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Allman Brothers

Dueling Banjos...

Introduction
Allman Brothers Band
Idlewild South
Live at Fillmore East
Eat a Peach
Brothers and Sisters
Win, Lose, or Draw
Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas
Enlightened Rogues
Reach for the Sky
Brothers of the Road
Seven Turns
Shades of Two Worlds
Live at the Ludlow Garage, 1970
An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band
Where It All Begins
An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band
Peakin' at the Beacon
Hittin' the Note
Live at the Atlanta International Pop Festival 1970

Lineup Card (1969-2003)

Gregg Allman (keyboards, vocals)

Duane Allman (guitar) 1969-1971 also of Derek and the Dominoes

Dickie Betts (guitar, vocals) 1969-2000

Butch Trucks (drums)

Jai Johany Johanson (drums)

Berry Oakley (bass, vocals) 1969-1972

Chuck Leavell (keyboards) 1972-1976 also of The Rolling Stones and others

Lamar Williams (bass) 1972-1976

David Goldflies (bass) 1979-1982

Allen Woody (bass) 1990-199?

Warren Haynes (guitar) 1990-2003

Oteil Burbridge (bass) 2000-2003

's far as I can tell, Georgia's own Allman Brothers Blues Band is one of the only bands to have successfully fused blues, country, rock, and jazz together and have people seriously want to hear it.  You might have your Blood, Sweat, and Tears or your NRBQ's, but who, really, gives a shit? The Allmans, however, brought a certain southland charm to the acid jam-band proceedings that really made the folks in the headbands and fringe jackets froth up into a frenzy, something that no one else had attempted before. They looked like spaced cowboys, talked like Georgia Colonels, drank like Ukrainians, drove motorcycles like idiots, and played music like a holy cross between Charlie Parker, Muddy Waters, and the Grateful Dead. They had two drummers, like the Dead, but they played together instead of trying to play on top of one another all the time.  They had two accomplished lead guitar players when most bands only had one.  Dickie Betts was the smooth country-tinged twanger with the warty-but-nice country boy singing voice, and Duane was the Eric Clapton/B.B. King/Albert King disciple: young, well-known (check out Duane's two volume Anthology series detailing some of Duane's session work with folks like Aretha Franklin and Delaney and Bonnie), and frighteningly imaginative, spinning off melodic jams that sounded like straight from some classic blues track you've always heard but that hadn't ever been written yet.  And while Duane may have been the soul of the band, brother Gregg was the face and voice, an underrated blues-growler who never feels out of place or overdone, and a pretty fair keyboard player as well. And for two years anyway, the Allman Brothers Band was one of the two or three most musically impressive jam-inclined bands on the planet.   They were one of that rapidly dwindling species of freak in the late-60's: a blues-rock band that wasn't trying to be Cream or Led Zeppelin. Though the Brothers were infinitely impressive and often spine-twistingly beautiful, they never really went towards heaviness as a goal, preferring to leave that to the heathens and make their paradise somewhere beyond. And so while the Allman Brothers were one of the first truly Southern Rock Bands, they don't really fit much of the mold that 'Southern Rock', the 70's variety, made for itself. No, they were more like spiritual godfathers to bands like Skynyrd and Molly Hatchett than actual influences. Or, probably more correctly, the Allmans influenced Skynyrd, who in turn influenced everyone else in Redneck Rock. Clear now?

Anyway, the Brothers were a band of dizzying highs and horrifying lows. At first, it seemed like they were doomed by fate.  Brother Duane, having quickly reached legendary status with his three Allmans albums, especially Live at Fillmore East, and his head-spinning duets with Eric Clapton on Derek and the Dominoes' Layla record, accidentally killed himself in a motorcycle wreck in October 1971, snuffing out a marvelous amount of potential in an instant. The band carried on as symbolic (psilocybin mushroom) 'brothers' rather than literal ones, adding pianist Chuck Leavell to augment the sound, now thinned by the loss of Duane. In 1972, within spitting distance of Duane's crash site, bassist Berry Oakley wrecked his own bike and died.  The Allman Brothers were losing players faster than Spinal Tap, but they continued on.  All their losses had devastated their band sound, so they dropped their 'blues-rock' boogie-band persona for a somewhat lighter jazz-country based jam sound, had a US Number 1 single with Betts' 'Ramblin' Man', and became one of the most popular bands of the mid-70's - drawing from fans of outlaw country, acid rock, blues, pop, and Gregg Allman's glitzy image.  Unfortunately, no sooner did they ring the golden snatch did they throw their fortune away by marrying Cher (Gregg)(twice!)(double barf!), becoming hooked on drugs, launching solo careers, kicking Gregg out of the band for testifying against a former employee on drug charges, publicly supporting Jimmy Carter's run for President, and sucking a big rubber hootie-honker on their 1975 album Win, Lose, or Draw. By the late 70's, their tank was running dry despite their furry-headed redneck progeny like Charlie Daniels and the Marshall Tucker Band having lots of success in the fractionated music scene of the time. The band pretty much fell out of circulation after releasing a few last, sad records in the early 1980's until they were revived in time for a popular box-set release around 1990.  Since then, things have been pretty much the same as they ever were, except slower and with fewer brushes with chart success. They've gained a tour following that rivals the Dead at their peak, replace old members when needed (in a very old-fashioned moment of egotist stupidity, original guitarist Dickie Betts was fired by fax from the band in the late 90's and replaced by Derek Trucks, son of drummer Butch. Derek actually rules up and down the avenue, so maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all), hop on the archive live release gravy train, and release a new studio album once in a blue moon. And, strangely enough, their sound, and the quality of it, hasn't changed to darn much the whole time. How's that for rare?

So, the Allman's jam like crackers, spinning off 50+-minute versions of 'Mountain Jam' like there's no such thing as having to be at work at 8 the next morning, and while their jams often peak out at orgasmic heights (like the Dead), sometimes they just noodle aimlessly for minutes at a time (like the Dead). I've yet to find a jam band that doesn't bore me at least some of the time, and the Allman's are definitely not immune to that same criticism.  Their batting average, though, is pretty darned high.  They're also not particularly great songwriters. For one thing, they've only released, say, about 5 really 'big', considerable albums in 35 years or so, and lots of that was covers, jams, and instrumentals (though, truth be told, ABB instrumentals are frequently just as good as their songs).  An Allman Brother's greatest hits is a pretty thin record, indeed.  Nah, the Brothers are a live, musically-oriented attraction for fans of winding interplay and lots and lots of 'lyrical' guitar playing. And so while your Lynyrd Skynyrd fans will probably wonder where the cool riffs are, those of your with a desire for something on the jazzy, rootsy side should definitely invest in some of the classic Allman Brothers albums sooner rather than later.

Barcy
Any Short Comments?: I'd like to make a minor correction in your intro...Derek Trucks is the nephew of Butch Trucks and not his son.  Nice reviews, I have the first two albums on 1 CD and I'm always wondering to myself if I can stomach the long jams from the live stuff so I've never bought the material.

