Posts Tagged ‘Idlewild South’

The Allman Brothers Band an American rock band formed in Macon, Georgia, in 1969 by brothers Duane Allman (founder, slide guitar and lead guitar) and Gregg Allman (vocals, keyboards, songwriting), as well as Dickey Betts (lead guitar, vocals, songwriting), Berry Oakley (bass guitar), Butch Trucks (drums), and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson (drums). The band incorporated elements of blues, jazz, and country music, and their live shows featured jam band-style improvisation and instrumentals.

The group’s first two studio releases, The Allman Brothers Band (1969) and Idlewild South (1970) (both released by Capricorn Records), stalled commercially, but their 1971 live release, At Fillmore East, represented an artistic and commercial breakthrough. The album features extended renderings of their songs “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, “You Don’t Love Me” and “Whipping Post”, and is considered among one of the best live albums ever made.

Group leader Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident later that year – on October 29th, 1971, and the band dedicated Eat a Peach (1972) to his memory, a dual studio/live album that cemented the band’s popularity and featured Gregg Allman’s “Melissa” and Dickey Betts’s “Blue Sky”. Following the motorcycling death of bassist Berry Oakley exactly one year and 13 days later on November 11th, 1972, the group recruited keyboardist Chuck Leavell and bassist Lamar Williams for 1973’s Brothers and Sisters.This album included Betts’s hit single “Ramblin’ Man”. These tunes went on to become classic rock radio staples, and placed the group at the forefront of 1970s rock music.

Their career began slowly, before At Fillmore East finally showed what the band could do. A wonder of power, precision and improvisational genius, the album changed the Allman Brothers Band’s profile forever.

In fact, the Allman Brothers Band scored their first and only ever No. 1 hit in the years following that tragedy. But 1973’s Brothers and Sisters was also their last platinum-selling project. The group broke up once, got back together and then began a lengthy hiatus in the early ’80s.

The Allman Brothers Band - The Allman Brothers Band

The Allman Brothers Band (1969): 

This might be the best debut album ever delivered by an American blues band, a bold, powerful, hard-edged, soulful essay in electric blues with a native Southern ambience. Some lingering elements of the psychedelic era then drawing to a close can be found in “Dreams,” along with the template for the group’s on-stage workouts with “Whipping Post,” and a solid cover of Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More.” There isn’t a bad song here, and only the fact that the group did even better the next time out keeps this from getting the highest possible rating.

The group’s most overtly jazz-influenced song “Dreams” was part of a long string of early compositions Gregg Allman offered his fledgling bandmates . In fact, he was a dozen songs in before the Allman Brothers band decided “Dreams” would work. Unusually, Gregg Allman composed the song on the Hammond organ, instead of the preferred guitar or piano. Drummer Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson’s library of old jazz records helped shape their approach, as they turned Allman’s blues haiku into a waltz-time meditation that traced the same musical lines as “All Blues” from Miles Davis’ groundbreaking Kind of Blue.

“When we were first putting a group together,” Duane Allman once said, “we were listening to Jefferson Airplane and the [Grateful] Dead’s records. We were all kicking around down South, buying records out of the Kmart and taking them home and digging them. And [Jaimoe] comes along and says, ‘Well that’s cool  good, but check out what I got over here, this collection.’ They just turned us all around. We heard with them cats were doing. Knocked us out.” “Dreams” is also the rare classic-era Allmans song featuring just one guitarist, as Duane offered a pair of brilliant solos over the band’s two-chord vamp.

