Record Collector (magazine) - p.913 stars out of 5
-- "The mix of grubby-fingered R&B and sun-beaten country reaps dividends throughout."
Uncut (magazine) - p.813 stars out of 5
-- "The band, a slimmed down version of the original outfit, are on consummate form....Fans of unalloyed roots rock won't be disappointed."
Personnel: Phil Alvin (vocals, guitar, harmonica); Dave Alvin (guitar); Bill Bateman (drums).
Audio Remasterer: Mike Milchner.
Liner Note Author: James Austin.
Recording information: The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA (02/14/1986).
The Blasters were arguably the finest American roots rock band to emerge in the 1980s, a group that fused rockabilly, blues, first-generation rock, R&B, and country into powerful roadhouse music that was street smart, passionate, and capable of keeping the dancefloor rockin' all night long. The Blasters cut four fine studio albums during their original run from 1979 to 1986, and a 1982 live EP (Over There: Live at the Venue, London) and two full-length concert albums from their 2002-2003 reunion (Trouble Bound and The Blasters Live: Going Home) testified to their reputation as a top-shelf live act. Live 1986 lowers their batting average on live releases just a bit; it documents a show at The Coach House, a club in San Juan Capistrano, California on Valentine's Day, 1986, and while it's a long, long way from bad, it's also a weaker release than the Blasters' other live documents. Live 1986 appears to have been taken from a soundboard tape that has a few distracting technical anomalies; it's not until the midpoint of the second song that Dave Alvin's guitar finally rises to its proper level in the mix, the reverb on Phil Alvin's vocals is weirdly thick on several tunes, and the overall recording is a bit flat and lacking in detail. More importantly, this recording captures the Blasters a few months away from Dave Alvin's departure from the group and their initial breakup, and while the performances are tight and expert, there's less fire in this show than in the other extant recordings of the Blasters on-stage. Pianist Gene Taylor and sax players Lee Allen and Steve Berlin were already out of the band, and though the Alvin Brothers, drummer Bill Bateman, and bassist John Bazz play like the pros they are, Live 1986 sounds like a bit of the life had already gone out of the group. That said, Phil Alvin is in fine voice here, and it's good to hear live versions of many of the tracks from the flawed but ambitious Hard Line album, and die-hard fans will be glad to see another live Blasters show has been given a non-bootleg release. But if you want to hear the Blasters firing on all cylinders in front of an audience, you're better off with 2002's Trouble Bound. ~ Mark Deming