 

BBsquee     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: If you read this Dickey, you should be ashamed of yourself for treating your sister like dirt when you made it big. She is a wonderful and caring lady that would give anything she had to those in need, and you were embarresed by how poor your family was, so you turned your head away. Pam cried when seeing you perform on the Gramy's and I felt my heart go out to her. She has worked in a kitchen  making salads for rich retirees in FL for 15 years now and you should care about her a little anyway. Thats all I have to say to you Mr. Betts I hope you read this.

(Capn's Response: And while you're at it, tell 'im I want my motherfucking roto-tiller back, too!)


The Allman Brothers Band - Capricorn 1969.

Why not give an A grade to what amounts to 33 minutes of the same goddamn great song? I damn well love every minute of the Allman's live-in-the-studio-sounding blues/jazz/rock debut.  It doesn't show much of their range, like Idlewild South would do, or even give us much of a gander at the guitar-players' flashy skills, like Live at Fillmore East does, and the songwriting (though solid) sounds clearly ripped from familiar sources, but Allman Brothers Band does do something equally as crucial - it defines the band's sound. The band sounds tight like they've been playing together a whole lot longer than the year they had been. They don't just groove, they swing hard, and the polyrhythms created by the layered drummers create a groove that is as steady as it is complex.  The subtle shifts in rhythm on the instrumental intro 'Don't Want You No More' are mesmerizing, showing just how versatile this band could be.  The guitar lines sound pre-planned but not studied, and the dual-lead duet runs are not only breathtaking, they're also groundbreaking. Horns play lines like this all the time, but guitars were meant to be chord instruments. Roger McGuinn may have been the first guy to make a guitar sound like a tenor sax (on 'Eight Miles High'), but the Allmans were some of the first to make guitars sound like a horn section. Every once in awhile they come down from their mountain and lay on a Hendrix or a Stones-worthy lick, but for the most part this is Guitars by Way of Bebop, and an awesome effect it is.  

Moreover, they've made a strong commitment to beauty on this record, and I'm not just talking about the light psychedelic feel of 'Dreams'.  Even at their most raunchy, hard sections...say, the peak point of 'Whippin' Post', the guitarists keep singing out notes like they're praying to the god of butterflies. And, though it sounds awfully weird, Gregg's wolfman howl fits his band perfectly...while his guitarists rarely get too dirty, you've always got Allman's dark ruminations of blues salvation to bring you through.  He may wallow in a pool of evil-woman blues cliches lyrically, but he knows well enough to toss in a ringer line from time to time. 'I sat down...and wrote you a long letter...''Every morning I woke up with the blues', 'Sometimes I feel like I'm dy-in!' and his precisely timed howls sound like cries from desolation and the lack of lots of singing (I'd say 80% of this record is instrumental) makes them hit that much harder.

My main criticism of Allman Brothers is that the soloing, while consistently interesting, just never really catches the bed on fire at any notable places.  I'd like to have heard Duane go off wild 'n' hairy just once...as it is, his solos sound pre-planned and a bit warmed over, as if he was playing not to screw up rather than playing to deliver a knockout punch. I suppose that's what live albums are meant to be for.  Allman Brothers Band isn't really about flash, as it bases itself instead in crazy-good ensemble playing and the innumerable shifts in time and mood that make this record feel alive.  It's not about pop, it's not really about hooks...it's just about good playin', good singin', and more soul than most of the population put together.

Capn's Final Word: If only this is what 'smooth jazz' meant.  One fantastic exploration of how to make the same ol' blues jams sound brand new.

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Idlewild South - Capricorn 1970.

The Brothers expand their palate beyond jazzy jamming to include good-timey gospel boogie, country-rock mythmaking, Otis Redding hard soul, and, umm...jazzier jamming. While Allman Brothers was a tight fusion of styles, this record blows that fusion apart and lets the band chase down each one of the dark (or, in the case of 'Revival', bright 'n' sunshiney) alleyways to it's logical conclusion.  The band still turns on a dime, as they do from the jazz-run intro to 'Revival' into the tent-thumpin' twistin' figure of the main song.  It happens so quickly it's hard to call it anything but spontaneous, and considering how darned goofy 'Revival' is a lot of the time, it's hard to call it anything but a big honkin' shock.  I always disliked the tune's bouncy, flounciness, but I've come around and now appreciate the role it plays in these first two Allman Brothers records...it goes to show that the band aren't just a bunch of doomsayin', woman-hatin' lords of the dark swamps.  They realize redemption exists, here in the form of 'getting together' and, I guess, smoking weed and eating chicken fried steaks under the blue Southern skies, and they set it up as a lofty goal that they watch crumble away for the rest of the album.  'Revival's the last chance for some light to shine through on Idlewild...from here on out the darkness falls and we're in for some moody weather.

 'Don't Leave Me Wondrin' kicks off the growing bleakness...this blues stomper lays on the back of some mean harmonica/guitar duetting that reminds me more of Jethro Tull flute/guitar riffing than the harmonica/guitar of, say, the Yardbirds. The band plays so far behind the beat on this song they almost seem to be rushing the one beat, something new for a band that seemed a bit inelastic on the last album.  They've realized time can be stretched out as far as they want it to go, and only sound that much more swinging as a result.  Gregg's classic 'Midnight Rider' follows, an acoustic outlaw light-rocker that kills soppy cowpoke dung like 'Desperado' dead like D-Con.  The interplay between Gregg and Dickie's voices is a monster treat, masculine without being too macho, defiant but not cartoonish, more of a howl of loneliness than the war-cry of a fighter, and the guitar solo is a classic of understated country-rock professionalism. Betts' extended instrumental 'In the Memory of Elizabeth Reed' (supposedly Ms. Reed being the name on the headstone that belonged to the grave Dickie Betts laid some chick on when he was younger. Is it just me, or does having sex on the cold ground of a graveyard just seem to SCREAM OUT 'venereal disease'?) is the band's signature jam tune, a super-jazzy twist of rhythmic spaghetti that revels in the loooonnnngggg sustain of the guitars and the restless work habits of the two drummers.  The tune sounds much longer than it actually is, because the journey it takes is a very picturesque one.  Though the 'words' the guitarists use to describe the trip are simple ones, they're also the right ones. Is 'Reed' much more interesting than the debut, which is much the same but with shorter guitar solos? Not really, but I sure don't mind having another helping of it, either. Fans of 'Hootchie Cootchie Man' shouldn't miss the Allman's version. I personally don't have anything against it, and on paper at least, it's a transcendent version, but after the peaks we've seen, 'Cootchie' can't help but feel like a bit of a comedown. The energy level never again reaches its first-side heights, either. The Otis-soul original 'Please Call Home' is a nice place for Gregg to show off the voice that lifted Cher's skirts, and 'Leave My Blues at Home' recalls Sly and the Family Stone with it’s fonky fonky chickenfoot guitar scratch, but neither of these songs are what I'd call substantial, especially considering how strong the first four songs on the album were.  