The Allman Brothers Band - Idlewild South

Idlewild South (1970)

If you’re going to listen to the Allman Brothers, make sure you have the first four records. The band made The Allman Brothers Band, Idlewild South, At Fillmore East, and three-fourths of Eat a Peach with its original lineup, before Duane Allman’s fatal motorcycle accident in 1971. The Tom Dowd-produced Idlewild South, their second album, comes off with a little less ferocity than their debut which is perhaps the result of reaching for new sounds the second time around. “Revival,” the album’s opener, introduces Dickey Betts as a composer. The countrified flavor of his songs gives an indication of where the band will head in the post-Duane era. Betts’ other contribution to Idlewild South is the instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” a centerpiece of the Fillmore East recordings. Gregg’s “Please Call Home” and “Midnight Rider” are built around piano and acoustic guitar, respectively, and have a different feel than the band’s usual twin Les Paul-and-Hammond sound. That sound is showcased in the balance of Gregg’s tunes, however: the funky blues of “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'” (with Thom Doucette on harmonica) and “Leave My Blues at Home.” The album is also notable for the rollicking version of Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man,” with the only vocal bassist Berry Oakley (who died in a motorcycle accident one year after Duane) ever recorded with the group. Though overall it packs less punch than The Allman Brothers Band, Idlewild South is all the more impressive for its mixture of chunky grooves and sophisticated textures.

The first in a string of strikingly inventive instrumentals from Dickey Betts, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” quickly became one the group’s most recognizable songs. Betts was inspired by a doomed romance with a woman whom he was secretly meeting in a local graveyard. The guitarist liked to go there to compose, and that’s where he saw a headstone bearing the title of this moving, minor-key song. Betts had actually been playing in the same style for some time, working in a symbiotic fashion with the Allmans‘ late original bassist. “Berry Oakley and I inspired each other’s improvisational creativity while we were in Second Coming, the band that presaged the Allman Brothers,” Betts later told Guitar World. “One of our favorite things to do was to jam in minor keys, experimenting freely with the sounds of different minor modes. We allowed our ears to guide us, and this type of jamming served to inspire the writing of songs like ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.'” The track is driven by these brilliantly harmonized guitar lines, a sound that came to define the Allman Brothers Band. Betts’ interest in that approach didn’t come from listening to jazz, but instead to the Western swing of Bob Wills. By the way, he wrote “Blue Sky” in the same cemetery.

The Allman Brothers Band - At Fillmore East

At Fillmore East (1971)

Whereas most great live rock albums are about energy, At Fillmore East is like a great live jazz session, where the pleasure comes from the musicians’ interaction and playing. The great thing about that is, the original album that brought the Allmans so much acclaim is as notable for its clever studio editing as it is for its performances. Producer Tom Dowd skillfully trimmed some of the performances down to relatively concise running time (edits later restored on the double-disc set The Fillmore Concerts), at times condensing several performances into one track. Far from being a sacrilege, this tactic helps present the Allmans in their best light, since even if the music isn’t necessarily concise (three tracks run over ten minutes, with two in the 20-minute range), it does showcase the group’s terrific instrumental interplay, letting each member (but particularly guitarist Duane and keyboardist/vocalist Gregg) shine. Even after the release of the unedited concerts, this original double album remains the pinnacle of the Allmans and Southern rock at its most elastic, bluesy, and jazzy.

“Whipping Post,” like “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” had been earlier featured on Allman Brothers Band studio recordings but both found new meaning in this live setting. In fact, the 23-minute take from At Fillmore East is not only the definitive version, it’s the moment when Gregg Allman’s composing genius is confirmed. Still, this is truly a band triumph. Oakley completely rearranged the song which started out as another slow blues – into an unusual 11/8 meter that provides plenty of musical space for his bandmates to fill.

Dickey Betts and Duane then soar through another ribbon of harmonized, totally off-the-cuff guitar lines. (At one point late in the proceedings, Betts impishly quotes the children’s song “Frere Jacques.”) “We have rough arrangements, layouts of the songs, and then the solos are entirely up to each member of the band,” Duane once explained. “The naturalness of a spur-of-the-moment type of thing is what I consider the most valuable asset of our band.” And perhaps nowhere more so than on “Whipping Post,” which – quite fittingly – took up the entire closing side of the original Fillmore East vinyl release.

