Blues Bytes


September 2020

Jack Mack & The Heart Attack
Live From Centennial Park, Atlanta 1996
SSR Free Roll Records

Jack Mack

On July 26, 1996, Jack Mack & The Heart Attack performed at the XXVI Olympics in Atlanta at Centennial Park. The band, known for years as the “hardest working band in show business,” was a natural fit for what was supposed to be a festive atmosphere and an estimated 40,000 folks were present to watch the show. The concert was cut short by the pipe bomb that exploded near the stage, killing one person and injuring 111. The set was actually being recorded at the time and was released late last year to coincide with the release of Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio’s film Richard Jewell, which was based on the tragic life story of Jewell, the security guard who was falsely accused of setting the bomb.

Live From Centennial Park, Atlanta 1996 (SSR Free Roll Records) is an hour-long set of the band doing what they do best, playing high energy rock, soul, and R&B. At the time, the band consisted of Andrew Kastner (guitar/vocals), Bill Bergman (tenor sax/vocals), John Paruolo (B3/vocals), Lester Lovitt (trumpet/vocals), Tim Scott (bass/lead vocals), TC Moses (lead vocals), and Alvino Bennett (drums).

The set kicks off with a short burst of Dyke & the Blazers’ “(We Got) More Soul,” before moving to the original tunes, such as the funky “Breaking Down The Walls” and the smooth, smoldering R&B track “Woman Thing.” Their inspired take on The Staples Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” is actually featured in the movie, and justifiably so. The band then charges into another original, “Something About Ya,” the first public performance of this song (it later appeared on their 1999 album, Arrhythmia), and a superb extended read of another Staples classic, “Respect Yourself.”

James Brown’s “Sex Machine” is a perfect fit for the party atmosphere, taken at a frenetic pace that might have made even the Godfather break a sweat. Another upbeat original, “Livin’ It Up,” certainly kept the party going, as did their soulful version of Al Green’s “Take Me To The River.” There’s little doubt that their stunning 12-minute “Sly Medley,” which featured short takes of several of Sly and the Family Stone’s classic hits (“Sing A Simple Song,” “Thank You (Fallettin Me Be Mice Elf Again),” “Stand,” and “Dance To The Music”) that all had the crowd on their feet.

The last song, another original in its first public appearance, “I Walked Alone,” is also featured in the movie. It’s a powerful soul/R&B ballad with a strong vocal from Moses, and as the song concludes and the audience roars its approval, the recording and the performance is abruptly cut short from the effects of the bomb blast near the stage, changing the scene from celebratory to tragic in a heartbeat.

Live From Centennial Park, Atlanta 1996 serves as a historical document of sorts, recounting events that led to the senseless tragedy, but it also captures one of the best party bands at their best, in their element, in front of an enthusiastic, appreciative audience.

--- Graham Clarke



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