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"Just one more morning I had to wake up with the blues"

Class C

Main Category: Roots Rock
Also applicable: Guitar Heroes, Hard Rock
Starting Period: The Artsy/Rootsy Years
Also active in: The Interim Years, The Punk/New Wave Years,

From Grunge To The Present Day



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It's probably impossible to have a more or less clear understanding of the term 'Southern rock' without taking a serious peek into this band, a band that symbolizes 'Southern rock' as it is - all of its good and bad sides. The loyalty and devotion of many of the Allmans' supporters is far and well known - these guys rival the Deadheads in these qualities. This might have something to do with the fiery Southern character, but I'm not much of a psychologist to decide, plus, I've never been to the South of the States and know nothing of either Mobile or New Orleans (I love the Gabriel Knight series, though! Honest!) Anyway, speaking of the Allmans, now her's one band whose symbolic importance has far outweighed their actual contributions to the world of music; not a rare case, of course, but a serious accusation that deprives them of a higher rating on my overall scale. Their songwriting was minimalistic, mostly rehashings of old and therefore little-known folk, country and blues tunes, with just a hint at an original idea now and then; unfortunately, it was enough to spoil the 'authenticity' vibe, because, while the Allmans certainly aren't an 'original' band in the true sense of the word, they also aren't a blues band in the true sense of the word: their music certainly goes behind pure blues cliches. Problem is, it doesn't go far enough.

What I'm meaning is that it's really hard to get into the Allmans. For one, I've never bought the idea of their music being emotionally resonant: some of the songs are absolutely gorgeous, of course, but overall their tone is more show-off-ey, as if all of their lives they had simply being try to prove that they were gutsy. They were; and the presence of Duane Allman in the band perhaps added that necessary spark of sincerity and audacity that horrendous lots of blues bands simply don't possess - you know, the kind of boring dudes that play blues simply because it's blues and think that it's already enough to woo the audience by screaming some banal lyrics like 'woke up this morning...' and stuff and Lord God will do the rest for them. Nope; blues is more tricky, and good blues is certainly quite a hard thing to play, but, fortunately for the Allmans, on certain occasions they did it magnificently. However, Duane Allman passed into the state of a deceased legend far too quickly - just after two studio albums, and the Allmans lamely decided that they were able to carry on without him. Well - that's a good question: were they or weren't they? On a gutsy-brawny level, they were; but essentially, the flame and the spark had died down together with Duane, and most of the rest of the Allmans' career was spent coasting, cashing in on their glorious past (three years, actually). They have always been a pretty decent blues band, but not better than dozens of others, and after they'd reformed in the 1990's, they simply transformed into a nostalgia symbol - a solid, enjoyable symbol, but nothing but a symbol, anyway. The Allmans were always more spectacle than substance; that's their major problem.

But I'll have to admit, in the early Seventies the spectacle was really worth seeing. Back then, the Allmans were probably unsurpassed on the technical level. They boasted a superb rhythm session, with two skilled drummers and a bassist that created a solid wall-of-sound. They boasted a terrific guitar duet: Duane Allman is justly recognized as one of the greatest guitar players of his time, and Dicky Betts was as professional as you could wish. Their singer possessed a stable, bluesy vocal - I consider it slightly over-pathetic and generic, but that's really my personal problem - and added flashy layers of keyboards to the sound, making it even more thick and vibrant. Their jams were boring, of course, as every blues jam is supposed to be, but far less boring than, say, the jams of Jefferson Airplane, and sometimes they amounted to downright exciting, especially when Duane was in a good mood. Their own compositions were sometimes good, and anyway, like I said, they are the essence of Southern rock. If you love Southern rock, you'll love the Allmans; however, chances are that if you haven't yet heard the Allmans, you simply haven't heard anything about Southern rock.

Lineup now (you don't know how long I've been waiting for that moment!): Duane Allman - slide guitar; Gregg Allman - vocals, organ; Dicky Betts - guitar; Berry Oakley - bass; Jai Johanson & Butch Trucks - drums, percussion. Duane died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, leaving the band with just one guitarist. Berry Oakley died a year later... in a motorcycle accident (ban the bikes!), replaced by Lamar Williams; Chuck Leavell joined at the same time on keyboards. The band finally fell apart in the mid-Seventies, only to reform later (in 1979) without Leavell and Williams, but with Dan Toler on guitar and David Goldflies on bass. Their albums of that period are usually labeled as their worst, but I'm no judge, not having heard them at all. Again, the band collapsed in 1981, and reformed only in 1990 with Warren Haynes replacing Toler and Allen Woody replacing Goldflies. They've been steadily pumping out product since then, and some of this product is certainly okayish, though far from their (or, in fact, anyone's) best.



Year Of Release: 1969

Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Solid blues-rock but no specific attractions...


Track listing: 1) Don't Want You No More; 2) It's Not My Cross To Bear; 3) Black Hearted Woman; 4) Trouble No More; 5) Every Hungry Woman; 6) Dreams; 7) Whipping Post.

If the Allman Brothers Band are not overrated as a whole (which I'm sure they are, but that's another story), then this album certainly is. This is their humble debut on which they were really not yet sure about the road they'd be taking in the future (read: never thought about releasing The Fillmore Concerts). I mean, it was already obvious that they mostly built their repertoire on blues covers and self-penned blues originals (here - all courtesy of lead singer and keyboard player Gregg Allman), but the music is so derivative and uncertain that their chances of leaving the blues stage were higher than, say, the ones of Jethro Tull in 1968. Not that these tunes are bad, of course. Bringing Southern blues-rock to its peak, the 'Allmen' clearly dominated that stage at least in one respect: they had the most full-fledged, grandiose, rich blues sound in the district, particularly due to the band's six members - two drummers and two guitarists included.

'Grandiose' need not mean 'excellent', though. When I listen to these seven workouts, I feel that practically every one of them has something to say, but almost nothing gets me terribly excited. Now before the Allman fans start flaming me, let me explain that I'm in no way bashing the group. I'm just saying that I'm not entirely satisfied with it. Everybody does their job well, but the guitars are plainly uninteresting. Yes sir, they are! Guitarist Dicky Betts is no slouch, and Duane Allman is known as one of the finest slide players on Earth, at least, at his 1969-71 peak; but these are nothing but words. The down side is that the tone that they choose on this record is fairly dull. They stay somewhere in the middle of the genre web - equally distant from soft and hard rock, which means that there are no acoustic ditties and no crunchy riff-fests either. And Duane doesn't even let rip - the few moments when he does guitar duels with Dickey are great, like on 'Whipping Post', but usually he just sticks to fairly generic blues leads that I can hear played by half-professional bands in some Moscow pubs.