The Allman Brothers Band - Eat a Peach

‘Eat a Peach’ (1972): “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”

Inspired by the tragic death of his brother, Gregg Allman’s album-opening “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” offered a sturdy paean to perseverance. Betts – who Duane once praised by saying, “I’m the famous guitar player, but Dickey is the good one” seemed to be of a similar mindset as he stepped in on Allman’s preferred slide. The idea on Eat a Peach was to mix newly recorded songs like this one with some of Duane’s final recordings, making it both tribute and last testament to his genius. And for awhile, it sustained his heartbroken bandmates. “The music brought life back to us all,” Gregg said in his 2012 autobiography My Cross to Bear, “and it was simultaneously realized by every one of us. We found strength, vitality, newness, reason and belonging as we worked on finishing Eat a Peach.” Still, the prospect of touring nearly broke the band. Ultimately, they decided to go out as a five-piece. No one could replace Duane. Gregg and Oakley introduced the songs, which had also been his role. “We were playing for him,” drummer Butch Trucks said in One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band, “and that was the way to be closest to him.” Oakley, who never got over the loss, died in a similar motorcycle crash a year later.

A tribute to the dearly departed Duane, Eat a Peach rambles through two albums, running through a side of new songs, recorded post-Duane, spending a full album on live cuts from the Fillmore East sessions, then offering a round of studio tracks Duane completed before his death. On the first side, they do suggest the mellowness of the Dickey Betts-led Brothers and Sisters, particularly on the lovely “Melissa,” and this stands in direct contrast with the monumental live cuts that dominate the album. They’re at the best on the punchier covers of “One Way Out” and “Trouble No More,” both proof of the group’s exceptional talents as a roadhouse blues-rock band, but Duane does get his needed showcase on “Mountain Jam,” a sprawling 33-minute jam that may feature a lot of great playing, but is certainly a little hard for anyone outside of diehards to sit through. Apart from that cut, the record showcases the Allmans at their peak, and it’s hard not to feel sad as the acoustic guitars of “Little Martha” conclude the record, since this tribute isn’t just heartfelt, it offers proof of Duane Allman’s immense talents and contribution to the band.

The Allman Brothers Band - Brothers and Sisters

Brothers and Sisters (1973)

Released a year after Eat a Peach, Brothers and Sisters shows off a leaner brand of musicianship, which, coupled with a pair of serious crowd-pleasers, “Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica,” helped drive it to the top of the charts for a month and a half and to platinum record sales. This was the first album to feature the group’s new lineup, with Chuck Leavell on keyboards and Lamar Williams on bass, as well as Dickey Betts‘ emergence as a singer alongside Gregg Allman. The tracks appear on the album in the order in which they were recorded, and the first three, up through “Ramblin’ Man,” feature Berry Oakley their sound is rock-hard and crisp.

The subsequent songs with Williams have the bass buried in the mix, and an overall muddier sound. The interplay between Leavell and Betts is beautiful on some songs, and Betts‘ slide on “Pony Boy” is a dazzling showcase that surprised everybody. Despite its sales, Brothers and Sisters is not quite a classic album (although it was their best for the next 17 years), especially in the wake of the four that had appeared previously, but it served as a template for some killer stage performances, and it proved that the band could survive the deaths of two key members.

Dickey Betts had no intention of giving this country-rock gem to the Allman Brothers Band. But something about its searching narrative spoke to them in that moment. “I was going to send ‘Ramblin’ Man’ to Johnny Cash,” Betts told Guitar World. “I thought it was a great song for him. But everybody in our band liked that song.” Smart move: “Ramblin’ Man” became the only Allman Brothers Band single to reach the Billboard Top 10, streaking all the way to No. 2. The song also heralded a shift, both in leadership and musical style, toward Betts. The Allman Brothers Band somehow found a way to carry on, but not without help. Les Dudek guests on “Ramblin’ Man,” allowing the group to replicate their signature harmony leads. “We got into the studio and got into that big long jam at the end with all those guitar parts and everything, and we forgot about how country the song was,” Butch Trucks later said “then wouldn’t you know it — it becomes our only hit single.” That they would never be the same was reflected in the decision to expand their official lineup with pianist Chuck Leavell as a second soloist, rather than another guitarist. “Ramblin’ Man” was also the last song recorded with Berry Oakley.

