Just in time for music's favorite holiday, Widespread Panic has culled nine tracks from past Halloweens and put them together in one place for you to get your treat on (or trick). Like most compilations, especially live ones, Jackassolantern lacks in the transitions and the jams (they're cut to leave room for the songs). Point is, you have ample live recordings, releases, and bootlegs to allow one to dig into the instrumental freak outs; JackassoLantern is a chance to hear what songs Panic enjoyed playing on their holiday. The album (also available on vinyl) is a retrospective of choice covers all filtered through the dirty southern grit machine known as Widespread Panic. The selections are great, each one showing the strength of the band, and most with the departed Michael Houser's unmistakable Telecaster sheen.

Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" and Dave Schools' low end is certainly a nice place to get things started and the "Sympathy for The Devil" that follows finds front man John Bell in absolute prime form. "Sex Machine" touches on a bit of humor as they count off the classic James Brown "I wanna get up and do my thing" (with a little South Park mixed in, as JB was dressed as Cartman back on 10.31.02). Keeping things light, Nelly's "Hot In Herre" may throw a few listeners for a loop, but this is Panic and like the past 20 years, they do what they want, when they want. "Peace Frog" is a fairly close rendition of The Doors version (although Mikey's guitar clearly raises the bar) but it's the over ten-minute "Slipping Into Darkness" where the Panic gears begin to churn out the heavy grooves their kingdom was built on. Keeping suit with what the Panic faithful are crying for, "Ball of Confusion" (Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong) clocks in at over 16 minutes of madness with longtime Panic collaborators Dirty Dozen Brass Band rounding out the edges to give up all the gooey goodness of Panic lore. Finally, Dave Schools gets heavy on Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla" to cap off this strong Halloween release.

If you want classic peal your face off the wall Panic, this album may not satiate your desires. But for those who are looking for a little extra fun on Halloween--or any other dark party night--Jackassolantern will get pulled out time and again, even if it's just for a few track selections.

The Kayceman
JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 10/24/04]

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