The other problem is with Gregg: I'm not a big fan of his voice that screams "Authentic Bluesman Verified" (it's good, though), and his songwriting hasn't yet developed at this point. Out of the five songs he lays down on record I count two really good ones. The first one is the well-known concert standart 'Whipping Post', a dirty self-deprecating anthem with probably the most memorable refrain and undeniably the best guitarwork - listen to that Duane/Dickey interplay and don't tell me it ain't exuberant. The second one is the misogynistic 'Black Hearted Woman': this time it's the riffwork that catches my attention. In fact, it's the heaviest number on the album, and some of the vintage riffing is very close to Hendrix style (I'd even say a couple of moments are borrowed from 'Purple Haze', but you know how you gotta be careful with such kind of things).

The three other numbers are a stately bore - good as background music, and some of them certainly much better in a live setting, but in this context they don't really cut the mustard for me. 'It's Not My Cross To Bear' sounds so ultimately generic and bland that I could hardly imagine old blues masters appreciating it, and the slowness really gets me down on that one. 'Every Hungry Woman' seems to kick ass at first, but turns into a big forgettable nothing when you turn off the CD - the riffage isn't particularly bad, but the presence of the far superior 'Black Hearted Woman' annihilates the need for an inferior rewrite. And the most excruciating experience is with the seven-minute 'Dreams', a half-psychedelic 'jam' on which the band verily seem to play their instruments while skipping through their thirty-seventh dream.

Some face is saved with the instrumental 'Don't Want You No More' (a Spencer Davis cover?) that opens the album on a very bold, punchy note - ah, that pounding introduction should really be played at the top of your speaker's lungs - but then again, some is lost with the Muddy Waters cover 'Trouble No More' that would only redeem itself later as a live number. No, I'm not a blues or blues-rock hater by any means, and I'm not gonna dismiss these compositions for good. But they are generic. In order to be an outstanding blues-rock band, people, you gotta do something outstanding - sing like John Fogerty, play guitar like Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page, or throw away the extra instruments and tighten up your music until it screws you, like the Rolling Stones. Or, well, be mean and dirty, get drunk, put on a load of feedback, tear your shirt apart - well, anything like that. But no: the Allmans offer us clean, good-shaped, professional and completely even blues rock that would provide us some fine material for teaching music in school but certainly couldn't hope to enter history.

Yup, you might defend this record as much as you can, but I tell you: if it weren't for the Allmans later albums on which they really delivered some crunch, no way could this record become notorious. It's just so-so - promising, but not more.



Year Of Release: 1970

Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

This is where the band finally starts to gel together. An excellent place to start your musical education, actually.


Track listing: 1) Revival; 2) Don't Keep Me Wonderin'; 3) Midnight Rider; 4) In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed; 5) Hoochie Coochie Man; 6) Please Call Home; 7) Leave My Blues At Home.

Not that the band had really progressed a lot since their debut - I don't think Duane wasn't actually able to extract these stinging licks on 'Don't Keep Me Wonderin' on the debut as he was here - but to me it seems that on Idlewild South, the tendency was to make a truly listenable, entertaining effort. Thus, no lethargic stuff like 'Dreams' on here: just your solid 'roots-rock', where everything is thrown together. There's pure blues, there's soul, there's country, there's jazz-rock, and there's even some gospel, which makes South a curious and competent ragbag of styles, but with the Allmans' unmistakable identity etched into every single one of the tracks. The rhythm section is as tight as ever - I actually enjoy listening to this in headphones and getting Butch's drums in one speaker and Johanson's eternal congas and bongos and ponchos (nay, sorry about that last one) in the other. The guitars blaze as usual, and Gregg's soulful vocals also stand the test of multiple listenings. I am still not able to give this record a ten, for two rather obvious reasons: first, it's kinda short (thirty minutes? come on! what are they, the Beach Boys in 1964?), and second, to the best of my knowledge, the Allmans only were at their absolute peak when playing live. On the other hand, the tunes are mostly short and compact, and this saves you from hourlong 'wankings' that sometimes manage to spoil the fun on At Fillmore East. In any case, this is probably the first studio Allmans album to get, and the only one you really need besides Eat A Peach.

The record's highlight is Dickey Betts' curious instrumental 'In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed'. I do not know who was Elizabeth Reed, and nobody ever tells; in any case, the composition hardly sounds a requiem. True, the main theme is slightly sad, almost like a jazzy dirge, but then the number picks up steam and evolves into some hot, steaming guitar solos that finally evolve into a menacing hard rock riff: if this was indeed meant to be a requiem, seems that the guys forgot about it in mid-song, being caught up in all the fun. Not that I mind: the only thing about the song I'm not approving of is the uninspired organ solo in the middle. As such, this 'short' version (seven minutes as compared to the twelve-minute live one) is outstanding, and far easier to endure than the one on Fillmore East.

Other highlights include one of their most notorious country-rock excourses, Gregg's 'Midnight Rider', a song based on a terrific acoustic riff: simple, but captivating. This is, in fact, the thing that many 'roots-rock' performers often forget about: roots or boots, you have to think of something that will distinguish your tunes from millions of similar ones. Take a band like Free, for instance. Could they have written something like 'Midnight Rider'? Well, maybe they could... but they haven't. They just fiddled around with generic, overplayed chords and thought that if they intended to play some Band-ish country-rock, it would work out fine by itself. Well, it haven't. 'Midnight Rider', on the other hand, rules, with that masterful six-note riff that I'm still humming to myself...

Yet another incredible tune, which people often don't care much about, is the band's rendition of 'Hoochie Coochie Man'. Perhaps it is not usually loved because it ain't an original, but after all, the Allmans were a blues band, weren't they? How can a blues band live without feeding on blues covers? And it's quite superb. Oakley plays some scary bass lines and sings lead vocals on here; again, I heard somebody make ridiculous complaints about them being 'hoarse'. Sheez, of course they're hoarse, you can't sing 'Hoochie Coochie Man' in an un-hoarse tone! It has to be hoarse! It's, like, a blues classic! Eh? Add to this some truly stingin' Duane licks, some of his best on this record, and hoopla, a definite cover version, the best one I ever heard of 'Man'.

Out of the other songs, Betts assumes credits for the funny gospelish number (appropriately titled 'Revival') that opens the album; nothing spectacular, but just a solid, extremely tightly performed number that's great fun to, er, 'wiggle your ass' to. The lyrics are stupid (something about 'love is everywhere', you know, the usual stuff), but I suppose they're supposed to be stupid. And Gregg writes the rest of the record: 'Don't Keep Me Wonderin' is yet another gruff, ominous blues number, and, if I get it right, that ominous effect is primarily achieved with some incredible guitar/harmonica interplay, especially when both instruments are played in unison - something you don't hear much too often. The last two numbers on the record, though, are somewhat of a letdown: 'Please Call Home' is a rather generic soul number, a tune that would better be saved for an outtakes album, and 'Leave My Blues At Home', while brilliantly performed, has too little substance about it. At least it finishes the record on an upbeat note. These two songs almost made me lower the rating, but, after all, they're not bad or anything, they just don't reach the highest standard, so my rating stands.