  • The Allman Brothers Band (1969)
  • Idlewild South (1970)
  • At Fillmore East (1971)
  • Eat a Peach (1972)
  • Brothers and Sisters (1973)

The two CD ‘Deluxe Edition’ of the Allman Brothers Band’s Idlewild South achieves what so very few such archive titles accomplish: placing the original work in a context that illuminates the artist’s evolution. Arguably the finest studio recordings this iconic Southern band ever completed are further  refined  in this package by remastering that also benefits the concert that’s appended to them, Live at Ludlow Garage.

Presented in its entirety for the first time, with the inclusion of a fifteen-minute plus version of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” the concert documents a phase of  the Allman Brothers Band career similar to the rough and tumble sound of the debut album, one from which they were beginning to emerge as they worked in the studio under the tutelage of producer Tom Dowd. This very esteemed of producers (who was supposed to oversee that first studio work and would retain the role on the landmark live record, Live At Fillmore East), captured much of the spontaneity of the group’s well-honed musicianship even as he added both polish and depth in working at both Capricorn and Criteria studios: his restrained touch is evident even in the spare approach he takes to Gregg Allman’s soul balladry  “Please Call Home,” but even more so in the multi-layered arrangement of “Revival.”

 It’s significant that this song of Dickey Betts’ is the opening cut on the record. The emergence of the guitarist as a composer aided in no small part to turn this, Allman Brothers second studio album, into a milestone work for the  band. Such numbers brought country elements into greater prominence within the rough and tumble blues-rock style on the Allmans’ debut, and such contributions (foreshadowing the widely-popular “Ramblin’ Man” of 1973) also had an influence on Gregg Allman, who had been to that point the main writer in the group: the vividly descriptive images of “Midnight Rider” find reflection in a layered arrangement with acoustic guitars that renders the twirling electric break more compelling.

This 45th Anniversary reissue includes studio outtakes,which although two have been released before on the massive Dreams box of 1989,  perhaps that it hearkens too clearly to the sound of the debut album, this take of what was becoming the Allmans’ signature song, “Statesboro Blues.” A Gregg Allman/Dickey Betts collaboration, “One More Ride” is obviously redundant as an instrumental but sounds like perfect fodder for more refinement, while this alternate “Midnight Rider”  doesn’t quite capture the haunting quality of the chosen take simply because, with percussion and dobro.

Effectively rendering obsolete the 1990 edition of Live At Ludlow Garage this expanded  setlist further distinguishes this show from other archival releases of the original Allman Brothers lineup. It includes the one solo vocal from Duane Allman, on the cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples,” as well as a blues number, “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town,” subsequently dropped from regular rotation as the Allman Brothers continued to hone their collective musicianship into the juggernaut as document on their landmark live album. Most important of all however, on this soaring opening version of “Dreams,”  the slightly improved audio quality, shorn of excessive high end, allows the intricacy of Butch Trucks’ and Jaimoe’s double drumming to become more readily apparent, particularly as it fuses with Berry Oakley’s aggressive basswork

And while that bottom register isn’t that much more prominent, or graced with real presence in the mix either, the  harmonies Allman and Betts coax from their fretboards alternately sing and sting, never more clearly in contrast than on the restored ”’Liz Reed” or the near-three quarters of an hour devoted to “Mountain Jam;” hearkening directly to their roots in the blues.

