"), and Top Gun ("Danger Zone"). The '90s found him espousing a New-Agey vibe as he made himself at home in adult contemporary radio.
Then there's Jim Messina, who reminds one of George Carlin's old line about walking through Sears and wondering whatever happened to Roebuck. Though selling millions of albums when partnered with Loggins, Messina seemed to fade gently into obscurity after their split. He continued to record and produce after the duo split, but didn't achieve any "Footloose"-level triumph.
Now, thirty years after splitting up, they get back together for Loggins and Messina: Sittin' In Again at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Would the musicians' reunion be as clumsy as the title of the disc that documents it? The answer, I'm happy to say, is "no." Sittin' In Again at the Santa Barbara Bowl is like running into two favorite uncles at a wedding, only one of whom has managed to stave off middle-age spread.
The disc opens with some suspiciously polite and oblique commentary from both men discussing "the nature of the relationship" and how they can "be friends now" because they "never intended to be a duo" since "the student (Loggins) must go on." As with many reunions where the partners have achieved disparate levels of success, there's an element of protesting just a little too much. The commentary really hits the rocks when Loggins acknowledges that "Jimmy is doing a really good job of being Jimmy Messina." Had Messina popped his former partner in the chops for that amuse-bouche of condescension, it would have started the show off with a bang. Visually, the segment doesn't bode particularly well for the rest of the show, as it's accompanied by some truly by-the-numbers pre-show b-roll—load-in, rehearsal footage, eager fans flashing their tickets.
Once onstage, though, it's easy to see what made these guys so popular as a team. And it's equally easy to see why Loggins was so much more successful as a solo performer, as he certainly outweighs his erstwhile partner in the charisma department. Messina's laid-back demeanor may have been '70s cool, but today appears to be boredom. Additionally, the fact that Messina looks nothing like he did in the duo's heyday—he now bears a startling resemblance to actor/director Paul Mazursky—makes Loggins' stage presence that much more valuable.
Musically, L&M offer their fans a strong show, full of their distinctive, good-time country rock. The 5.1 surround soundtrack is crisp, clean and completely immersive. The production itself is solid and well-shot, if unflashy, the only misstep being a visual tribute to a deceased band member in a vignette over a time-lapse shot of rushing clouds. It appears as if the ten-second interlude was farmed out to a central-California wedding videographer.
Loggins and Messina: Sittin' In Again at the Santa Barbara Bowl also makes the most of the duo's history with a series of performances culled from their 1973 appearance on the classic series The Midnight Special. The six tunes sung on that show are covered in the concert and rock as much as they did over thirty years ago. The package also includes a beautifully printed booklet featuring liner notes from legendary New York DJ Pete Fornatale.
For viewers of—ahem—a certain age, Loggins and Messina: Sittin' In Again at Santa Barbara Bowl is a breezy jaunt through the musical life of an iconic '70s duo. From production to packaging, Rhino has done a swell job of recapturing what made these guys and their music so much fun.
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