As a whole, the album rarely amounts to spectacular heights - with the possible exception of several moments on 'Elizabeth Reed' - but it's solid, solid all the way through, and it deserves its cult status among the rednecks. Hell, I suppose rednecks are only a part of the Allmans' audience. Me, I'm not a redneck, for instance, and I dig the hell out of it. Are you a redneck, kind sir? No, wait, don't answer that! Just go and buy this album. It's good. Take my word for it.



Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 12

Who needs technically flawless, emotionally void aeons of blueswailing? Everybody.

Best song: YOU DON'T LOVE ME

Track listing: 1) Statesboro Blues; 2) Done Somebody Wrong; 3) Stormy Monday; 4) You Don't Love Me; 5) Hot 'Lanta; 6) In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed; 7) Whipping Post.

Well, this looks like an entirely different matter already - actually, finally, a live record from one of the best live bands of the early Seventies. Fans have long since deified this record, declaring it one of the best live rock albums ever, and it's quite obvious why, even if I don't tend to agree with them. Basically, this album's main flaw is that it only works for a specific audience - if you're not one of the freaks who sees the meaning of life in an endless, twenty/thirty minute long guitar jam, you'd better be off with your Live At Leeds or even Live At Kelvin Hall. My personal feelings are mixed - I only like selected guitar jams, and some of the less 'hot' passages on the record frankly bore me. But that's just me, the poor dumb little totally non-esoteric jerk. Don't bother with flaming me!

First of all, a technical detail: this record is currently available in two different versions and under two different names. The original (which I have) was released in 1971 with just seven tracks, but was recently re-released under the title The Fillmore Concerts with almost twice as much material. You'd think the old version would be deemed superfluous and disappear, but no such luck - it is still in print and quite available. This is probably due to the fact that most of the 'new' material on Fillmore Concerts isn't actually 'new' at all - apart from one or two short selections, it is taken from the 1972 Eat A Peach album. Thus, if you have both At The Fillmore East and Eat A Peach (like me; and note that the latter is a must for Allman Brothers fans due to the new studio material), the new re-release is of absolutely no use to you.

Like I said, the record is practically all composed of lengthy, but tight and flawless guitar jams - out of seven tracks, only three last for about five minutes. But it is all compensated by the quality - after all, the Allman Brothers are one band that you have to enjoy live, not limited by bland studio production. Like, you'd never guess from listening to their debut album that Duane Allman was a really really talented, speedy, rockin' kind of guitarist, or that the band's rhythm section was, in fact, one of America's all-time greatest - listen to the grooves in 'You Don't Love Me' or 'Hot 'Lanta' for proof. And it is also not entirely true that this is a 'hardcore blues' record: starting from the second side, the boys go further and further away from the blues, incorporating elements of diverse styles, so may well be that you might hate, for instance, 'Done Somebody Wrong', but love 'In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed'. Huh?

The first two tracks, though, don't really predict that this is going to be such a phantasmagoric record. They're short though, and thoroughly inoffensive: Blind Willie McTell's 'Statesboro Blues' opens the album on a high note, and Elmore James' 'Done Somebody Wrong' isn't all that memorable. Things start to get hot with the classic 'Stormy Monday', a staple of everybody's live show at the time; but, unlike Eric Clapton, for instance, the Allmans really turn this blues standard into a moody, dreamy saga with echoey guitars and otherworldly organs weaving into each other to create a blissful image of depression and melancholy. This, in fact, is the spot where you really start to appreciate the 'fullness' of the Allmans' sound: Cream, for example, could never have hoped to create a similar atmosphere, due to the lack of guitar interplay and keyboards.

And then, just as you were starting to get a little relaxed and comfy, you get shaken out of your seat and brought right up on your head by the magnificent, er, nineteen-minute jam on Willie Cobbs' 'You Don't Love Me'. The first part of it (the actual song) is just breathless - driven by a vivacious, bouncy Gregg Allman organ riff complimented by Dickey Betts' guitar, and it's probably my favourite fast number by the band in all (not that they had a lot of 'em). The second part sure might get tedious, but this is where Duane Allman steps out in all his might and delivers a load of frantic solos that manage to get your head to spin. Only warning: you have to set the sound loud, very loud - otherwise, you just might get distracted.

The second disc opens with a rather lacklustre instrumental ('Hot 'Lanta') that is supposed to showcase the rhythm section; it even includes a short drum solo, although, to the honour of the band, they don't usually abuse drum solos. There are some nice guitar moments, but overall it's kinda fillerish - a thing that would be blasphemous if applied to the next number, a smokin' version of Dickey Betts' 'In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed'. To be perfectly honest again (and a reviewer must be honest, otherwise why the hell should he be considered a reviewer), I'm not in love with the number, at least, my love is incomparable to the awe that a casual Allmans fan experiences towards the song. It never moved me to tears primarily because I can't really think of the number as something different from pure exercising in guitar heroics: sure, Duane Allman's screeching slidework throughout is superb, but it doesn't really sound all that different from his work on, say, the second half of 'You Don't Love Me'. While the song really begins as a moody, atmospheric, slightly sad shuffle with a heavenly slide guitar part, it soon becomes just another in your line of jams - a good one, but not that outstanding in the context of all the others. Still, it is good, but I by far prefer the studio version on Idlewild South, as it is presented there without much of the 'fillerish' parts.

So it is no surprise that the last quarter of the album is dedicated to yet another ultra-long jam, a twenty-two minute excruciating version of 'Whipping Post', and again, 'mixed feelings' is the perfect impression here. The 'song part' is excellent, and certainly superior to the original album recording, with Gregg's screams overcovering the incredible guitar duel between Dickey and Duane; and again, some of the jamming moments are good. Yet the song is tremendously overlong, and the final five minutes, where they seem to be struggling to finish the song and slow it down further and further and further, and yet it doesn't and doesn't stop and goes on and on and on, well, these five minutes are plain disgusting. The guys just didn't know how to constitute a good coda to their numbers.

All said and done, both the lovers and haters of the Allmans will just have to agree with me that this is the band's finest moment, at least, the band's finest moment with Duane in the band. If anything, it's just logically deductible - everybody knows that these kinds o' bands kick much more ass when taken live, and everybody knows that this particular band was especially good live only when it had Duane Allman in it. Since this was the first and last live album with Duane on it - he was killed in a motorcycle accident soon afterwards - it is logically their best. Stay away from bikes, careless strangers! And buy this album if you want to know what the Allmans really sounded like. Then again, you probably wouldn't want to - there are too few blues fans left in this world.



Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 12

The highest they ever got in the studio with Duane - an album that finally has 'personality' in it.

Best song: MELISSA

Track listing: 1) Ain't Wasting Time No More; 2) Les Brers In A Minor; 3) Melissa; 4) Mountain Jam; 5) One Way Out; 6) Trouble No More; 7) Stand Back; 8) Blue Sky; 9) Little Martha.