The next track....wha? Dude! The album's only got 7 songs on it, and it only lasts 33 minutes. What the hell? Fucking 'Mountain Jam' regularly lasted longer than the first two Allman Brothers studio albums put together. Then again, considering the snotworm's pace at which the Brothers released new material, I guess this isn't too out of character. Still, if there'd been a third album of stuff this good released before Duane was killed, wouldn't you think we'd mention the Allman Brothers in the same breath as overrated late-60's outfits like Cream and the Band? Just a few more 'Midnight Riders' and 'Elizabeth Reeds' and they'd be on there way. As it is, well, they're one hell of a cult band.

Capn's Final Word: The Allmans advance beyond the shore, taking new rootsy territories under their sway.

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Live at Fillmore East - Capricorn 1971

Supposedly one of the premier double live albums of the early 70's by any fiend who requires a direct intravenous injection of twelve-bar blues improv lasting no less than 300 minutes daily, but rated as just pretty fucking great by anyone who cares about this kind of meat 'n' jam sandwich at all.  For those of you who might think this is just live versions of Allman Brothers and Idle Hands South material, you're only half right.  Does your particular copy of AB have 'Statesboro Blues' on it? What about 'Call It Stormy Monday'? Or 'Hot 'Lanta'? Heh...it does? Whoa!

Dude, has there been a reissue or something? Motherfuck...I completely fumbled that point I was trying to make. Aw, hell, trying to keep up with all these fucking cash-in reissues is like trying to play the Joe Millionaire drinking game where every time he calls the particular Euro-trash chick he's with at the moment 'a-may-zing'....all it does it leave me with a raging headache somewhere in a downtown bus station bathroom without pants but with a tattoo that says 'Property of Merle' on it.  Useless...

Aw, whatever...the first disc of At Fillmore East is where you get the full Allman Brothers Band Full-Body Brew Badass Blowjob Bic-Razor Blues Treatment (trademarked 1970, Rebel Yell Distillery), consisting of acres and acres of blues guitar jamming that probably ranks as some of the best blues jamming you've ever placed between your synapses, but still can't transcend the fact that it's just a bunch of blues jamming. The band goes from sounding like a hopped up Brit-invasion hard rock band on 'Statesboro' to the smokiest, most down-and-out juke-joint 2 am broke-dick outfit on the marvelous 'Stormy Monday'. Duane Allman is most definitely in charge of this ship of fools, leading the way through the minefield of boredom with his bourbon-fluid left hand vibrato shake intact.  That doesn't mean he completely avoids blowing up a platoon or two once or twice...this album is two discs long and does have moments that drift into fiddly, aimless hunt-and-peck soloing before the band picks up the scent again and pulls the troop back into line for another charge down the mountain.  That enough metaphors for you, or what? My 12th grade English AP teacher would be having the proverbial cow right now, spraying bits of cow from her gaping old-woman birth canal.  Besides my weird teenage sex fantasies, I particularly think 'You Don't Love Me' turns into a pile of steaming bad about 8 minutes through before finally breaking down into the finest bunch of chicken-scratch I've heard since that Robert Johnson set I lost years ago. There's some nice trips through Chicago blues and such, but the trip seems to have too many stops and starts for me, and never seems to get anywhere.  As fucking awful as the Dead could be, I still get a whole lot more mesmerized at the places Jerry Garcia could take me in the course of a 20 minute jam than where Duane could.  But then again, the Allmans had better songs, generally, so take it how you like it, fag. I think the minute-long coda at the end of the song is my favorite part, though.

The second disc...aw, sheeeit Sure deodorant! Three songs, one being a reasonably short 'Hot 'lanta' that sounds, well, like the Great Lost Allman Brothers instrumental you always wanted, moving into a buttery-smooth 'Elizabeth Reed' that's everything you always wanted out of this particular track. The band is as tight as they ever were on the studio original, but more relaxed and more willing to take chances.  The fact that the dual guitar attack didn't much mesh on the first CD is completely corrected on CD 2, where the guitars layer on top of one another so brilliantly it's easy to forget there's two playing at the same time.  And do I have to mention that the 22 minute 'Whipping Post' just about rips my face off with pure instrumental intensity? I guess I don't. The first disc starts off slow, rote, and close-to-the-vest, but the second disc loosens up faster than a junior cheerleader on half a bottle of Boone's, and I can't wait for it to never stop.

Live at Fillmore, to be sure, is Duane Allman's feat.  The rest of the band is there for him to play with like a cat with a wounded mouse.  The fact that he's so clearly directing the movements of this large band with his meditative whim proves the telepathic connection these boys must've had.  I've also got to admit that the extensive editing job, often combining several different performances into the same track, is flawless, and I didn't notice it until someone brought my attention to it. How do I feel about this semi-cheating form of creating a decent song out of several different takes? Aww, who cares...this album rocks the casbah, at least after the group gets good 'n' warm after that blues-jam soundcheck on the first half.  I like the idea of having the marvelous Eat a Peach 'Mountain Jam' included with the two-disc Fillmore Concerts reissue, but this set is enough Allman Brothers goodness to leave me wondering when I can put 'Whipping Post' on again. 

Capn's Final Word: Shouldn't everyone like jam sandwiches? Get in and walk around this one for a few weeks.

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Simon Mastrogiuseppe mastropower@hotmail.com    Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Why oh why A-? This is such a fine record, I spent hours learning all the riffs, the lines, the modulations. Such a great record, best live album ever! (at least, the best that I know of)

(Capn's Response: Maybe just a bit too much of a good thing, that's all)

 


Eat a Peach - Capricorn 1972

The Allmans, as was their ability back in the early 70's, handled Brother Duane's sad death by motorcycle misadventure with a lot of class. They carried on spiritedly, but still made their third studio album (and, technically, their second live album) a dedication to their friend's memory. Peach (which, by the way, refers to Duane's conceit that he would 'eat a peach for peace' every time he got home to Georgia, and not, as the more despicable among us would have us believe, because Duane's bike collided with a peach truck) is a double dutch super-sized fanny-pack Wal Mart of all things Allman, sort of a grab bag of live leftovers from the Fillmore East concerts (including, as must be mentioned, the legendary and interminable 'Mountain Jam' that has got to be the longest song ever next to that motherfucking Paul McCartney Christmas song I always hear) and some new studio tracks that were nearly finished at the time of Duane's death.  The studio tracks in particular seem to pick and roll (isn't that gross when you think about it, I mean, really?) their way to some place far from their Savoy Brown and Canned Heat mindless boogaloo brethren to someplace inhabited by Santana, John Coltrane, and, umm...Alf, for some reason. The boys push an instrumental like 'Les Brers in A Minor' someplace even good ol' Ms. Reed wouldn't have been able to be, a jazzy wonderland of teardrop fluidity and a tragic sense of loss when you realise where the band would've been if Duane had lived.  But tracks like 'Brers' and the humongous 'Mountain Jam' seem to look backwards, spelling the end for this sort of playing.  I'm not at all sure if 'Melissa' had been written before or after the accident, but that's no matter - the Allman's were taking the songwriting spark that had first birthed itself on 'Midnight Rider' and applied it to a mindfield of tenderness, where they easily could fall prey and become a lounge act writing weepers for Elvis Presley to cover. But Elvis wouldn't have been able to sustain the inner toughness that makes 'Melissa' work...there's the same amount of weight in this song as there is in the opening 'Ain't Wasting No More Time'.

