Posts Tagged ‘Jai Johanny Johanson’

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“Eat a Peach” is the third studio album by American rock band the Allman Brothers Band. Produced by Tom Dowd, the album was released on February 12th, 1972, in the United States by Capricorn Records. Following their artistic and commercial breakthrough with the release of the live album “At Fillmore East”. When guitarist Duane Allman was killed in a traffic accident on October 29th, 1971, the Allman Brothers Band was only partway through recording their third studio album at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida. Following these tragic events, lead guitarist Dickey Betts gradually took over the role as group leader. The band returned to Miami in December to complete work on the album. Twiggs Lyndon, a friend of the band, joined them; he had just completed a stay in a psychiatric hospital stemming from his 1970 arrest for the murder of a concert promoter. Lyndon became the band’s production manager.

They had worked on “Blue Sky,” “Little Martha” and “The Road to Calico” (later titled “Stand Back”) during September sessions with Atlantic Records’ ace producer Tom Dowd. Earlier that year Duane told a journalist the band was “on a mission” to fulfill its promise, after several years of struggling to find an audience outside the bars and small clubs of the South.

Their live double-LP, At Fillmore East, released in July 1971, had indeed established them as a top performing act, but the recording studio still felt a bit alien. Guitarist Dickey Betts said that he didn’t really understand recording work until they entered Criteria Studios for another album: “It seemed like a prostitution of music. You been out playin’ in bars, then you go on to concerts, and it’s always the raw communication between people. But here you are in this tin can with a bunch of machines all ’round you, and you’re expected to produce. It takes a long time to get used to it.”

With the group finally financially solvent, there was more than enough money for drugs and booze and high living, always a temptation for the volatile personalities in the band. By early October 1971 four of the extended Allman family were fighting a heroin habit in a primitive “rehab” program at Linwood-Bryant Hospital: bassist Berry Oakley, Duane Allman and roadies Robert Payne and Joseph Campbell. Duane’s brother Gregg, who sang and played keyboards with the group and had his own demons, later recalled that in 1971, “We were taking vitamins, we had doctors coming over, sticking us in the ass with B12 shots every day.”

 

After Duane’s death, there was never a real chance they’d change the name of the Allman Brothers Band (they would never ditch that plural) or retire from the road. Betts told the New Musical Express’ Roy Carr, “Apparently, we were all of the same mind. The best way to relieve the immense pain we felt deep inside was to get back together again as soon as possible and go out on the road. We had agreed that we all wanted to stay together and keep the band going, therefore the only way we could try to forget what had happened was to carry on as if nothing had happened.” Predictably, denial only went so far.

Betts and Allman had achieved a nearly telepathic musical relationship on stage, where their lengthy guitar interplay couldn’t be considered “duels,” but rather a unified sound, each integrating their immensely intense guitar vocabularies. “When Duane was in the band, he’d play something and then I would try to extend what he was doing,” he told Carr. “Communication had always been our note. We didn’t tread on each other’s notes, Duane and I just used to listen to each other’s licks…it almost got to the point where Duane and I were thinking as one man, and believe me, it’s a very nice thing to get yourself into.”

They never seriously considered replacing Duane with another guitarist; Betts would have to do the work of two. Returning to Criteria in November and December, the band (which also included the astounding drum/percussion duo of Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson) completed “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,” “Les Brers in A Minor” and “Melissa.” It was decided the studio cuts would be supplemented by live recordings to create a double-LP. It was dubbed “Eat a Peach“, taking off from what Duane had told a journalist who questioned him about what the band was doing “for the revolution.” He replied, “There ain’t no revolution, only evolution, but every time I’m in Georgia I eat a peach for peace.” Insiders knew that Duane was jokingly referring to the two-legged, female “Georgia peaches” back home. Completing the recording of Eat a Peach raised each members’ spirits; Allman said, “The music brought life back to us all, 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”.”Those last three songs  just kinda floated right on out of us … The music was still good, it was still rich, and it still had that energy—it was still the Allman Brothers Band.

Eat a Peach, adorned with a magnificent gatefold sleeve designed by Jim Flournoy Holmes and W. David Powell of Wonder Graphics, was released in late February 1972 and “went gold” immediately, A line on the artwork read simply, “Dedicated to a brother.”

“Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,” Gregg’s heartfelt tribute to returning Vietnam War veterans, his brother and his own spiritual development, kicks off the album: “Last Sunday morning, the sunshine felt like rain/Week before, they all seemed the same/With the help of God and true friends, I come to realize/I still had two strong legs and even wings to fly/And oh, I ain’t wastin’ time no more/’Cause time goes by like hurricanes, and faster things.

On the November-December recordings, Betts expertly plays the slide parts that would have been assigned to Duane, plus his own regular rhythm and solo parts, using Gibson Les Paul, SG and ES-335 models. Gregg is on both piano and organ, a potent combination that was popular with the likes of The Band, Procol Harum and others during this period.

“Les Brers in A Minor,” written by Betts, is nine minutes of blissful improv, melodic flights and dramatic loud/soft dynamic changes, not far from what the Grateful Dead were doing at the time. Trucks plays tympani, vibraphone and gongs, and Johanson adds congas, on top of their regular drum kits. The main theme doesn’t kick in until the four-minute mark, and Gregg gets the first solo, on organ, before a meaty drum break and Oakley’s funky bass lay the groundwork for a Betts solo (at this point we could be listening to a Santana outtake). It’s an impressive, experimental piece.

The beautifully poetic “Melissa,” written by Gregg and Steve Alaimo, was actually composed in 1967. Gregg thought it was a bit tame for the Allman Brothers Band, and saved it for a solo album he’d make someday, but the Eat a Peach take is one of the band’s most enduring hits, The melody is gorgeous, the playing delicate (Gregg handles the acoustic guitar and keyboards, Betts the electric guitar leads), and Allman’s vocal is a master class in understated passion: “Crossroads, seem to come and go/The gypsy flies from coast to coast/Knowing many, loving none/Bearing sorrow, having fun/But back home he’ll always run/To sweet Melissa.” Listen to what he does with his vocal control on the bridge, starting with “Again, the morning’s come.” And this is perhaps Berry Oakley’s greatest bass work with the Allmans, at least on a ballad.

Two entire sides of the original LP are turned over to a 33-minute live “Mountain Jam,” recorded at the same March 1971 dates that yielded At Fillmore East (four entire sets were taped). An extended riff on Donovan’s song “There Is a Mountain,” there are even longer and better versions in the full Allmans discography, but this one is a fine example of the coil-and-release dynamics of the band in full flight.

The version of Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More” from the second show on March 12th ignites Eat a Peach further, with Duane spectacular on slide and his brother’s vocal one of his very best. “One Way Out,” from a June 27th, 1971, Fillmore East date, is likewise prime Allmans, Duane on fire on slide, the rhythm section driving like mad, and Betts laying down a fluid, super-bluesy solo. The single release of “One Way Out” has been one of the most-played tracks on FM radio for the last 50 years.

The album concludes with the zippy “Stand Back” (a Gregg Allman-Berry Oakley co-write for which Gregg Allman pairs organ and electric piano), “Blue Sky” (Betts singing nature-infused lyrics about his girlfriend Sandy Wabegijig, entwining his lovely guitar parts with Duane’s electric and acoustic work), and the only solo songwriting credit for Duane, “Little Martha,” an acoustic instrumental duet with Betts.

On “Blue Sky” the two guitarists trade leads, with Allman soloing at 1:07 and Betts at 2:37. Betts purposely left out “he” and “she” words in “Blue Sky” to make it more about spirit than gender; he originally intended it for Gregg but Duane encouraged him by telling Betts, “Man, this is your song and it sounds like you and you need to sing it.” It was his lead vocal debut, and strangely, given its immense popularity, it was never released as a single. Eat a Peach’s final tunes are moving examples of how Betts and Allman could sound like four hands with one brain.

Tom Dowd’s final mixing sessions were curtailed by impending work with Eric Clapton, and veteran engineer/musician Johnny Sandlin stepped in to finish preparing the album, only to be slighted by a lack of proper credit, with a vague “Special thanks to Johnny Sandlin” on the LP liner. The Allman Brothers Band had many decades of success ahead of them: for further reading, Gregg Allman’s memoir My Cross to Bear and Alan Paul’s band biography One Way Out are seminal texts. Many Allmans fans keep Eat a Peach, the poignant and multifaceted farewell to Duane, closest to their hearts.