In order to fully appreciate the Allmans' talents in what they did best, one has, of course, to patiently wait and grow oneself an appreciation for Fillmore East. But if your patience is limited, or if you fear your end is near, why not grab Eat A Peach instead? A double album released already after Duane Allman's untimely death, it is divided into two parts: namely, an album's worth of new tunes dominated by Gregg's organ and Dickey Betts' guitar, and an album's worth of live material from the same Fillmore venues (now also available on Fillmore Concerts). One can only wonder why the hell did the band continue to call itself the 'Allman Brothers' since by now there was but one Allman brother left; yet, in a certain sense they were all 'brothers' (ever heard that nasty story about a fungus that every one of them tattooed on his ankle as a sign of brotherhood? Yuck!), so they were probably free of remorse. After all, how could they disband or drop the 'brothers' moniker when that would mean a forever ruined ankle?

The live material on this album consists of three tracks, but one by far overshadows the others - the thirty-three minute 'Mountain Jam' that obviously had to be cut in two to fit on an LP. Luckily, the invention of CDs corrects this little misfortune. Since it is apparent that only hardcore Allman Brothers fans can get their standard norm of kicks from a half an hour jam, however inspired or dazzling it might be, I won't even say a lot of things about it. Suffice it to say that the, er, 'composition' is listenable - whatever that may mean to a listener different from me. It has some good parts and some bad parts (two drum solos, for Chrissake!), and some of Duane's soloing is fucking brilliant, as usual; but to have the nerve to take a Donovan song and extend it to ten times its running time? Man! I would never refuse an offer to see it performed live, of course, but having to reproduce the experience in the peace and quiet of my happy home does not sound like a good idea. Guess it's no big surprise that I by far prefer to get my kicks out of 'One Way Out', a fast, catchy blues groove in the vein of 'You Don't Love Me', or the live version of 'Trouble No More' (far superior to the studio recording). They're flashy, well-sung, and have their good amount of breathtaking solo work as well ('One Way Out', in fact, contains some guitar licks that beat the shit out of almost any At The Fillmore East tracks - listen to Dickey and Duane scraping each other off the ceiling with their furious soloing and tell me if the guys selecting the numbers for the original live album hadn't been jackasses to put on 'Hot 'Lanta' instead).

Now the big improvement is the studio material. You gotta understand me, the Allman Brothers Band in 1972 sound almost completely unlike the same band in 1969. They have finally worked out their style and gone far beyond professional, but strikingly unimaginative blues covers (well, maybe not that far, but it's a long way to Tipperary). On Eat A Peach, they have definitely hit upon a unique 'Allman' Southern rock sound - unpretentious, soulful and tasteful, not to mention so professional and perfectly produced that it blows away any possible competition. Like, the beautiful ballad 'Melissa', with its romantic mood, gorgeous slide guitar and heartfelt Gregg Allman singing, might be one of the best reasons I ever had for dealing with this band in the first place. However, that's not the only highlight - the instrumental 'Les Brers In A Minor' is one of the most daring and really experimental tunes they did. The introduction alone takes about four minutes, and while it seems not too different from a crazy mess of feedback and crunchy chords at first, later on it acquires some charm of its own - a lament for Duane, mayhaps? And the main part, with its organ/guitar riff and a strong, pounding bassline, does marvels as well: that 'verse melody' is among the best they ever did, and the short instrumental outbursts (aka 'solos') of the band members never last too long to bore anybody. Sharp up to the point organ solo, short crisp understandable drum solo, unextended raunchy stingy guitar solo... everything's so well-balanced I'll probably give this one the preferences over 'Lizzy Reed' as my favourite Allmans instrumental.

Then there's the rightful classic 'Ain't Wasting Time No More', of course - Gregg sings about how he was too busy freaking out while that's obviously not the right thing to do (in short), and though it ain't very memorable, it's at least distinctive and energetic, with a masterful slide solo to keep spirits up, quite unlike stuff like 'Dreams'. Pity he just kept on freaking out, but that was later. The last part of the album, unfortunately, doesn't do much for me (the redneck blues of 'Stand Back' is particularly insipid), but at least they had the right intuition to end it with a pretty acoustic instrumental ('Little Martha') that's short, tender and thoroughly innocent.

I still rate this album a wee bit lower than At The Fillmore East, because nobody since 19th century composers should be permitted to include half an hour long tracks on any record if it ain't a lousy bootleg, and 'Blue Sky' and 'Stand Back' don't really feel better than their insecure 1969 songwriting, but for the casual fan that doesn't stand jams at all this should be the first (and last) Allman Brothers buy. Although, on second thought, I retract my remark about 'Blue Sky': that's a good country sendup, really warm and singalongey. Still doesn't melt my heart that's cold as ice, as usual.

Unfortunately, I still don't own any other of their studio albums from the Seventies; it is generally said, however, that only this album's followup, Brothers And Sisters, is comparable to the earlier stuff, so until I get the rest of the bros' catalog, maybe you should steer clear of the band's post-1973 output. Maybe not. I'm not the judge here, dammit.



Year Of Release: 1973
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 13

The highest they ever got in the studio without Duane - less experimentation, but even more personality.


Track listing: 1) Wasted Words; 2) Ramblin' Man; 3) Come And Go Blues; 4) Jelly Jelly; 5) Southbound; 6) Jessica; 7) Pony Boy.

Man oh man, is this album ever beautiful, from the wonderful album cover to just about every single song. Oh? What? What's that you say? Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, it's a very controversial move to quote a Duane Allman-less Allman Brothers Band record as their highest achievement, but let me try to explain. Just about every previous album, and I'm talking about the three most obvious 'candidates' here, had its significant flaws which prevent me from enjoying them on a global scale. Idlewild South was strong and innovative, but inconsistent, descending into boredom at the end; At The Fillmore East featured blistering live performances but slided into self-indulgence every now and then; and Eat A Peach had 'Mountain Jam' - need I say more?

On a song by song level, though, B&S seems to be the Allmans' most consistent and accessible statement. In a historical perspective, the album will seem to be a disappointment, because with the passing of Duane and bassist Berry Oakley (still featured on the two first tracks on here), the Allmans shifted away from any kind of experimentalism and locked themselves in the "generic Southern rock" groove forever. But that's about the only complaint I can voice, and scrutinizing it with enough attention leads to the obvious question - how experimental the Allmans really were, and wasn't their main achievement in bringing Southern rock to its most professional and energetic peak? Eh?