Well, and then there's a jam. At least the band warms you up for it, giving you a nice side or so of studio winners before dropping you in to this instrumental fabuloso wormhole leading a place where, no, you really don't mind if they play a little longer, thanks, just as long as the sweet guitar interplay and the unsweetened ice tea holds out.  Shamefully, however, when you're spat back out on the New Jersey Turnpike again, you really have no memory of where you've been, what you've been up to, or how long you were there.  A better title would be the Amnesia Jam, because the performance is great, sure, and sounds quite a bit different compared to the jams on most of Fillmore East (fans of that record definitely need to avail themselves of this one too, it'll fit right into your coat closet, I promise), but is still made with the same mud.  Most damning, it doesn't much go anywhere, especially not until we cycle through all the soloists (yes, including some drummers, four or five of them, a bassist, a glockenspilist, the guy screaming 'WHIPPING POST!!!!', and at least sixteen longhairs asking for a hit off someone's Thai stick, by my count) and finally settle on Mr. Allman's guitar again.  Then, he fits and starts, but the engine never heats up and we have to go back home again.

Back home to Georgia, thanks...the energy had been let down by 'Mountain' (at 33 minutes, how couldn't it? I can't do anything for 33 minutes straight, unless it's scratching myself or playing sick jokes on the mailman) is brought back up by a refreshing entry into the most Southern of all Southern Boogie Rockers attempted by the Allmans, a cover of Elmore James' 'One Way Out' and the swinging 'Trouble No More' (by Muddy Waters). After struggling to push the jam into flight, these effortless runthroughs of the musical equivalent of lay-up drills sound like they're no sweat at all. Of course, they're just making it look easy...the drummers work overtime, and the jumping groove's gotta be darn challenging to keep from degenerating into a messy puddle of missed cues, feedback, and turned beats. Ahh...such is being an Allman. Oakley's swamp-funk 'Stand Back' is too meek to really work, but still manages to be the touchstone of the entire Black Crowes catalogue.

The final two tracks present a compelling, masterful conclusion to the first, best stage of Allman Brother history and an introduction to the next-stage Brothers mess. Betts's 'Blue Skies' prefigures the laid-back, twangy fluidity of the Brothers and Sisters era, where the hicky jamming got a little phony but the hooks got sharper, while Duane's solo acoustic jaunt 'Little Martha' lays to rest the genius that both defined this band and left it vague and formless...much like a Fillmore jam, really. Duane's talent was in spontaneous combustion, not controlled ignition, and that very lack of willingness to embrace form may have eventually doomed the band to a Santana-like cult status. Instead, the band became more accessible but no less accomplished, and shot to the top as the spokesmen for a new, laid back generation.

Capn's Final Word: A fitting, honest elegy for brother Duane.

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Brothers and Sisters - Capricorn 1973

After Peach (if not necessarily because of it), the Allmans became stars. They had earned critical respect and some musical cred due to their formidable past, and the fact that they were looked upon as gods by their spiritual followers like Skynyrd probably gave them a lot more buzz among the public than they'd otherwise would've had, being holed up in the Fillmore playing boogie to a bunch of Noo Yawk potheads. Brothers and Sisters was the first opportunity for the band to step out from underneath of the shadow of their dead Brother and attempt to make their own, decidedly more professional, but less explosive statement.  Dickie Betts, in particular, relished the idea of countrifying the Allmans.  This was a guy who'd spent the past four years or so comping his guitar somewhere deep in the mix under Duane's noodles, and he wanted to show that while he had played on those jams too, he was much more happy to be playing songs, melody lines that led somewhere besides just another fucking set of 6 twelve-bar solos. Well, Betts struck the charts like the proverbial redheaded stepchile with his number one hit 'Ramblin' Man',which was just stereotypical enough to pull in the Yankees while retaining just enough musicianship to impress the older fans. His other major composition here is the instrumental road-boogie jazz-lite 'Jessica', a track that sounds more like an extended take on the 'Ramblin Man' dual-guitar solo than anything like 'Elizabeth Reed'. And a whole lot more disposable and predictable. The melody sticks like Kray-Zee, and the solos by newbie Chuck Leavell are woodsy goodness, the feeling that this is all contrived for hit sales comes back to haunt me. But why should it? The Allmans had gone from being rednecks who played jazz for rich kids to being rich kids who played jazz for rednecks? There's a lot more rednecks than rich kids in the world (thank God). The fact that they seem to be cruising on a bit of leftover Duane spirit makes me worry what will happen when the momentum runs out.

The rest of the album isn't as troubling, but it's also not as good.  Gregg's songwriting flippers weren't yet as impressive as Dickie's were, so redneck-pride tracks like 'Wasted Words' and the soul-shuffle 'Come and Go Blues' are nothing much more than reliably professional exercises in Greg-dom...they're far from bad songs, but they tend to say a whole lot less and not mean much at all. 'Jelly Jelly' and 'Southbound' are worse...genre exercises with as much imagination as an assembly-line product could have. Allman had gone from being a beginner songwriter to being a crusty old veteran pumping out formula without ever hitting the strike that Betts had hit...from here on to the current day, Allman's compositions wouldn't vary too much. They had that classic Allman's sound, they rarely sucked, and, like herpes, they never would go away. But on this album, they're simply low spots between the sellout hits. This album and Betts's closely concurrent solo debut had staked out his territory as one of the most respected guitarists and songwriters in this new, ultra-popular Americana music style. (Duane also started his own solo career about this time, and his work is surprisingly strong...not a whole lot like his work with the Allman's, but a soul-influenced charge nonetheless)  I like this record, admittedly, because of the hits, and the easy way it rolls down the back of my throat and asks to pour another. After the interminability of the Duane records, as good as they were, a bit of a return to shore is welcome. There's no 'Mountain Jam's here, nothing that would ever catch on it's way down, and even the lamest tracks are well-produced and sound great while they're on. Brothers and Sisters may look a lot more Hollywood and a lot less San Francisco, but that's fine by me.

Capn's Final Word: Dickie Betts does a little softshoe for us and ends up winning our hearts...the easiest pleasure in the Allman's catalog.

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Win, Lose, or Draw - Capricorn 1975

Nowhere on Win, Lose or Draw is there even one C-level late-80's celebrity guest like Howie Mandel or Alan Thicke trying to guess whatever incomprehensible scribbles Dom DeLuise is splattering up on a pad of butcher paper with a large permanent marker.  So fuck it. I'm outta here. Promise me a cheesy daytime television spin-off of a frustrated teacher's rainy-day lifesaver time-filler activity and deliver me an album that sounds like a more countrified, more jazzified but messier version of Brothers and Sisters and I'm headin' off down the road with a grit in my teeth and a stomp in my boot. That's it...I'm off to visit Mecca, that's right...Burbank, California, to commune with the Baba of the Boob Tube, Mr. Bob Barker. I've already spayed and neutered a few neighborhood cats as a sacrifice to His Holiness, and am busily preparing a feast in the honor of Mr. Rod Roddy, for whom the Great Scorekeeper in the Sky has requested to 'Come on Down'. So screw this web reviewing business, and get me my buzzer. I'm outta here.

