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Articles Home » 1981 Articles » 38 Special - 1981 Wild Eyed Southern Boys
38 Special - 1981 Wild Eyed Southern Boys

ARTIST: 38 Special
ALBUM: Wild Eyed Southern Boys
YEAR: 1981
CD REISSUE: 1990, A&M, CD3298


LINEUP: Donnie Van Zant - lead vocals * Don Barnes - guitar, piano, lead vocals, backing vocals * Jeff Carlisi - guitar, steel guitar * Larry Junstrom - bass * Steve Brookins, Jack Grondin - drums

Guests: Steve McRay - piano * Terry Emery - percussion * Carol Bristow, Carol Veto - Lu Moss - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Hold On Loosely * 02 First Time Around * 03 Wild Eyed Southern Boys * 04 Back Alley Sally * 05 Fantasy Girl * 06 Hittin' And Runnin' * 07 Honky Tonk Dancer * 08 Throw Out The Line * 09 Bring It On


38 Special clearly had no doubt about the direction they needed to go in 1981, after making their singles chart breakthrough with 1979's 'Rocking Into The Night'. A Peterik/Sullivan composition, it had been demoed by Survivor but excluded from their debut album. It had definite Southern/AOR crossover appeal, making it chart ready without sacrificing their Southern identity. No surprise then that Peterik was retained as a songwriting partner for several of the key tracks on what would become 'Wild Eyed Southern Boys'. Here you'll find Southern AOR clearly defined as a sub-genre, 38 Special finding a winning sound and approach they would further refine with the following three albums. So what of this first installment in the four album streak?

The Songs
From the opening hook of 'Hold On Loosely' it's clear that AOR is firmly on the agenda. Melodies abound, capped off by a sweeping chorus that ushered the tune right into the dizzy heights of the US top 20. 'First Time Around' is a grittier affair, more concerned with attitude than melody. A certain Southern swagger comes to the fore, this takes a few listens to get into but ends up rewarding the patient listener. Title track 'Wild Eyed Southern Boys' is a combination of stirring elements, bringing Molly Hatchet/Blackfoot into very close contact with AOR. Dual lead vocals of the storytelling variety add to the charm, small wonder it's a concert favourite and 38 Special classic to this day. 'Back Alley Sally' returns to more pure Southern tendencies, Hatchet taking a neat catch at second slip off a perfect Blackfoot outswinger! 'Fantasy Girl' again fuses slight boogie elements with a titanic AOR melody, enough hooks to compete with the annual Algoa Bay angling contest. A deserving second single, 'Fantasy Girl' charted just outside the US top 40. In doing so it not only gave the album a second sales push, but further established a credible AOR identity for 38 Special. 'Hittin' And Runnin' thoroughly defines Southern AOR for me, inviting REO Speedwagon and Journey into the heart of Jacksonville. A tempo that sways between boogie and waltz, a voodoo invoking main riff and trance inducing aquatic lead runs all blend perfectly with the swirling multiple melodies. The melodic attack is utterly relentless, changing angle at times but never lowering it's intensity. Probably one of the best AOR tracks I've ever heard, for me it's the centrepiece of this album. 'Honky Tonk Dancer' tugs some funk out of the band, spiced up with hints of country and Texas blues. You could call it a precursor to 'I Oughta Let Go' from two years later, a jarring listen at first, but repeat plays reveal charm and depth. 'Thrpw Out The Line' reprises the Southern approach but less convincingly so this time, something about the melody sounds incomplete. Not a shocker, but certainly not a highlight. However, 38 Special stay true to their hallmark of closing each album with a killer tune. 'Bring It On' does exactly that, a tough riff and smouldering atmosphere preside over a quality AOR melody. Certainly comparable to the rugged AOR Molly Hatchet would unleash circa 'No Guts No Glory', essential listening.

In Summary
There you have it, 38 Special were clearly leading the pack when it came to incorporating AOR into their Southern sound. To be fair, both Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet were already getting more melodic in 1981 with some AOR ingredients creeping in, but not as clearly defined as on 'Wild Eyed Southern Boys'. Their fortunes on the charts and tour circuit would only get stronger from here, but to fully understand how the winning streak was launched, give this gem a listen.

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#1 | jeffrey343 on December 04 2012 17:29:42
I got this one in high school, probably around the same time I got 'Special Forces', and it got a lot of airplay all through high school. Of course 'Hold On Loosely' and 'Wild-Eyed Southern Boys' were all over radio (and still are all over 80's stations). 'Fantasy Girl' and 'Hittin' and Runnin'' were also faves of mine. And 'Bring It On' was an absolute killer, one of my favorite all-time songs. The other ones were still good but maybe a bit more Southern than I liked at the time, but they've definitely grown on me (especially 'First Time Around', which is another killer). I can put all four of their albums from this one to 'Strength In Numbers' on in the car and not touch the buttons for days.
#2 | dude24 on May 01 2016 18:20:15
Loved Rodney Mills production on all the classic 38 Special albums, especially Jeff Carlisi's/Don Barnes' guitars.
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