And in that respect, Brothers & Sisters really deliver. An 'economic' record, with just seven tunes on it, and featuring the strongest, most inflaming, dazzling performances on an Allmans' studio album. Obviously, the band was still very, very hot to prove that they could make it without Duane - and they could, with Dickey Betts working overtime and new member, pianist Chuck Leavell, bringing in a fresh new element. (By the way, Leavell is undoubtedly in my Top 5 'rootsy' piano players of all time - his work with the Stones and Clapton has always been wonderful). They got what they deserved, too, what with the album finally topping the charts and all; unfortunately, one could say that success really went to their heads and they allowed themselves to 'relax' after all this tension, which resulted in their never even once coming close to the same level of brilliancy. But for now, this is simply great. I can, with no remorse, say that this is the ultimate Southern rock album (as far as 'bluesy' Southern rock goes - the ultimate 'barroom' Southern rock album is Skynyrd's debut, of course), the one that every rock lover got to have in his collection - and with a pocketful of good will, even Southern rock haters will learn to treat the genre differently.

Brothers & Sisters is certainly Dickey Betts' moment of glory. He writes four out of the seven numbers, including three of the best ones, and his guitar playing has maturated to unprecedented heights - apparently, Duane's shadow still stood over his shoulders, and certainly he'd been soaking in Clapton influences as well. In this respect, if you do not think that 'Allman Brothers Band = Duane Allman', you'll easily understand why I rate this album so high.

The high point on here, which everybody probably knows, is the seven-minute instrumental 'Jessica' (what's up with all those names, anyway? 'Melissa', 'Jessica', 'Elizabeth Reed'... Had they been Frank Zappa, they'd have named it something like 'Fat Legged People Don't Carry Kalashnikovs'). While it's structured just like every normal instrumental jam should be - beginning and ending with the main theme/riff and featuring all kinds of improvisatory band interplay in the middle - it's simply beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful instrumental composition by the band. In its seven minutes, it manages to capture that optimistic, cheerful feeling and the very essence of enjoying life in all its beauty to a tee, with Betts and Leavell dueling with each other as if to outdo each other's optimism. Leavell bounces along, making you play 'air keyboards', and Betts gets all romantic and exhilarating, nearing the emotional heights that only Clapton could scale on a particularly good day when he was in the Dominos.

Another equally well-known high point is Betts' 'Ramblin' Man': the Allmans do straightforward country and do it wonderfully, with a memorable, upraising vocal melody (Dickey takes lead vocals and establishes an even more sincere and tear-jerking atmosphere than Gregg) and thrice as much energy as the Eagles. (Who'd already produced their best album, by the way). Not only that, the two or so minutes of guitar jamming at the end are absolutely great. And if that's not enough, you get 'Southbound' with even more furious guitar solos and a fast, driving rhythm that pulls no punches. Pure wonder.

Gregg does let the record down a bit, though. 'Wasted Words', with its poisonous, bitter vibe and unpredictable chord changes, is a perfect album opener; but elsewhere, Gregg goes for a slower, moodier approach, and while this certainly works in the case of the 'philosophic' 'Come And Go Blues', distinguished by a cool melancholic organ pattern in the background, it hardly works in the case of 'Jelly Jelly', the only relative piece of filler on the album, just because it's a generic piece of blues with nothing to distinguish it. It's not awful, though, just a bit boring, and even so, Dickey still comes in at the last minute and saves the day with a bunch of screechy, ecstatic, high-pitched solos a la Dominos.

Finally, what a better way to end the album than with a cool dobro-led number like 'Pony Boy'? They sure know how to entice a dobro-loving reviewer like me! They know that for a cool chunk of dobro- or slide-dominated blues I'd cross crocodile-infested rivers and travel through snake-filled jungles... well, maybe not that far, but I do think that there's nothing more enticing in the world than bluesy slide guitar or dobro when it's played the right way. And Dickey certainly plays it right. What a cool cool sound.

And... yeah, one last word for bluesrock haters. Whoever says that records like these are boring just do not take the time to listen carefully. A bluesrock album is boring when it consists of the same bunch of people endlessly repeating the same limited repertoire of chord progressions. In other words, if you're a poor player, your bluesy stuff will come out generic; but if you're one of the Allmans, your bluesy stuff will come out diverse and entertaining. Even on a filler piece like 'Jelly Jelly', I still manage to be enthralled by the numerous ways the guys play variations on the basic 4/4 structure and the cool rhythmic twists Leavell, Gregg Allman and Betts are taking all the time. In that respect, there's not a single boring second on the album - even when you're not bobbing your head to the jerky pace of things like 'Southbound' or not scaling the stairway to heaven to the optimistic purrs of 'Jessica', you can still just take the time to study the band's exciting and unique approach to their material. Believe me, that'd be far more fun than a pointless spitting out of poisonous saliva. (Hey, is anybody still listening?)



Year Of Release: 1976
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Surprisingly good performance - even if the Allmans are no longer in the "major" league.


Track listing: 1) Introduction; 2) Wasted Words; 3) Southbound; 4) Ramblin' Man; 5) In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed; 6) Ain't Wastin' Time No More; 7) Come And Go Blues; 8) Can't Lose What You Never Had; 9) Don't Want You No More; 10) It's Not My Cross To Bear; 11) Jessica.

This live release was issued at a time when the Allmans had temporarily gone their way, as a memento for the post-Duane/Berry Oakley lineup with Chuck Leavell on keyboards and Lamar Williams on bass. The album is a rather ragbaggy collection, with some of the material dating as far as December 1972 ('Ain't Wastin' Time No More') and some quite recent, from October 1975. Predictably, the band prefers to stick to newer material, and only a handful of old classics are shaken up and resuscitated, such as the inevitable 'Elizabeth Reed' and a couple of relative obscurities from the band's debut album ('Don't Want You No More', 'It's Not My Cross To Bear'). Brothers And Sisters are overrepresented, in my opinion, even if all of the tunes from that record are magnificent, and there's only one number from their most recent album; probably a blessing to everybody, since Win Lose Or Draw is largely regarded as a particularly low point.

That said, credit must be given to the band for managing to pull off such astute performances. If anything, Wipe The Windows did the Allmans a huge favour: namely, it proved that they could still keep their famous live act together even with the loss of two key members. It's true that the band was really never the same after Duane's death; I personally feel that a large part of the old magic, what the hell - the entire old magic had been lost with him. Listening to the Fillmore concerts, there are certain moments where one can just drop one's jaw in utter amazement and remain completely enchanted at the unparalleled chemistry happening between Duane, Gregg, and Dicky Betts. Listening to this, I just say: 'wow, what an entertaining set'. They are still playing with verve and enthusiasm, energy and precision, but now they are, if not just an ordinary blues band, an unspectacular blues band - still interesting and provocating, but definitely not light years ahead of any possible competition. If you ask me, they really needed to find a second guitarist of Duane's stature or, at least, close to Duane's stature. Dicky Betts is a fine guy, and his playing was only improving through the years, but however good he is, he can't play for the two of them. Sometimes Gregg himself joins him on guitar, leaving the entire keyboard duties to Leavell, but this happens only occasionally, and quite rarely at that, and Gregg is not a great guitar player. Therefore, normally Betts and Gregg just have to work overtime in order to compensate for Duane's absence, and it shows.