Hrm, okay. So the Allmans released this record, like, 10 years before the stupid game show came out, and therefore had no way of knowing they'd be messing with the perverted belief system of an over-stressed 27 year old environmental engineer with a bored wife, a sick little girl, and more CD's than El Lay has drive through plastic surgeons. Win, Lose or Draw is usually passed over in the Allmans canon in favor of Brothers and Sisters or Enlightened Rogues, both of which are clearly superior to this one.  It's dismissed as 'tour fodder', released a lifetime (for the Seventies, at least...a few years ago three years between albums was, like, a dangerously brisk pace, but it's gotten better lately) after the clamour surrounding B&S and Gregg's successful solo debut Laid Back had begun to subside. The Allmans didn't take to fame as well as we'd liked to hope, pretty much cashing in whatever remained of their Duane-era integrity on hot dates and hotter powders. But while live they may have coasted on undemanding 'Jessica' licks and mindless boogie crowd-pleasers, their albums at least showed some signs that they were trying. First impressions of Win, Lose are that all of the hooks are darn well gone with the broken wind, quite a shock in the nuts when thinking that they'd just figured out how to make them a few years prior.  The only song that even approaches the usual level of memorability is the opening rabble-rouser Muddy Waters cover 'Can't Lose What You Never Had', which they convert into a bastard child of 'Ain't Wastin No More Time' and 'Southbound', or something like that. Gregg's title track is draggy and druggy but a decent little dose of drinkin' man's sad-song country music, of which there's more to be found here. The rest of these originals are blah to boring at best, the worst of the lot being either Gregg's 'Nevertheless' or Betts' criminally stupid saloon boinker 'Louisiana Lou and Three Card Monty John'. The second side is given over to the formless 14-minute jazz-noodle 'High Falls', of which more than just meaning is lost in translation to record. This is simply another in a long line of songs that probably sound great live, bewildering on a live album, and downright incoherent on a studio album. Listen, this bunch of soothing jazz movements may be nirvana to an Allman fanatic's ear, but to me, this is pretty damned close to lite-jazz like they play on that vaguely somnambulant Muzak station way at the right of my FM dial. It takes more than just platitudes to make an Allmans album come alive, and in terms of meaning and decent songwriting, Lose is about as lively as Duane's corpse. As it stands, there's nothing awful about the listening experience here, but I'm sure not going to lose sleep only having this on a scratchy ol' vinyl record. I'll probably feel like listening to this album about as much as I do cleaning the grout around my toilet with one of Katia's used-up old training toothbrushes.

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Capn's Final Word: A sad rush job that took two years to complete, this album only has five originals on it. And a whole lot of those are throwaway novelties, formula exercises, and a huge noodlefest. Huh?


Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas - Capricorn 1976

Not pointless, but sure points up the differences between the Fillmore-era band and this new bunch of Monte Carlo Cowboys in a light bright enough to count Betts's pockmarks by from ten paces.  This double record-company bailout jive live set hasn't ever been anyone's favorite taste of the band, and I'm not here to buck any trends.  The performances here, supposedly while the band was at it's peak commercially, show a tired-sounding bunch of professionals running through the motions like only a superb mid-70's group could do. Think '75 tour Rolling Stones, or '73 tour Zeppelin, bands that no longer had anything to prove onstage artistically, so they began to enter into a semi-Fat Elvis sort of human jukeboxism that gave the concertgoers what they wanted but fails to deliver a particularly good live album. But that begs the question of why people listen to live albums in the first place. I mean there's wacko quackos like you and me who have some send of the historical importance of some of this stuff (hey! you there! don't scoff!), but isn't it that most people want to hear their very favorite series of Greatest Hits played on key, with no deletions, and in the same fucking order as on their $7.99 A Decade of Hits and a Decade of Shit, Best of the Allman Brothers Band CD? I dunno. And it's not like I'm trying to take the piss out of the Brothers here. For one thing, I'm not sure what an average concert would've sounded like, quite possibly it would've been a darn near religious experience. But an Allman Brothers concert and an Allman Brothers live album are, to be sure, two completely different breeds of Phish, and what I hear on Oil the Windows, Wipe the Ass, Check for a Dollar is a motions-goings-through of a sort not yet seen in the Allman Brothers camp. The rhythm section is set to 55 mph boogie cruise control, the piano and guitar solos are nice but unrevealing, and the vocals hover somewhere between grimly competent and dead lazy. F'r instance, Gregg's vocals on the opening 'Wasted Words' drain all the fire from the Brothers and Sisters original to such a point that the song begins to resemble 'Southbound', which follows it up and actually sounds better due to a measurable amount of heat produced somewhere about the fifth minute of guitar/piano duelling. 'Wasted Words' was a demonic, vile-spewing attack on all things Phony, and now it sounds like the corner bar band warming up. The band, indeed, does get warm finally, enough to make the rest of the album fairly decent mindless ass-wiggling music, good enough to teach the new-guy pretenders a thing or two about professionalism, but isn't that a bit of a letdown? Not even 'Elizabeth Reed' can step it up to the heavenly level so instantaneously attained on Fillmore East. The hits sound perfunctory, even 'Jessica' has the inescapable feeling of a song that's being run through, not one that's being played.

It's around this time that Gregg Allman, not necessarily a man of lilywhite virtue himself, testified in a drug trial against a former associate and friend of the band.  The rest of the bandmembers kicked him out, broke up the Brothers, and vowed never to speak to the man again. And they didn't, at least until the drug money ran out, and only three short years later the band returned. So Dollar Gas was released right at the time when it was pretty unsure if the Brothers would ever rock again, or if Gregg would form a permanent duet act with Cher, or if Dickie Betts would ever learn how to write an instrumental that sounds nothing like 'Jessica', or if Jaimoe would ever get his name pronounced right, and it's really no surprise it's a bummer of a live album from a band that really deserved better.

Capn's Final Word: Double Live Stopgap, or What Drugs Do To A Good Band, Exhibit A.

