Allman Brothers’ Band- A Decade of Hits (1969-1979)
You can imagine me as a mere 4 year old, sitting in a car with my father, listening to all the classic rock in the world. From the time I was only in Pre-School, my father had me hooked on bands like the Doors, Pink Floyd, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. But one band in particular, and one album by that band, stood out to me. I picked up this CD and looked at it’s cover art, a pair of denim jeans with gold writing, and begged for it to be played. After the second track, “Ramblin’ Man", I just kept on listening. And to this day, this CD hasn’t left my life. My dad and his car might be gone (don‘t ask, I won‘t tell), but the music he played for me has stuck throughout the past 11 years of my life.
The Allman Brothers’ Band was known as being the pioneers of gritty, bluesy, southern-ish jam rock. And Duane Allman ranks in on Rolling Stone’s ‘greatest list’ at #2. Unfortunately, Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident. But it seems fate has rubbed off on my family (not in a positive way). On the five year anniversary of Duane’s death, my cousin, Les was killed on his motorcycle. I can’t help but feel a tad uneasy about this, because from what I’ve heard, Les was a big Allman fan. So, in a way, my liking of the Allman’s is my own homage to my dead cousin. What can I say, I guess he’d be proud.
The legacy of Duane Allman had been passed on for some time, inspiring eventual band members such as Derrick Trucks, who is currently in the band, as well as ex- Allman, Warren Hayes, who know fronts Gov’t Mule. Each of them have been driven by one aspect or another of Duane’s playing. And you’d agree, you’d at least like to try to play like the man who’s band your in. :)
The tracks selected on this album are all unique to their own extent. The live version of ‘Statesboro’ is about as dirty as blues can get, with Gregg’s raspy voice and Duane, with the likes of Dickey Betts trading guitar leads. Meanwhile, the all out jam of ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed’ pokes at jazz. The first Allman tune I ever heard, ‘Ramblin’ Man’ mixes country with blues and a cooled down groove and lots of guitar soloing. And then there’s the sleazy, wicked acoustic playing of “Midnight Rider". Even if the title doesn’t sound familiar, you’ve probably heard this song and not realize it. The vocal melody is instantly recognizable, and for that reason, it just makes the dark feel of the song that much more enjoyable to listen to.
Every song, in one way or another, is in some way related to blues, but tastefully incorporates the memorable qualities of other genres. ‘Southbound’ is a perfect example. Sure, it has a sleazy, rock guitar riff, but the groove has enough of a country vibe to mix up the moods a bit. The following tune, ‘Melissa’ is a fan favorite and receives lots of airplay on commercials. Great song, and very laid back and pretty. It’s the predecessor to its younger sister, ‘Jessica’ which is actually much longer than the other track. At around seven and a half minutes in length, ‘Jessica’ is wonderful and melodic, but there are better tracks here. It’s far from bad, though.
‘Little Martha’, cited as the only song Duane wrote himself, is the epitome of what I would call ‘short and sweet’. The acoustic folk guitar is subtle enough to put you to sleep, and the judicious use of harmonics are sugary. It comes as no surprise that the next song, ‘Crazy Love’ is much more rock-oriented. The creamy distortion on the guitar, blended with the bouncy bass and drums is enough to make you like the song, especially when a guitar solo is thrown in at random. Gregg also works with background singers to achieve a great, southern-rock sound, with a splash of Page-esque guitar soloing. ‘Revival’ is a track where the sound of the Grateful Dead becomes apparent. The intro immediately strikes you as if Jerry Garcia wrote the guitar melodies himself. The movements change quite a bit, even sounding a bit like Spanish- Classical in some parts. The drums as well, take a short solo. But the dominant sound is deep south country-rock, spawning a sound that bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd would be soon to make apparent, minus the happy lyrics.
As every song borrows heavily from country and southern based folk, nothing is more apparent than on the song ‘Wasted Words’. It sounds as if it was pulled straight from a steam-powered riverboat floating down the good ol’ Mississippi. It’s a tad long for what it’s worth, but the guitar work is enjoyable, nonetheless, as is the keyboard underneath the guitar solo at the end. ‘Blue Sky’ follows in its footsteps, but too dragged on and a bit less entertaining. This is my ONLY complaint off of this album, as everything else, to me, is nearly flawless.
‘One Way Out’ is definitely the highlight of the album, and probably my favorite Allman song. Everything about it, the rushed drum beat, mind blowing guitar work, and gritty, tough-as-nails persona of the song is immaculate. Gregg’s voice is dark, like a biker in an abandoned roadhouse bar. At the complete opposite end of the spectrum is ‘Liz Reed’. As previously stated, this song borrows heavily from jazz, but still manages to crank out that good old blues jam. The keyboard and rhythm section drive a wonderfully melodic guitar solo that lasts a darn while, but fully picks up just after the two minute mark. Two minutes passes by before a samba of keys and percussion that just wows you before yet another guitar solo. At the very end, you get a nice drum solo. If only every song was as good as these two, the world will know peace.
‘Dreams’ is the slowest paced song on the album, but that isn’t meant in a negative connotation. The airy slide guitar defines the title, and makes you feel as if you actually were deep into your subconscious. There isn’t much else to say, except for that this song is indeed seven and a half minutes of dreamy music. The finale to the most fantastic greatest hits album I’ve ever heard (that’s right, it’s no longer Cream) is ‘Whipping Post’. The dirty blues vibe is once again, the carrier, but this time the tempo is slowed down quite a bit. But that only lasts until the guitar jam, where dueling solos fiercely rip at one another. Fantastic song.
I realize that the title of being a ‘jam band’ can be intimidating and a turnoff to some listeners, as an hour and a half of guitar solos might appear as wankery or even a burden to listen to. But you must believe me when I say that you could listen on and on to the Allmans and it won’t get old. As scary as 60 minutes of guitar soloing might be, this album has taken my heart and has become my #1 choice for a compilation CD. So, I’d like to thank the very few who actually stuck around to read all of my review, as well as my father, for turning me on to some of the greatest music out there.
Been a pleasure, thanks.
~ Andrew (a.k.a.- Twist, a.k.a.- Entwistle)
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