Welcome to my asylum for ideas and thoughts on movies, politics, culture, and all things Bruce Springsteen.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Rumors of Their Demise...

Rumors had been circulating around the Inernet (or Internets, depending on whom you're voting for) that Derek Trucks had left the Allman Brothers Band. Another had Warren Haynes leaving as well. It appears that those rumors were strictly just that, and they appear wildly exaggerated. Thank goodness. I had a wonderful obituary for the band's lineup prepared, but it's no longer needed. I am including the tailend of it though, because it borrows from Lefty Brown and David Letterman. here goes, the honorary Allman Brothers Band Top 10 list, by yours truly:

1. Live at the Fillmore East (1971) I still can not forget the first time that I heard Duane Allman's searing slide guitar playing on "Statesboro Blues". Haven't looked back since. Epic numbers like "Stormy Monday", "Hot 'Lanta", and the best version of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" I've ever heard.
2. Eat A Peach (1972) Dual live- and studio-albums; sadly, Duane's last. Includes the phenomenal "Mountain Jam", the acoustic "Melissa" and "Little Martha" and possibly the band's best song, "Blue Sky".
3. Hittin' the Note (2003) Who would have thought that a band supposedly in its twilight would create one of its greatest treasures? "Who To Believe" and "High Cost of Low Living" capture the band's signature early sound while still sounding fresh and jazzy "Desdemona" is pure southern gothic "My Favorite Things". Falkner and Welty couldn't have done it better.
4. Brothers and Sisters (1973) This is truly the Dickey Betts album, but there are several sleeper classics. Most famous are "Ramblin' Man" and the classic "Jessica". This album brought commercial success and the eventual collapse of the band.
5. Eponymous first album (1969) This album started everything, with some excellent singing by a young Gregg Allman and classic tunes including "Whipping Post" and "It's Not My Cross To Bear". This is the album I think of when I see the 1969 photograph of the band sitting on the train tracks along the border of Rose Hill Cemetary, a location that brought about inspiration and a final resting place for Duane Allman.
6. Idlewild South (1970) "Midnight Rider and "Revival" are the two most noted songs, yet "Please Call Home" is classic blues and "Leave My Blues At Home" still holds up very well as a contemporary band trying to push the blues/r&b envelope in 1970.
7. An Evening With (including 2nd Set) 1992, 1995 A compilation of Dickey Betts' best live playing with Warren Haynes as his muse. The Allmans hit their second creative zenith during this time, but Betts quickly spiraled into mediocrity after Haynes' departure in 1997.
8. Shades of Two Worlds (1991) The best studio album of the resurrected '90s incarnation. Stellar playing on "Nobody Knows", "End of the Line", and while "Get On With Your Life" appears to be a retread of "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town", top-notch playing keeps it still quite listenable. The band returns to its acoustic roots with a great cover of Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen."
9. Win, Lose, or Draw (1975) The last album of the band's second lineup. After Duane and Berry Oakley's demise, the band switched into more of a mellower country-swing influence (probably also influenced by a change in drugs the members were using) and its intensity was kept with the addition of Chuck Leavell on keyboards. Two great ballads including the title track and "Nevertheless" added some new sounds to the band's repertoire but as always, Betts could be counted on with another stellar instrumental, "High Falls". Highly underrated album.
10. [Tie] The band is best known for its prowess on stage and has left its fans satisfied by releasing many live albums and shows over the years. As Instant Live is changing the format of live albums today, the band's reputation continues to grow. However, there are a select few live releases that capture the band at its best throughout its career. Releases from the band's own "Allman Brothers Brand" series from 1970, 1971, and 1972 are well worth the cash, as well as "Live At Ludlow Garage" if for anything, a forty-four minute Mountain Jam from April 1970. "One Way Out" captures the band firing on all pistons in 2003 and should not be missed. While there are no previously-unreleased gems found on this one, it's worth finding strictly for Oteil Burbridge's phenomenal bass playing. Other great live releases find the band (again) in 1970 and the mid-70s.