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Enlightened Rogues- Polygram 1979

The Allman Brothers one big album comeback after the fiasco of the preceding 5 years or so, patching up their fences and climbing down off the mountain of Columbian Dandruff long enough to survey the now Southern-friendly late-70’s American landscape and put out a fairly decent effort that has darn near zero of the Duane-era spirit. The Allmans, it must be said, never quite sold the family farm completely over their 30-odd year career, but this three-year Arista period ranks as some of the least firey, passionate music they put out, at least in terms of the blues-bastard howlin’ wolf jam-crazy whirlwind kinda thing that made their first three or four albums such invigorating listening. Nah, this band is very much in the mold of a late-70’s vintage Grateful Dead now, long on professionalism and promise, but a bit short on the crazy hair up the ass that can turn this stuff from enjoyable to downright adrenaline charging. The thing is, on paper, this album’s great – the band can still play their fingers into limp spaghetti, the drummers especially, who sound clean and crisp with one in the left speaker and one in the right, spread out yet encouragingly indistinguishable. The guitar work (now back to a two guitar lineup) is more efficient with fewer rotten detours and blathering solos than on Win, Lose or Draw.  Hell, the boogie grooves on display here have to rank as some of the Allmans’ best – they’re elastic and loose limbed and swing mercilessly, but there’s still that nagging sense that something’s missing, and this time around I feel pretty clearly that the band has lost its peculiar spirit in trying to make this album too clean. There’s nothing here that picks up that tar baby and rubs it all over the front of that new linen suit like we know they can…hell, just listen to ‘Don’t Want You No More’ off the debut, then choose any track at random off here, and tell me they don’t sound like they’ve left their eggs in the supermarket, if you ‘Breakin 2’ my ‘Electric Boogaloo’, and I thinks that ‘cha do. Hell in a hand grenade, am I doing it again? Castigating an aging band for not playing with the fire they displayed in their younger days, days that are gone forever and should just be accepted as such? No, as a matter of fact, I’m not. The Allman Brothers’ 90’s records have darn near all of the fire their first albums did (if slightly less amazing melodies and guitar flourishes) and a whole lot more authentic old-leather grit to ‘em, to boot. Nah…the fact that ‘Crazy Love’, a decidedly okayish Betts-written tune became a ‘big’ Top 40 hit belies the fact that the band was searching for a bit of that ol’ green, donnit? I mean, it’s hard to blame ‘em…they’d had some hits in the past, liked the money it brought in, and so they wrote up a bunch of songs like ‘Can’t Take It With You When You Go’ and ‘Try It One More Time’ that play up the good-timin’ groove monkey persona of the band, mixed it up with a couple of usual-dull blues tunes like ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ and came up with a solid-selling comeback record that probably won’t disappoint anyone who hasn’t heard Idlewild South recently. Now, it’s a bit disturbing that Gregg only contributes one song, ‘Just Ain’t Easy’, but his role’s been slowly relegated to that of lead blues hooter ‘n’ piano hooter since way back on Peach. The Allman Brothers now live and die by the slow, steady hand of craftsman Betts, and when he’s competent, he can create albums like Enlightened Rogues until the all-night bars close.

Capn's Final Word: Of course they’re trying to recapture the old days…they don’t, but it’s still smooooooth.

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Reach for the Sky - Razor and Tie 1980

Brothers of the Road - Razor and Tie 1981
Incomplete

Ain't been able to locate these two early-80's, unpopular ABB relics in their entirety yet, but you know how these things go...check back in, like, 2 years or so.

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Brian Deuel      Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: Want my copy? You can have it. Suffice it to say, it's a total piece of shit. Even the "hit" song from  it is garbage. Reach For The Sky is the Brothers' Unmasked (Kiss).

 


Seven Turns - Epic 1990

Now available as a cheapy cutout, so act now. Now ranking as the Allman’s fourth comeback record (after Peach and B&S due to untimely demises, and Enlightened, due to bitch-slapping irreconcilable-differences good times), we now have the Allmans, more or less recovered from when we last left them limping and bleeding from various orifices after suffering the slings and arrows that accompanied their last studio release, 1981’s allegedly wretched Brothers of the Road, after which they split into solo careers both commercially successful (Allman, who had a hit or two in the mid-80’s) and otherwise (Betts).  The band’s back with a new second guitar player, the Skynyrd-sounding Warren Haynes, who has all the chops needed to stay up with Dickie Betts, the guy who went from keeping up lick-by-lick with Duane Allman to a pleasantly comfortable, fat-butt lazy style of Southern lite-jazz the folks just eat up off the plate like buttered grits. Haynes plays with more ‘fire’ but more tricks, and even more than a decade after his inception, I still don’t entirely trust the guy to retain the necessary level of taste it takes to play in the Allman Bros. Oh, they can pull in whatever random piano or bass player they want (I hear this time they wanted Flea, but had to settle for Mike Watt, and on the next album it’s Chris Squire and John Wetton, and then on Where it All Begins, they simply bring in the entire tuba section of the Marine Marching Band) but when they start bringing in new guitarists, and loud ones, well…that takes some consideration. Haynes, well, he certainly defines their 90’s-era sound, that’s for sure…we’ll put it this way: when he’s playing ‘quiet’ (i.e., somewhere less than warp volume), he’s pretty darn nice, but when he launches into full-hardon mode he’s a bit much. And, this being the early 90’s, sometimes the guitar tones get a tad bit off, a mite too slick and compressed, so it sounds like Just About Anybody rather than two guys who deserve to be heard separately so we can hear what’s happening.  None of that matters when they’re on boogie autopilot, however, like on ‘Shine it On’, which rips off ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ worse than Mark Farner with a sinus headache on his last day of studio time.

The songwriting is still mostly handled by Dickie Betts, a few feature Haynes and only the kickoff track ‘Good Clean Fun’ has any contribution by Gregg Allman. Apparently all the rigors of the wretched 1980’s had taken their toll on the man creatively…his voice still sounds good, but his keyboard skills are questionable since they’ve still seen fit to add Johnny Neel (who also helps Betts with the writing on several tracks) to help out on the keys. The songs are serviceable and well-played but take about as many risks as a agoraphobic paraplegic, with shocking and absolutely not shop-worn subject matter like the ‘gambler’ motif, which shows up on ‘Loaded Dice’ and then reappears on ‘Gambler’s Roll’, the ‘traveling’ motif on ‘Let Me Ride’, and, of course, the everpresent ‘you a bad BAD girl’ thing on ‘Low Down Dirty Mean’, which mentions old hoary cliches like back-door men, takin’ mah money and givin’ it t’nuther man, Vaseline Hispanic Dwarf Wrestling, Linda Blair’s lack of body hygiene, and the 1986 Tax Reform Act. Or maybe not, but since I stopped listening to the lyrics on this record about 2 ½ seconds through to concentrate on the crackling ensemble work, it might as well be so. I mean, the solos are neat, the riffage is familiar but reliably kicky, and this rhythm section is still better than 90% of the skin-bashers out there, especially when they focus on being fleet instead of heavy.  

Now, for the most part, this album is reliable and exciting if lacking in true inspiration, except for one track that definitely changes my impression like discovering that not only is your girlfriend hot and likes your jokes, but likes nothing more than watching football and listening to old records all weekend. ‘True Gravity’ nods to the Allman Brother’s rich instrumental past but ends up sounding nothing at all like ‘Jessica’, something they haven’t figured out how to do in years. If anything, ‘Gravity’ is a completely modern creation, sounding more like Jeff Beck’s 80’s records than anything else. Of course, the dual guitar interplay is N Effect like Wrecx throughout, like that old friend who always has some cool new story to tell you.  It’s very heartening to know that, after all this time and with a certain dearth of originality on the other tracks on this album, this band can still surprise you.   

Capn's Final Word:  About as original as a kick in the crotch, and sometimes about as subtle, but some good moments here.

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Shades of Two Worlds - Epic 1991
Incomplete

My copy of this got mangled up, so jes' hol' on until I can figger it out, I'll be havin' eh revyoo fer y' SOON!