Leavell does save the situation several times - he's a very tasteful and laid back piano player, and his soloing on such tunes as 'Southbound' is wonderful. But still, they all work within the "very good" rather than the "utterly magic" pattern. That's about the only complaint about the record.

The main highlights on here, in my opinion, are the more upbeat, danceable, faster tunes from their recent records, the ones that give Betts a chance to really shine. Particularly 'Wasted Words' and 'Southbound' that open the record: what a wonderful pair of numbers. There's nothing like the stately gloomy majesty of 'Statesboro Blues' on here - these are cheerful, crowd-happy pleasers by your average friendly barroom band, but on the other hand, maybe this 'friendly reinvention' of the band's image was exactly what they needed. After all, it's obvious that the Allmans didn't want to have to walk forever in the shadow of Duane's death; it's well understood. And you do get caught in the fun, too: at some point in my life, I've never liked 'Ramblin' Man' all that much - way too rednecky and country-gibberish for my tastes; of course, I also dislike CCR's 'Fortunate Son', so whaddya wan' from da poh lil' mee? - but Dicky's inspired, complicated and extremely well-sounding soloing at the end of the tune made me forgive and forget the song's overall message just because I'm too busy playing some cool air guitar alongside. And eventually I really fell in love with the goshdarn song...

Perhaps, as a contrast, I can't really enjoy the 'gloomier' songs on this album all that much. Never been a particular fan of 'In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed', too, but the version on here is really pallid when compared to the Fillmore performance: not enough power or emotion, way too many keyboards and even the more powerful breaks lose their solidity and epicness without Duane. For most of its seventeen minutes, it's just an obligatory drag; however, its author was Dicky, and they couldn't get away without including it in the setlist or putting it on record.

They pick it up afterwards with 'Come And Go Blues' and 'Can't Lose What You Never Had', but lose it again on the two numbers from the debut album - especially on 'It's Not My Cross To Bear' which is just painful to listen to. And then, luckily, they pick it up again on a beautiful rendition of 'Jessica': I won't say 'gorgeous', because of all the white dudes, only Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones (at times) can pull off some truly gorgeous blues/country numbers, but it comes really really close. Friendly, kind-sounding and heartfelt guitar solos, lightweight cheerful piano, wonderful, unrestrained beats... what else do you want?

So I give it an overall rating of ten, just for the fun of it. I suppose, after all, that this was the best that the band could really do without Duane: limiting its earlier ambitions, shortening its jams, and putting on an ultra-friendly face. Of course, it also had something to do with their commercial success - they were now playing to a mellower and more mainstreamish kind of public that wouldn't want to understand the band's more complicated excesses. But I prefer not to think about such kind of things, personally. Why not see all this in a more favourable light?



Year Of Release: 1979
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Same old blues from the boys - a half-successful copy of the old days.


Track listing: 1) Crazy Love; 2) Can't Take It With You; 3) Pegasus; 4) Need Your Love So Bad; 5) Blind Love; 6) Try It One More Time; 7) Just Ain't Easy; 8) Sail Away.

This is NOT QUITE the Allman Brothers Band presenting us with a bland imitation of their classic sound, but dangerously near that level. Gregg got the band together after a half-assed solo album, and from all sides it just looks as if this time around, the boys were really desperate to recapture the old glory days. For their first reunion, they even hired a second guitarist, "Dangerous" Dan Toler, to rekindle the old twin-guitar flame, while Gregg and Dickey provide the old muscle (David Coldflies is on bass here, and the trusty drummer/percussionist duo is still in full flight).

It doesn't work. Each and every one of these eight numbers are pro forma - 'energetic' blues-rockers, ballads and instrumentals to demonstrate the band's power which is hardly existent. There's a crucial lack of interesting melodies or hooks. Even more important, the instrumentation itself is kinda feeble. These are revved-up electric numbers that never showcase the band's former amazing grasp of styles and sonic patterns - I miss the slide'n'steel overtones, the heartfelt countryesque punch of some of their more laid back numbers, the diversity of the styles. The more I listen to the album, the more I get the feeling that Enlightened Rogues was supposed to be a carbon copy of Brothers And Sisters: same mellow relaxed blues vibe ('Need Your Love So Bad'), same enflamed rockers ('Crazy Love', 'Can't Take It With You'), even a similar lengthy rootsy instrumental ('Pegasus'). But it's a step backwards in every direction.

It's not that the album is bad - it's listenable, but I would never recommend it to anybody in order to demonstrate the overwhelming power that Southern rock can sometimes possess. It's not the formulaic retro-Southern style of the band's Nineties albums yet, but it's certainly a transitional effort, and a pretty sad one at that: the kind of album that's released by people who are more concerned about image and fandom than about the actual musical quality. In short, there's just nothing exceedingly Allman Brothers-idiosyncratic on here.

Betts takes the lion's share of songwriting here: Gregg was supposedly so burnt out that he only contributes one tune, the lengthy ballad 'Just Ain't Easy'. It's not a bad ballad while it's on, one that has feeling all over the place, romantic gentle organ lines swooping all 'round and a surprisingly (for this album, I mean) mild and soothing Betts' guitar tone, but unfortunately, it's pure atmosphere - trying to memorize it forever is like trying to sweep a coin off your spread palm with a toothbrush. I would far prefer the generic blues cover 'Need Your Love So Bad'; it's in the same mood, but at least it's generic blues, so you know pretty well what you're going to expect.

As for Betts' material, it is extremely uneven - in fact, I can't find anything exceptional to say about such painfully weak material as 'Blind Love' and 'Try It One More Time', which rock, but do it in a lazy, perfunctory manner. And the closing ballad, sporting the most banal title ever ('Sail Away', of course), is even kinda offensive in its blandness. I'd never dream of accusing classic Allman Brothers of sounding like the Eagles, but the Eagles would probably be happy had they been donated this song. It screams "Commercial Fodder; We'll Be Emotional And You'll Reward Us" all over the place.

So the album actually makes it up with just the first three songs. The instrumental 'Pegasus' is definitely no 'Jessica', but it has its charms - every time the Allman Brothers try out some weird jam, you know they're not gonna be in it just for lack of ideas. Nice guitar riffs and soloing that can at times put you in a dizzy mood. It's still worse than 'Jessica' - 'Jessica' was one of the most exuberating celebrations of joy and optimism in the country-rock style I've ever witnessed, while 'Pegasus' is, well, essentially just a guitar jam with no obligatory connotations, and its tonalities change from major to minor and the mood from optimistic to nearly depressing so often and so suddenly that you become kinda baffled with its purpose, but there's still enough fun to be squeezed from it. Meanwhile, 'Crazy Love' is far from solid hit material which it nevertheless eventually became, but has a few distinctive playful riffs and is so drastically overproduced, with all those overdubs and female backing vocals, that it can't leave you without an impression.

