When the old year was all said and done, once the balloons had showered down, the bubbly had spilled and a chorus of screeching noisemakers had made it official, and after drummer Pete Ragusa finished taking snapshots of the revelers in the packed house, the Nighthawks returned to work at the Bayou in the wee minutes of 1988.

Not exactly the Nighthawks of old, but an impressive band just the same, with Wet Willie's Jimmy Hall handling tenor sax and most of the vocals and Pete Kennedy on lead guitar. Not surprisingly, Hall's presence significantly altered the sound of the band; not only is he a fine soul shouter, but the combination of his brawny sax and Mark Wenner's searing blues harmonica gave the band a fresh and brassy momentum, topped off by several fiery solos from Kennedy.

Although Hall turned in a marvelous, smoldering version of the Little Richard ballad "Directly From My Heart to You," he was at his best singing more contemporary R&B tunes, with Ragusa and bassist Jan Zukowski providing a slippery beat. Over the course of nearly three hours, though, the band also managed to rejuvenate several Nighthawks standards, plus a passionate version of Kennedy's "Nineteen in Vietnam."