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Live at Ludlow Garage 1970 - Polygram1991

Hey! This album sounds like crap! It’s so very awful that my ears, which I thought were well tanned from years of listening to nth-generation audience tapes of 1982 Grateful Dead shows recorded on a malfunctioning My First Sony stuffed down the front of some loser’s hemp leggings over the top of a decade-old Eddie Money cassette with cello tape over the write-protect holes and shank in the gears have finally given up in revolt as a result of the wretched recording quality on this ‘archive’ release. Hell, the only times I was really enjoying myself listening to this was when the interminable hiss finally stopped, and then I realized that the raging bull lesbian anti-South activist in the room with me had finally given up and gone home. No, really, the hiss is really a godsend, because it helps mask the fact that tape degeneration has rendered the left channel worthless, dropping in and out worse than the MTV Rich Girl’s boob from a prom dress. Now there’s Dickie Betts comping on some chord sequence, now there’s not. Some might call this sound ‘warm’, while I just call it ‘murfly’…on speakers with lots of EQ treatment, it might turn out listenable, but on headphones (usually my listening paraphernalia of choice) it’s downright got my monkeys running for cover. Perhaps my copy isn’t representative of what’s out there for people willing to spend the insane kind of money record companies charge for this recycled smegma (granted, mine’s a little south of legal, you dig?) but I still shudder to think of why the band would see fit to release such an incompetently presented product.

I mean, this album is so badly recorded it totally colors my opinion of the show itself, which sucks compared with the Fillmore East run from later in the year. The studio numbers (‘Dreams’) gain little but another Heapin’ Helpin’ of Noodle off the Bottomless Pasta Bowl of Modal Jamming that Goes Nowhere Slow, and the blues covers you haven’t heard are, well, blues covers. Yeah, Gregg does a fine ‘Hootchie Coochie Man’, sure, sure…but can’t we have Duane shoot for the moon instead of slumming it on the twelve bar ABC’s of improvisation? I mean, yeah, it’s the Duane ‘n’ Dickie show, or, should I say, the Duane and Guy Playing Retarded Blues Rhythm like a Man Who Just Learned How to Play Guitar after Ten Years on the Flugelhorn. Great big chunks of ‘Statesboro Blues’ sound like Duane playing the same three notes over and over in different combinations, ‘Dimples’ (you know, ‘She got de dimples in eh’ jah!’) is damn similar, the formula is slowed down on ‘I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town’ to ‘slow blues crawl’, which is easier to make sound genuine anyway, so I think it’s the best track on here. Mmmm? Phsa you say? What about the ‘Mountain Jam’? The glorious, defining moment of all things Allmen?

I’ve yet to make it through the whole thing after probably a dozen tries. How’s about that? 43 minutes of aimlessness that points up the essential mistake most people make regarding the Allmans…just because Fillmore East (and the ‘Mountain Jam’ taken from the same concerts for Eat a Peach) sound so great, don’t assume the band can replicate that kind of thing on a random evening, which this particular live issue really resembles. Sorry to burst any bubbles, but they had lots and lots of editing on the Fillmore discs, miles of it, enough to render most performances unrecognizable from their actual selves, and enough to cut out most of the parts that you have to sit through in excruciating detail here on Ludlow Garage. That drum solo not seem too long on Fillmore? Well, here it continues for almost 10 minutes (when 2, or even some number less than or equal to zero would be quite enough, thanks!), and only is it joined at that point by Berry Oakley for a bass solo. If there’s any two words in the English language that provoke the desire to get up from your seat, go have a piss, smoke a cigarette (or two), buy a coupla more beers, drink those, read the entire works of DH Lawrence, get married, have two kids, learn golfing, cheat on your wife, try to make it up by buying her lots of jewelry, giving up and getting divorced, pissing again, and finally returning to your chair several years later and several pounds lighter to catch the first few bars of the inevitably doodly half-tuning, half-fucking around, half-saying ‘shut the FUCK up already, Oakley!’ reintroduction of the guitar players….

They’ve GOT to be ‘the Bravo Channel’. Whoops! Gotta go water the lilies, see ya!

Capn's Final Word: God almighty, learn to use fucking Pro Tools already

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Matti Alakulju     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: I don't know why you have such a bad copy of this. Actually I don't have the official 2-CD version, I have the completely illegal 3-white-vinyl bootleg version by Swingin' Pig. And it sounds gorgeous.And it has Liz Reed, which, as I've understood, is not included in the official version. It's the best Liz Reed I've ever heard. I give this one A- because, well let's admit it, Mountain Jam is a bit too long. By the way, anybody knows who really was Elizabeth Reed? I only heard
it recently on a live DVD called Live At The Great Woods. In his youth, Dickey Betts used to date with some girl on a graveyard in Macon, GA. He wrote this awesome instrumental song actually for his girl, but for some reason he couldn't name it after her. But they used to meet next to a tombstone, and guess what was written on that tombstone. Of course, you got it: In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.


Where it All Begins - Epic 1994

Enough to make me want to reconsider my generally positive and forgiving review of Seven Turns, and to avoid reviewing Shades of Two Worlds only after I’ve completed all those Fixx and The The reviews I’ve been saving up. Where the Poop Log Begins sounds more and more like what I dread pretty much every time I start reviewing another band of ‘survivors’ who started sucking in the late 70’s but sucked even harder in the 80’s, badly enough that they got kicked off their label around the time of the release of Thriller and She’s So Unusual and Kissing to Be Clever and all those other classic albums by people who are all either in jail or Dr. Pepper ads now. But the Allmans, like so many others, have soldiered on through the pre-packaged nostalgia of the early-90’s retro-boom to find themselves a new audience willing to buy their records as long as the concerts are long enough and the beer is cheap enough and the bikers show up to lend ‘color’. The Allmans may taste slightly less contrived than, say, Jethro Tull or Aerosmith, but it’s all shades of the same problem – most of these guys are unwilling to give up the possibility that their hit-making days are over, so either they stick blindly to a formula that last worked ages ago (Tull), or they sell out and dabble in whatever is calculated to sell the most records to idiot teenage girls now (Aerosmith). Or, like the Allmans, a band I feel has a certain sympathetic integrity every now and then, you might compromise between the two – while I felt Seven Turns had quite a bit of merit, sounding very much like what an Allman Brothers record is supposed to be able to sound like, I feel like this particular outing is a sad attempt to score a hit by dumbing down the chord structures, whitening the black/country twang influences to transparency, and yanking out the shout ‘em if you got ‘em choruses the band last resorted to back on Rogues, and even then it had a soft-rock tinge to it, while here it’s pure arena cheese. In fact, this one sounds like nothing more than a post-‘Touch of Grey’ Grateful Dead album…plenty of acceptable guitar playing over a background sorrowful in it’s lack of inspiration. Of course I love Betts’ guitar singing like it does on ‘Back Where it All Begins’…I do have a soul, but I also have a booty, and not once does it get moving on Where it All Begins. Nah, I may be tempted to fast forward through ‘No One Left to Run With’ due to unlicensed use of a guitar figure Bo Diddley first created some forty-odd years before, leaving it to white kids like the Allmans to desecrate in the name of sales ever since. Warren Haynes is still trying out for the reconstituted Lynyrd Skynyrd, attempting to convert the leaders to the followers with Skin-nerdy tracks like ‘Mean Woman Blues’, featuring cracklier riffs that derive themselves from Cream rather than the Bluesbreakers, but sound just about as musty. See, the Allmans don’t sound the least bit weakened by their years, they’re smoother and more fluid on their instruments, and the rhythm section is still a sight to behold, but the fact that their attempting to restate their same old platitudes on yet another tour-excuse CD release sounds very tired this time around.  These guys don’t need a hit song that plays up to the VH1/ Bonnie Raitt-adoring Adult Album Rock audience, they really need to get back to what made Seven Turns, Idlewild South, and Allman Brothers worth hearing – their love of their roots.