The honour of best tune on the album still falls to 'Can't Take It With You', for one simple, simplistic, simplicistic reason: it features the best Betts guitar solos on the album. Were it not for the amazing guitarwork that almost fully lives up to his blistering solos on 'Southbound', I would probably haven't paid attention to Gregg's excellent 'exaggerated' singing intonation on the track, or the funny 'chuggin' riff that opens the track, but the solos are indeed so blazing that it's difficult to let 'em bypass you. Of course, it has a lot to do with the particular playing style - I like it when Betts selects that sharp, dry, stingin' style, but check out the exact licks he produces at about 2:50 into the song and you'll feel convinced...

Say, did I ever tell you that every time I write a review for a generic album like this I can feel my brain cells slowly melting away? I realize this site's primary function is to separate the grain from the chaff, but it's kinda hard to write about the chaff when there's no grain, and there's plenty of albums like that on the site. And yet, should I simply tell 'This album sucks' or 'This album is darn mediocre' and leave it at that, the next day I'd have hellhounds on my trail... I mean, people actually wrote songs, recorded them, spent their efforts and money and everything, and all I can say is 'This album sucks'. That'd be disrespectful. So, I have to point out why it sucks, and that's the rub. All good albums are good in their own different way, yet all bad albums suck exactly the same. (That's misquoting Leo Tolstoy, but that's not really important). Sigh. Time to arm myself with a thesaurus by my side, I suppose...



Year Of Release: 1990
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 8

A fairly ordinary blues & country record - there are thousands of them around the world, I'd bet.


Track listing: 1) Good Clean Fun; 2) Let Me Ride; 3) Low Down Dirty Mean; 4) Shine It On; 5) Loaded Dice; 6) Seven Turns; 7) Gambler's Roll; 8) True Gravity; 9) It Ain't Over Yet.

Somewhere around the tail end of the Eighties Gregg Allman decided that the world must have been tired of electronics, hip-hop and heavy metal, and the right thing to do would be to reform the good old Brothers and convince people that true blues ain't dead at all. Well, this record, their first in almost ten years since the infamous 'Arista period', certainly proves the opposite, because most of the songs sound dead as dead ducklings (I ain't never seen a dead duckling, mind you, so I feel free to make this kind of comparisons). Now don't think of this statement as of an insult - it sounds dead, but it also sounds good. I mean, everybody needs a solid prick of nostalgia every now and then, right? This is prime stuff, in fact: none of the band members sound tired, Gregg's voice is as powerful as ever (check out his singing on 'Low Down Dirty Mean' if you're dubious), and the addition of a second guitarist (Warren Haynes) proves to be a good point: he's almost as well-trained as Betts, and some of their dueting, like on the instrumental 'True Gravity', while naturally not on par with the Dicky/Duane dueting of old, is still captivating and well worth hearing.

The problem is, none of this stuff displays the spark or the limited, but existent creativity of old. Most of the songs are self-penned, but they're all based on rehashed, generic melodies, and maybe just a couple of these tracks can rank among with the Allmans' finest work. Personally, I was really struck by the album opener, the mean blues-rocker 'Good Clean Fun', where Gregg sounds just as ferocious as in the days of his youth, and the guitarwork is even more fierce - just don't forget to turn the volume up. And then there's Betts' 'Let Me Ride', a funny, tongue-in-cheek country excourse which sounds more or less melodically fresh: I especially like the way that the band actually combines two different melodies to make one verse.

But most of the other stuff that comes later on simply makes up for decent background music. The title track borders on cheesy, in fact - you know, your average good-man-down-the-road Alabama anthem or something. 'Somebody's calling your name, somebody's waiting for you'. Eeek. And most of the others are just simple bluesy workouts, with one exception: 'True Gravity', like I said, is an instrumental, and a lengthy and deadly dull at that, going over eight minutes. It has its moments - at one time the guitar call-and-answer duet amounts onto something that's bigger than a usual wankfest - but for the most part, it sounds like seven helpless guys trying to fill time on an album with a strange jam that's something of a cross between blues and fusion (the main riff almost sounds lifted off from some painfully familiar Jeff Beck tune).

Other than that, generic blues after generic blues after generic blues - and it's all the same. Okay, 'Gambler's Roll' is decent, but it also overplays the usual complaintive thematics. The guitar work is great, though. And 'Shine It On' distinguishes itself in my memory by possessing an almost grungey sound - the guitars are unusually heavy distorted for the Allmans, creating a 'stormy' effect that, for some strange reason, keeps reminding me of that Hendrix guy. Oh - ting! - maybe it's because the main riff is stolen from 'Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)'? Yeah, yeah, that sure must be it!

But 'It Ain't Over Yet' and 'Loaded Dice' - now there's some truly boring stuff. Don't try convincing me that it's great, it's just a bored ol' blues band trying to fill out even more space on an album. Anybody can do that. Well, no. Not anybody. I sure can't do that. But hey, I haven't as of yet marketed myself as a skilful guitar player, and these guys had it going for twenty years...

Pretty pathetic, if you ask me: the Allmans had certainly reunited to cash in on their past and nothing else. They do it with enough verve and credibility, but overall, that's not even second-rate. For diehard fans only, and only for diehard fans. This doesn't mean, though, that you can't put it on whenever you're not in the mood for enjoying music for music's sake. In which case, please proceed to your nearest record store and buy every single blues album you can find. I'll bet you anything that none of them are much worse than Seven Turns.



Year Of Release: 1991
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9

This is the Allmans at their most energized, at least, the most they could get out of their systems in the Nineties.


Track listing: 1) End Of The Line; 2) Bad Rain; 3) Nobody Knows; 4) Desert Blues; 5) Get On With Your Life; 6) Midnight Man; 7) Kind Of Bird; 8) Come On In My Kitchen.

If you're desperate about this Allmans revival thing, this is probably the first, if not the only, album to get. Seven Turns and Where It All Begins are solidly performed, but the band only comes close to resembling at least a shadow of their early days on here, with several songs that manage to step out of the conventional bog and remind me of the genuine excitement they once used to generate. It's a pity that they really only managed one album like this, and even so, it has its dirty spots in any case. Nonetheless, Shades is the Allmans' most hard-rockin' effort since God knows when, and this music sounds sharp, reckless, menacing and even desperate in places - you won't find any of that 'somebody's calling your name' crap on here. Eight songs, and there's at least a tiny spark in almost every one of them: all energetic, loud rockers or blues-rockers, with just one old generic blues cover thrown in at the end (perversely, I think it's the best one on here, but that's just me, what do I know, dammit?)

