Jon Pousette-Dart - electric and acoustic guitars, slide guitar, vocals; John Troy - bass, vocals; John Curtis -electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, vocals; Michael Dawe - drums, percussion, vocals
At the dawn of the 1970s, aspiring singer-songwriter Jon Pousette-Dart began building his reputation on the New England coffeehouse circuit. Performing solo acoustic, he initially attracted a following with his captivating voice and lyrical sketches of romantic adventure. Soon teaming up with John Troy, the duo became a popular fixture on the Cambridge music scene, before recruiting multi-instrumentalist songwriter, John Curtis, into the fold. Becoming Pousette-Dart String Band, the acoustic trio gained the attention of entertainment mogul Don Law, who signed on as manager. With Law's encouragement, the group began refining their sound and developing new material, while touring extensively throughout New England, building up a strong fan base.
By the middle of the decade, Jon Pousette-Dart's songwriting and the group's compelling performances had attracted enough attention to warrant a multi-album deal with Capitol Records and work began on their first Pousette-Dart Band album. Released in 1976, the self-titled debut was an impressive effort with fully fleshed out arrangements that took Pousette-Dart's songs of relationships and romantic entanglement to the next level.
Overflowing with tight harmonies and infectious song arrangements, the group delivered a second album, Amnesia the following year, which was even more impressive than the debut. Unlike so many albums of the era, Amnesia was devoid of slick production and studio gimmicks. Instead, the album conveyed the solid musicianship and captivating vocal presence that the group was delivering onstage. 1978 and 1979 saw the release of the bands third and fourth albums respectively, where songwriting and arranging responsibilities became more evenly divided among the band members. The sound of the group diversified as a result, but retained the integrity and cohesive sound of the earlier albums. They remained in high demand, particularly in New England where they toured incessantly, becoming one of the busiest performing bands in the country.
This performance, recorded shortly after the release of the Pousette-Dart Band's fourth album, Never Enough, was one of the more high profile gigs on the tour. Opening for Peter Frampton (near his peak of popularity) at the Oakland Auditorium, this recording captures the Pousette-Dart Band fully engaged, before an appreciative audience. Focusing on the strongest material from their new album, with two choice songs from Amnesia, included for good measure, this set clearly shows the band's progression since the first two albums.
The bulk of the performance concentrates on Never Enough material when it was fresh and the group was thoroughly enjoying performing this new material. Following Bill Graham's introduction, they kick off their set with the title track, essentially a re-titled cover of Robin Lane & the Chartbusters' "When Things Go Wrong," reworked with different lyrics. Despite the infectious melody, this song failed to make the Top 40 by either artist, but is a delightfully catchy opener that immediately grabs the attention of the Winterland audience. Next up is bassist John Troy's humorous countrified-funk arrangement of the traditional, "Hallelujah, I'm A Bum," followed by John Curtis' "Gotta Get Far Away," a funky pop song that displays the group's tight musicianship. The group's precision is even more prominent on the next number, "Silver Stars." Written by Curtis, this instrumental begins with a nod to the melody of "Amazing Grace," but then launches off into a Latin-flavored exercise that features superb rhythm section work from Troy and Davis, tasteful picking from Curtis and sizzling slide work from Pousette-Dart.
The centerpiece of the set is up next. John Curtis switches to mandolin and the band kick things up another notch with "May You Dance," a celebratory song of encouragement from the Amnesia album. Here it is nearly three times the length, providing the band with an improvisational vehicle both vocally and instrumentally. A remarkable cover of David Finnerty's "For Love" follows. Issued as the new album's single, here Jon Pousette-Dart fronts the group on a song so commercially viable that it is astounding this didn't become a smash hit. It easily rivals hits by the Eagles or Firefall, bands having great success with similar musical elements at the same point in time.
The set concludes with the band heading into wackier territory, first with "I Remember," an unrecorded rocker sung by bassist John Troy, followed by Jon Pousette-Dart's "Amnesia," which features the unforgettable opening line (although slightly botched in this recording), "When you hit me on the head with your beer bottle, something in my chemistry changed." This catchy country-rocker ends the set with Jon Pousette-Dart's sense of humor fully intact. Exceptional songwriting and tight musicianship captivated audiences nationwide and this recording is a fine example of the Pousette-Dart Band live and fully engaged.