Capn's Final Word: Are these motions worth going through again?

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Glenn   officialniteowlz@hotmail  Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I'm not familiar with this album... I just want to say that I have to disagree with the Fixx dis. The Fixx, in my opinion, were one of the most thoughtful and innovative mainstream synth-rock/pop acts of the early 80's... plus they wrote killer hooks!!!! Their rep has suffered unfairly (I believe) because (a) they had hits in the 80's and (b) they get associated with lame bands like Flock of Seagulls just because they kinda looked alike and both were on MTV at the same time. Listen closely to "Phantoms" or "Walkabout" with an open mind and then tell me what you think.

(Capn's Response: Just as soon as I finish these Allman Brothers albums, dammit!)


An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band: 2nd Set - Epic 1995
Incomplete

NOT YET!!! dammit!

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Hittin' the Note - Peach 2003

An Allman Brothers album without Dickie Betts? How dare they? Well, something tells me its something that has a long and winding history back from the hazy days of the mid-70’s, when the Allmans were worshipped and Gregg Allman almost entirely lost his ability to gain writing credits on his band’s albums. The official line was that Betts’ playing was something short of acceptable on their final tour together (oddly preserved for eternity as Peakin’ at the Beacon), but it has to involve either a) songwriting credits, ergo songwriting royalties, b) that deal with the drug dealer way back in 1976 that led to the band’s first breakup, c) the lingering human stain that is marriage to Cher, or iv (3)(a)(q)(ii)*) the fact that Dickie Betts has not engaged in proper oral hygiene since the Johnson administration. Just kidding…I’m sure they kissed and made up about that drug dealer thing a long while ago.

Okay, so new kid on the block is Derek Trucks, nephew of founding drummer Butch, who I’ve mentioned like twice in this whole huge set of reviews that have taken me darn near the entire month of December to write down. Derek’s just about a transparent graft onto the Allman Brothers machine, which is probably exactly what they’d wanted. His slide guitar is darn inspired, though, miles better than what Duane was able to strangle out of his Les Paul back 32 years before, anyway, and he’s like 20 years old, so count him as one of the Torch-Bearers of Rock ‘n’ Roll, a guy who’s good enough to take the place of Dickie Betts and help create what is easily the best Allman Brothers record since Brothers and Sisters.

What makes Hittin’ the Note so great, so surprisingly, massively great, is that the band is not afraid to take it’s cute little hit-machine (that, if I will remind you, last worked in 1980) sound apart and blast it into component pieces, kind of like an updated Idlewild South, in fact a whole goddamn much exactly like that. There are the jazzy interludes that push ballads into gorgeous lands beyond, like on ‘Desdemona’. There’s funky like the men forgot how to make, pure Southern black-dude funk that takes the rhythm section out on the highway and really opens it up, serving as a reminder that this band could, at times (like these) be considered a pioneering white funk band.  And there’s blues that pull it out and whip it around the Key Club meeting like Kirk Douglas on electroshock, blues that forgets such bullshit like ‘track record’ and pays all them old dues over again. The band isn’t afraid to make an album they won’t (?) be able to recreate onstage, so they make an album that uses the studio like a long-lost friend, mixing acoustic instruments with electric ones and other arena-rock no-no’s, but they never sacrifice their vintage, warm sound in favor of slickness.  There’s some tracks that have the sweet, acrid stench of filler, like ‘Who to Believe’ or ‘Rockin Horse’ (which pretty much sums up the sound used on all of the Allman’s first three 90’s albums in 7-odd minutes), but still sound great enough to overcome their less regal bloodlines. Like on ‘Believe’, the guitar solo uses a slide like I’ve never heard one used before, demolishing the attack of a note until it sounds like each one rises from between the clenched teeth of a murderous man, or the whacked-out wah-wahs on ‘Maydell’, or the polyrhythms of ‘Rockin’ Horse’. I mean, this album ain’t short, and around the middle of it I should be getting bored, but instead I just want the good times bus to roll on, the kegs to keep pourin’, and the guitar solos to keep rolling on out like boulders down a mountain.

Now, in my day I’ve heard veritable shitloads of classic rock albums, you know, ‘the way they used to do it’, before infinite-track recording decks, digital doodad woohoo, before powders were banned from the control room and back when the only guitars that sounded good were made between 1957 and 1960. The fact is, around the same time that disco became popular, this kind of ‘organic’ (or ‘analog’ or ‘lateral’ or ‘really fucking difficult’) way of recording was lost to the ages. Never again would an album sound like Al Green’s early 70’s Hi Records releases did, or like Exile on Main St., or hell, like Idlewild South did. I mean, some albums sounded pretty good, in their own way, I’ll admit, but I felt like the compression-by-means-of-tube warmth, no-bullshit, mic-placement-not-reverb-unit sound was gone with the blow. But, somehow, by hook or by crook, by chips or by tubes, the Allmans have recaptured this sound. Their guitars sound as if each has it’s own personality, not just a bunch of wires and circuits. The drums sound alive, and have luxurious amounts of space. Oh, man, too much more of this sound and I’m gonna just have to A-plus this album, but that’d be a pretty rash judgment. This album is great, but it ain’t classic. It’s just darn well the best way this kind of album can be done, that’s all. If the Allman Brothers new role is to be standard-bearers of the vintage classic rock sound, all I can say is that Hittin’ the Note is a damn good way to begin the collection. All hail the Allmans!

Capn's Final Word: All hail the Allmans! I mean, excepting maybe a dozen or so records, this is better than any blues rock I've ever heard.

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Matti Alakulju     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Yeah, you're right, this is a great album. Something that these guys haven't done since the good ol' 70's. There's a track called "Instrumental Illness" and it somehow reminds me of many songs written by Dickey Betts. But this one comes from Warren Haynes, and he has the best white man's blues band that there ever was, Gov't Mule. And that other guy, Derek Trucks, he also has his band, heavily influenced by some jazz greats like Coltrane. Actually I don't know which ones are day jobs and which are side projects. But what the heck, these guys make great guitar music in and out of ABB.  Also, you should check out the latest DVD release, called Live At The Beacon Theatre, to see things really happen. Many of these tracks get way extended, guitar duels, improvs and so on. With Haynes and Trucks on board, I can honestly say that I don't miss Duane or Dickey. And that's the first time in decades.

 


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