Finishing touches on this deluxe  (named after a bucolic Southern retreat rented by the Brothers in their early days) include period photos and detailed credits, the sum of which  more than makes up for the slightly kitschy color scheme of the booklet and the somewhat bland overall graphics  that prevent this package from looking and sounding like a true collectors item. But then the Allman Brothers Band never traded much in cosmetic appearances, so this double disc set, on its own terms, constitutes an ever-so-accurate accurate representation of a band passing through a creative crossroads and, as such, is  essential entry into their discography.

The Allman Brothers Band: Idlewild South: Super Deluxe Edition

September 23rd marked 45 years since the release of the Allman Brothers Band’s second studio album, “Idlewild South”, on Atco and Capricorn Records, which followed their 1969, self-titled debut. While that first album had little commercial success, the band’s relentless touring behind it led to a buzz that led Eric Clapton to enlist Duane Allman to take part on his 1970 Derek and the Dominos album which produced “Layla.” Produced by Tom Dowd, marking his first album with the band, Idlewild South was recorded in a variety of cities, including New York, Miami and Macon, GA, the band’s adopted home, because of their hectic performance schedule. Most of the songs, including two of their most iconic – Gregg Allman and Kim Payne’s “Midnight Rider” and Dickey Betts’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” – were road-tested before they were ever recorded. The album’s title comes from the group’s name for the run-down, isolated hunting cabin the band used for rehearsals and partying. The farmhouse, which they rented for the princely sum of $165 a month, was located on a manmade lake outside Macon, and people came and went with such frequency, the band compared it to New York’s airport of the same name (later changed to John F. Kennedy International). Much of the material on the album was first created in that cabin, where the band’s “brotherhood came to pass,” according to Allmans roadie (and “Midnight Rider” co-writer) Kim Payne. The album didn’t sell well at first, but eventually peaked at #38 on Billboard, setting the stage for their 1971 breakthrough, At Fillmore East.

The additional tracks include session outtakes of “Statesboro Blues” and “One More Ride,” an alternate take of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” an alternative mix of “Midnight Rider” and a mono single version of “Revival (Love Is Everywhere).” There are also nine tracks from the 1970 Live at Ludlow Garage album, remastered for the first time since 1990, including the previously unreleased song “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” now making this concert recording complete for the first time.

Idlewild South has since gone on to become one of the Allman Brothers Band’s most iconic releases. Rolling Stone named it one of the “40 Most Groundbreaking Albums of All Time” in 2014: “The Allman Brothers transmogrified from mere blues-rockers to an assemblage creating an entirely new kind of Southern music.” Allmusic’s Bruce Eder called it “the best studio album in the group’s history, electric blues with an acoustic texture, virtuoso lead, slide and organ playing, and a killer selection of songs.”

Disc One:
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
Additional Material:
8. Statesboro Blues (Session Outtake) – Previously Unreleased New Mix
9. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (Alternate Take) – Previously Unreleased
10. One More Ride (Session Outtake) – Previously Unreleased New Mix
11. Midnight Rider (Alternate Mix) – Previously Unreleased
12. Revival (Love Is Everywhere) (Mono Single Version)

Disc Two:
1. Dreams (Live at Ludlow Garage 1970)
2. Statesboro Blues (Live at Ludlow Garage 1970)
3. Trouble No More (Live at Ludlow Garage 1970)
4. Dimples (Live at Ludlow Garage 1970)
5. Every Hungry Woman (Live at Ludlow Garage 1970)
6. I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town (Live at Ludlow Garage 1970)
7. Hoochie Coochie Man (Live at Ludlow Garage 1970)

Disc Three:
1. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (Live at Ludlow Garage 1970) – Previously Unreleased
2. Mountain Jam (Live at Ludlow Garage 1970)

Blu-Ray Pure Audio, 5.1 (96kHz 24-bit Surround & Stereo)
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
8. Statesboro Blues (Session Outtake)
9. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (Alternate Take)
10. One More Ride (Session Outtake)
11. Midnight Rider (Alternate Mix)