Jack Mack & The Heart Attack – Live From Centennial Park – Atlanta, 1996
Free Roll Records & Superstar Factory Productions
11 songs, 1 hour
Live albums are really hit or miss. No one can deny seeing a band live is truly a communion of energy; the physical force of sound waves directly transferring from musicians to audience. Sometimes that visceral interaction can translate, the gold standard being Buddy Guy’s 1996 album Live! The Real Deal in which you feel like you are in Legends being charmed by the master of the Stratocaster. But, sometimes a great live band plays to the audience in a way that is actually kind of boring to listen to at home sitting on your lazy-boy. As incredible as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were live (truly on the best live bands ever) their live recordings often have long periods of arena audience interaction and banter which would be so fun in person but leave big gaps of relative silence. Lucky one of the hardest working, tightest and longest lasting national level R&B/Soul bands, Jack Mack & The Heart Attack, deliver for the 2020 stereo listener just like they did in 1996 for the Atlanta Olympic crowd.
This historical document of a kick ass band in full stride is not only a party igniter it is also a sad reminder of the tragic bombing of the 1996 Olympics. In fact the bomb went off just as Jack Mack finished their original song “I Walked Alone,” the only evidence on this recording is the abrupt fizzly cut at the end of the song. Archival footage of this moment has been included in Clint Eastwood’s 2019 movie Richard Jewel. However, the somber conclusion to this set cannot diminish the overwhelming joy and passion of preceding the music.
So you might be asking like this uninitiated reviewer did: Who are Jack Mack & The Heart Attack? First Jack Mack is a band not a person (although the original drummer’s nickname was Jack Mack). Jack Mack is a hard core Stax styled soul band that has been running strong with various line ups since 1980, including various lead vocalists. What is at the core of this band is a tight as hell rhythm section led by guitarist, one of only two currently employed original members, Andrew Kastner. And, a sharp, creative and flexible horn section called The Heart Attack Horns led by the other still current original member Bill Bergman. Kastner and Bergman have kept this band running through the decades and through various popular taste shifts. It can be argued The Macks were at a career high, one of many, in 1996 when they were tapped to play for the Atlanta Olympics. With TC Moses as their lead singer presiding like a mix of James Brown and Sly Stone (both artists that are covered heavily in the set) the music was thumping and the style of soul review that the band specializes in was still quite in vogue (Soul has had many revivals or maybe it has never gone out of vogue!). Tim Scott on bass, Alvino Bennett on drums, John Paruolo on organ and Lester Lovitt on trumpet, filling out a lean horn section, move with bravado and big showbiz polish.
Jack Mack’s Centennial Park set started just after midnight on July 27, 1996 with an obscure soul nugget “More Soul” and the music didn’t stop for a full hour. One of the show center pieces is a blisteringly seamless Sly and the Family Stone medley. Hyped up, rock hard versions of the more chilled out Stone originals “Sing A Simple Song,” “Thank You (Fallettin Me Be Mice Elf Again),” “Stand,” and “Dance to the Music” is a great primer on the Jack Mack vibe. They take the hammer and pump of James Brown (whose “Sex Machine” they turn into a coked out romp) and combine it with the soul and depth of feeling of The Staple Singers (whose “I’ll Take You There” leaves no room for doubt in the Mack hands). Sliding into almost half the set are Jack Mack originals, all collaborative co-writes. What a feat: standing up tall original numbers side by side with can’t-mess-up covers, because you know it’s James Brown and Mavis Staple. That’s what this band has done for the past 40 years. Jack Mack & The Heart Attack are the real deal and this live testament is a fantastic thrill ride 24 years later.