My reviews of albums released by the Allman Brothers Band:
1969: The Allman Brothers Band (10/10)
As with so many pieces of art that were important and influential, but made in the distant past, it’s pretty hard for us to understand how big a deal the Allman Brothers’ debut album is. One reason it’s hard is because so much of what they did here is now not only culturally ubiquitous but a cliche – imagine a southern rock band jamming!
But this is the invention of southern rock – a combination of the blues, jazz, southern soul and country which, prior to this album, did not exist (to the best of my knowledge) before. Jam bands existed – the Dead invented them, I guess – and there was some crossover between soul and country, and obviously the distinction between the blues and soul was extremely fluid, but nobody had put all of this together in one package before.
Moreover, that package is extremely appealing. The covers are strong but the originals are stronger. But the real winner is the band, of course, which is full of incredible musicians who make this music extremely compelling. They are so good at what they do that I personally have never found another southern rock band more compelling.
This is the first southern rock album. But, for me, it’s very close to the best, too.
My #4 album of 1969. Read my reviews of albums released in 1969.
1970: Idlewild South (10/10)
I think it’s safe to say that, with their debut, the Allmans invented Southern Rock, which is a pretty big deal, I guess. Nobody had really combined blues rock, southern soul, country and jazz like they did. And, of course, at the same time they became one of the definitive jam bands. But here, I think the songs are stronger and everything is more refined.
“Revival” may have a pretty hippy sentiment but the music itself touches on pretty much everything you’d associate with the Allmans.
“Midnight Rider” has perhaps the most country feel of anything they’d yet recorded – except perhaps for the guitar break in “Revival” – which is mostly due to the vocals.
“Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” continues the predominant sound of their debut, featuring a prominent slide riff with an organ-heavy hook.
“In Memory of Elizabeth Read” is just straight jazz. I’m not sure an American rock band had recorded something so thoroughly jazz, except maybe Frank Zappa (or the Dead, albeit live). Aside from the fact that it’s a great piece, that’s a rather landmark thing.
Their take on “Hoochie Coochie Man” is much fresher than you might expect, and certainly adds more to it than most standard rock versions.
“Please Call Home” is the most soul-influenced song they’d yet recorded and is a personal favourite.
I feel like “Leave My Blues at Home” might be the weakest song on the album, but that is not really saying anything, as this record features perhaps their best set of songs, and obviously it goes without saying – as this is the Allmans, one of the most virtuoso ensembles in rock history – that the performances are excellent even when the song – such as this one – isn’t quite up to snuff.
An absolute classic.
1971: At Fillmore East (9/10)
Note: I have never heard the expanded editions of this record.
This is the record that really shows why people love the Allman’s so much. The only precedent for this kind of playing in rock music is the Dead, and arguably the Allman’s do it better (at least here). This is perhaps the foundational document of the jam band phenomenon. It’s hard to impeach it even if I’ve gotten less and less moved by sheer instrumental ability over the years.
1970: Eat a Peach (7/10)
When I was in my late teens and early 20s, all I really cared about was great musicians showing off their great musicianship. I got more than a little obsessed with who was the best this or that, and with prioritizing rock music with great, virtuoso playing in it, over good songs. Then I heard jazz.
Since becoming a jazz fan, most rock virtuoso musicianship pales and I’ve realized that the virtues of rock are often found in other things rather than just showing off how well you can play.
This is an album I used to love but too much of it is just great musicians showing off for an interminable length of time. I get the desire to create a document of Duane’s brilliance but there’s no excuse for including a 30+ minute live track on a “studio” album in my mind.
Maybe, had recording technology been different, they would have released all the Fillmore stuff, and then put out a new record of new material. But as this is, there’s too much filler for me to regard it as a classic.
1973: Brothers and Sisters (8/10)
You could think of this album as the first record that is out of of the shadow Duane; it’s not the hodgepodge tribute the previous record was, and instead is a good set of songs from the band’s two main songwriters. Though apparently Betts was winning the battle between him and Gregg for who would lead the band post-Duane, it’s certainly not evident in the finished product, which sounds coherent and lively and basically like what you would be thinking the Allmans should sound like, if a little bit more country than they used to be.
1975: Win, Lose or Draw (???)
I made a decision not to investigate any later Allmans albums and apparently I stuck to it. Read my reviews of 1975 albums.
1979: Enlightened Rogues (???)
1980: Reach for the Sky (???)
1990: Seven Turns (???)
1991: Shades of Two Worlds (???)
1992: Club R&R & Epic Records Present an Acoustic Evening With The Allman Brothers Band & Indigo Girls (7/10) with Indigo Girls
Note: I have only heard the Allman’s half.
This is a limited edition live album of the Allman’s 1992 performance at the Radio and Records Convention (though I don’t hear a full band). It finds them performing an entirely acoustic set. (The man who lent it to me says it was their first with this material, but I have my doubts as this sounds quite well-rehearsed.)
The performances are all pretty great and shows off much of what’s great about the band – their playing is stellar. The whole thing does feel rather sanitized though, sort of what you would think the blues would sound like as presented for old white people, albeit it with a lot of musical talent.
Albums released by The Allman Brothers Band in 1994:
Where It All Begins (???)
IRSA Acoustic Set (8/10)
I never wrote a review for this pretty great live performance. Read my reviews of 1994 albums.