Rolling Stone‘s wrote that, even without their leader, “The Allman Brothers are still the best goddamned band in the land … I hope the band keeps playing forever—how many groups can you think of who really make you believe they’re playing for the joy of it?” In Christgau’s Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981) called side three “a magnificent testament”, but was relatively unimpressed by the rest of the album, especially the low-tempo “Mountain Jam” sides: And all the tape in the world isn’t going to bring Duane back.” In a retrospective review, AllMusic gave the record a solid five stars, calling the record a showcase of “the Allmans at their peak”. David Quantick of BBC Music also considered it their “creative peak”, praising the album’s “well-played, surprisingly lean bluesy rock”. 

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Today marks the anniversary of completing the recording of one of the most legendary live albums to ever grace this Earth. When thinking about The Allman Brothers, At Fillmore East is one of the main treasures that comes to mind. The double LP is most tangibly definitive of the band’s authentic sound, giving them both artistic and commercial breakthroughs, and is the kind of record you can spin on a daily basis and still find something to love about it. “At Fillmore East” was recorded over two nights — March 12th and 13th, 1971 — for which the band was paid $1,250 each show. The shows were typical performances for the band, and regarded as slightly above average by drummer Jai Johanny Johanson. Ads for the shows read: “Bill Graham Presents in New YorkJohnny Winter And, Elvin Bishop Group, Extra Added Attraction: Allman Brothers. The Allman Brothers Band started out as the opening band for Johnny Winter and Elvin Bishop for 3 nights, March, 11th, 12th & 13th, 1971 at the Fillmore East in New York City.
Although Winter was billed as the headliner, by the third night, the 13th, the ABB were closing the show. On the 12th and 13th, they recorded their shows. The recording would go on to be released as “At Fillmore East”.“The true brilliance of this live recording is in the shorter pieces. The longer pieces (“Whipping Post,” “You Don’t Love Me,” and “Mountain Jam”) have their moments, but those moments are diluted in the self indulgent noodling typical of many 1970’s live performances. If The Allman Brothers Band: The Fillmore Concerts contained only “Statesboro Blues,” “Stormy Monday” and “One Way Out,” it would still have a place as one of the finest live recordings ever released.

“Statesboro Blues” and “One Way Out” have Duane Allman’s dense and precise slide guitar pitted against Richard Betts’ round lead guitar, with “One Way Out” providing Betts with his finest recorded guitar solo. “Stormy Monday” juxtaposes Allman and Bett’s distinct lead styles in an orgy of perfect blues phrasing. Gregg Allman’s jazzy organ interlude is an added delight.”

Tom Dowd produced At Fillmore East; he had previously worked on their second studio album, Idlewild South”. He had recently returned from Africa from working on the film Soul to Soul, and stayed in New York several days to oversee the live recording.

It was a good truck, with a 16-track machine and a great, tough-as-nails staff who took care of business,” recalled Dowd. He gave the staff suggestions and noted the band had two lead guitarists and two drummers, “which was unusual, and it took some foresight to properly capture the dynamics. Things went smoothly until the band unexpectedly brought out saxophonist Rudolph “Juicy” Carter, an unknown horn player, and longstanding “unofficial” band member Thom Doucette on harmonica. “I was just hoping we could isolate them, so we could wipe them and use the songs, but they started playing and the horns were leaking all over everything, rendering the songs unusable,” said Dowd. He rushed to Duane during the break to tell him to cut the horn players; while Duane loved the players, he put up no fight with Dowd. The final show was delayed because of a bomb scare, and did not end until 6 am.

Each night following the shows, the musicians and Dowd would “grab some beers and sandwiches” and head to Manhattan’s Atlantic Studios to go over the performances. Set lists for following shows were crafted by listening to the recordings and going over what they could keep and what they would need to capture once more. “We wanted to give ourselves plenty of times to do it because we didn’t want to go back and overdub anything, because then it wouldn’t have been a real live album,” said Gregg Allman, and in the end, the band only edited out Doucette’s harmonica when it didn’t fit. “That was our pinnacle,” said Dickey Betts later. “The Fillmore days are definitely the most cherished memories that I have. If you asked everybody in the band, they would probably say that.

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