Review Summary: The long lost American predecessor of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.
Most times I think of The Allman Brothers Band
, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut comes to my mind. The obvious reasons probably lay on the facts that both bands are considered southern rock originators and the albums’ cover arts share an almost identical concept of the band looking at the camera at an outside photo shooting. Whether Lynyrd Skynyrd went intentionally for the same concept remains unknown to me but the song “Free Bird” was dedicated to Duane Allman, the slide and lead guitarist of The Allman Brothers Band, after his tragic demise.
Nevertheless, for the time being the connections between the two bands will stop here because unlike Skynyrd’s debut The Allman Brothers Band
is a solid blues rock affair rather than a southern rock offering. In fact, I always thought of this album as the older sibling of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
not only because of Duane Allman’s participation on both recordings but mostly due to their similarities in sound and songwriting. Also, knowing how Eric Clapton has always been incorporating elements from various artists to his sound, it would be no surprise if Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
had been very much influenced by The Allman Brothers Band
even before Slowhand met Duane Allman.
Going back to describing the sound of this album, those of you who are familiar with the Brit blues scene of the late 60s and early 70s will find numerous similarities. However, The Allman Brothers Band
is not a rehash as it contains various elements such as the dual guitars, two percussionists(!) and the incorporation of Gregg Allman’s organ that made the band’s sound different than most of its contemporaries. Moreover, those of you who have listened to the band’s colossal live At Fillmore East
are aware of the fact that The Allman Brothers enjoy improvising every once in a while. It seems though as if they wrote music based on that propensity as there are plenty of opportunities within their songs for extended solos and improvisations. Two such tracks and possibly the standouts of this album are “Dreams” and “Whipping Post”. The former is the album’s longest song and it revolves around a hypnotic rhythm with psychedelic influences that slowly builds up. The latter, which has become a staple at the band’s concerts, is one of The Allman Brothers’ most well known songs and features some incredible guitar work and emotional singing.
Nevertheless, the rest of the album also boasts excellent musicianship and solid songwriting. “It’s Not My Cross to Bear” sounds as if it was taken out of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
while “Every Hungry Woman” with its congas and the characteristic guitar tone of the Gibson SG sounds like something Santana could have recorded. Speaking about Carlos, no other song reminds the playing of the legendary Mexican more than the opening track “Don’t Want You No More” which sets the tone with some great guitar work, noticeable organ and full drum sound. “Black Hearted Woman” is one of the most playful tracks while the percussionists play a Latin rhythm which the guitar complements with some interesting blues licks. In addition, one of the best riffs of the album is hidden on Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More” on which Duane Allman shows his slide guitar skills. Lastly, one must not forget Greg Allman’s overall solid performance regarding his vocal duties as his rasp and emotional voice complements the band’s sound perfectly.
On the other hand, one needs to dig deep in order to find drawbacks in this LP. Nevertheless, its short duration at only 33 minutes leaves the listener looking for more and if we take only the original material under consideration, we’re left with less than 30 minutes of music. In addition, Berry Oakley’s bass could have been a little more audible as he plays some serious bass lines that should not be missed.
Overall, The Allman Brothers Band
is an album that should be listened at least once by every blues rock enthusiast out there. Duane Allman’s guitar playing was intense and skillful there’s no question about that. However, by listening to this album, one can realize that each member of The Allman Brothers Band was/is a very proficient user of his musical instrument. This in turn makes one wonder how much more this band could have given us if Duane Allman and Berry Oakley hadn’t died in similar motorcycle accidents at such close proximity. Nevertheless, we should feel blessed that the band offered us some incredible material including this album.