Now, of course, the record has its problems. A couple of songs are tremendously overlong: 'Nobody Knows' has an awfully generic melody, and after a while it transforms into a lengthy, lengthy, lengthy jam that doesn't thrill me in the least. Same goes for the eight-minute instrumental 'Kind Of Bird', although in this case I must make a correction: the song is extremely interesting in that it shows the Allmans still looking for that 'perfect sound'. I mean, it's just a jam, of course, but it's not like it's just a tribute to the old days. It sounds quite autonomous and self-assured, plus, there are separate moments of guitar glory (go Dickey!), and it's great to know that, while they could have easily preferred to record some more sleazy, bleak blues covers or third-hand 'originals' like the papier mache surrogate they presented us with on Seven Turns, they went the hard way instead and tried making something in the vein of 'Elizabeth Reed', to prove they're still 'experimental'. Not bad - not spectacular, either, but shows they still got it, whatever it might be.

The other numbers rule, of course. Like I said, this version of 'Come On In My Kitchen' is a stunning one, with some terrific steel guitarwork that I fell in love with at first listen. I don't know whether it's Betts or that new one, Haynes, but he sure can play that thing. I love that 'twirled' steel guitar sound - to me, it's blues taken to the extreme, and a thing that takes us closer to Heaven, if only one or two steps. (That's why I also adore the Stones' version of 'You Gotta Move' - man, that Taylor part there is murder!) However, it's also about the only 'generic blues' number on the record.

'Midnight Man' and 'Desert Blues' are kinda similar - they're both based on that slow, fat, sluggish little 'chunka-chunka-chunka' rhythm that gets your head bobbing up and down without you actually noticing it, so that when you're gonna finally raise it and scream in disgust 'aw, what a shitty number', your neighbour will certainly jeer at you. Shitty or not, I love both: play 'em loud and messy and you'll know there's still some vital energy left in these guys. 'End Of The Line' and 'Bad Rain' are two more decent rockers that open the album, and, while probably inferior to the rest of the stuff, they can easily rate up there with the best stuff on Seven Turns: not tremendously exciting, but solid background music in any case. And, of course, what Allmans record can do without a pathetic, soulful Gregg number? 'Get On With Your Life' is just it: slow, moody, and with a heartbreaking Claptonesque guitar haunting you throughout. Totally generic, of course, but dammit, I love that guitar part, and, after all, it's blues, man. Who cares 'bout the melody? The important thing is that it sounds real raw and sincere, with both Gregg and Dickey giving it their all, and that's all I really care about. The lyrics are funny, too. I wonder if they're about Gregg's relations with Cher? What do you think?

Aye. In any case, I didn't quite get my kicks out of this record. I'd say that the main thing that puts it into a category different from their other albums in the Nineties is that the record has a purpose. I mean, an artistic purpose. The others had a purpose, too: to remind the world that there is such a thing as the Allman Brothers Band, and to have a solid pretext to go touring. This one's their only serious attempt to make an artistic statement: Gregg gets confessional, Dickey gets experimental, and the result is an album that, as usual, lacks truly competent songwriting, but partially compensates it with some unfaked energy and some inspired performances that come from the guys' hearts - not their cash-filled pockets.



Year Of Release: 1994
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 8

Some more 'ordinary' blues originals; pretty happy, though, for an Allmans record.

Best song: SOULSHINE

Track listing: 1) All Night Train; 2) Sailin' Cross The Devil's Sea; 3) Back Where It All Begins; 4) Soulshine; 5) No One To Run With; 6) Change My Way Of Living; 7) Mean Woman Blues; 8) Everybody's Got A Mountain To Climb; 9) What's Done Is Done; 10) Temptation Is A Gun.

The last Allmans' studio record up to date seems to have confirmed their final and unchangeable status: that of a pretty professional, a pretty dull, a pretty roots-rock and a pretty 'symbolic' band. None of the ten songs that I've heard here deserve a better nickname than 'okay', and none of these ten songs deserve a worse nickname than... 'okay'. The return to form demonstrated on Shades proved to be a total fluke: two more years and they lost it one more time. In fact, what can I say about this that would differ from things I've said about Seven Turns? Nothing.

Okay, let me just try, in any case. I feel a slight difference in the overall tone of the record - to me, this sounds more happy, peaceful and good-natured than Seven Turns ever was, not to mention Shades, which was just a Hamlet compared to this. Perhaps it has something to do with Gregg leading a more 'pacified' life than ever before, or perhaps not; anyway, the only song with some scary overtones in it is the album closer, 'Temptation Is A Gun', and even that one sounds more like a warning than a statement of danger. Elsewhere, the playing is more relaxed, warm and inviting than ever before, and unfortunately, that means that the album can serve as a perfect cure for insomnia if you're not used to enjoying bluesy songs simply because of some good-timey wanking. It doesn't bore me to sleep, and hey, blues-rock is all right by me whatever feeling it is supposed to convey; but other than solid background music, this stuff has no specific function I'm aware of. Betts and Haynes play their instruments just fine, but it seems to me that they never really try enough hard to near the listener's experience to an ecstatic one. In fact, I don't hear Haynes much too often: the record is obviously dominated by Betts, and a one-guitar approach does not really fit the Allman Brothers. And even so, Dickey just wanks around, doing it somewhat lazily and without real feeling, as if he were only playing due to his contractual obligations. The fury and the passion, a glint of which you could still trace on songs like 'Good Clean Fun', are completely gone.

It does have a couple solid melodies hidden in between all the mediocrity, though - in fact, perhaps more than on Seven Turns, so that's why I do not lower the rating. The title track, written by Betts, starts out all gruff and chuggin' and catchy, kinda like a good anthem should sound like, before developing into a six or seven minute guitar duet; unfortunately, Warren Haynes, good as he is, is no match for the late Duane, and the effort is wasted. 'Temptation Is A Gun' is good. 'No One To Run With' is pretty decent: it even manages to incorporate some kind of crappy Latino rhythm in it to make the song real bouncy and danceable. And, amazingly, it's Haynes who gets the best hook and totally shines with the impressive soul epic, which is quite naturally entitled 'Soulshine'; just the kind of spirit-lifting, pompous, Southern-to-the-bone anthem Gregg had been probably waiting for all his life. Even so, most of the songs are really too long to ever bother listening to them repeatedly.

Most of the other stuff I still can't remember after all these listens, so it's not really worthy. I have a vague impression of having liked Gregg's 'All Night Train', but I wouldn't know how to even begin explaining the reasons behind this; possibly because it was relatively fast and it opened the album. And I know that Dickey's 'Everybody's Got A Mountain To Climb' is supposed to sound real important and pretentious, but if I want important and pretentious, I'll stick to Neil Young. And I also am positively sure that Betts' 'Mean Woman Blues' has nothing to do with the famous Fifties' classic; instead, it's a passable blues original that incidentally borrows some of its structure from Clapton's 'Tearing Us Apart' which probably borrows its structure from a million other sources. In other words, I just wanted to show the album's derivative character, but I guess you didn't really need me the reviewer to know the album is derivative. How could it not be?

You may be sure I would dearly like to see them perform these songs over the course of a live show; but on record, this just makes me shrug my shoulders. For the die-hard, for the die-hard fan. Only.


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