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The List – 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die – 1965

So here is 1965 and they can be heard on Spotify with the playlist that I have created for everyone to follow along.

I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail Buck Owens and His Buckaroos – My main exposure to Buck Owens came through the “Hee-Haw” show as he sat opposite Roy Clark. Cub Koda described this album as “Owens’ Bakersfield honky tonk sound at the height of its freight-train rumbling powers.” I enjoyed the album very much. It has the kind of swing and honky tonk groove that I hadn’t heard in a long time but still liked. Its the kind of music you get up and dance. Not what I would call 1001 material initially but i htink there could be room in my list for this gem.

Live at the Star-Club Hamburg Jerry Lee Lewis – So this album showed Jerry Lee as “The Killer”! Jerry Lee Lewis live is the best way to hear him. He has a presence that leaps off the stage and the recording. Every track makes you think “how cool would it be to see late 50’s/early 60’s Jerry Lee Lewis?” He does what you would expect, “Great Balls of Fire” & “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” but he also pulls out “Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Hound Dog” and “Long, Tall Sally”. Great rock and roll album, definitely in my 1001 based on “Mean Woman BLues” alone!!

Here Come The Sonics The Sonics – Ever heard of The Sonics? Me neither. At first listen, it’s a garage band. At second listen…it was still a garage band. I could imagine having these guys playing your party would have been the coolest thing around in ’65 but I don’t know what is so good about this album that would place it on the 1001. Fun stuff but not worthy of great distinction in my opinion.

Bringing It All Back Home Bob Dylan – I’m a pretty big fan of Dylan as a writer. I don’t own a lot of Dylan’s albums just because I am not a huge fan of his vocals. This album is a great example of why I like Bob’s writing. “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, “Maggie’s Farm”, It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” are the hits but the whole album is sublime. It has a transitional feel to it as Dylan has one foot squarely planted in the acoustic folk and the other in the grittier electric rock side of the road. “Love Minus Zero” shows his folk roots while “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” is a crazy cool rocker. I’d have to say this makes the list for me.

Otis Blue Otis Redding – This is Otis’ third album. When you hear it, it feels like a greatest hits album because all the songs are familiar. Otis Blue is a classic album you must have if you are a music lover. Yet, I don’t have it (a situation I will remedy shortly). This has classic songs penned by Otis like “Respect”, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “Ole Man Trouble”. But he does powerful versions of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”, “Shake” and “Wonderful World”. All in all, Otis slays us with every tune on this album. Due to the familiarity of these songs, I wouldn’t have put it in my 1001 because it would have felt cliche but listening again makes me realize this album impacted the music world heavily, as Aretha went on to do “Respect”. Definitely in my 1001 now.

The Beach Boys Today! The Beach Boys – Between 1962 and 1964, Brian Wilson had written songs for 6 full-length albums, 5 new Christmas songs for a Christmas album and toured live with the Beach Boys including a Live album thrown in to boot. In late ’64 the decision was to let Brian stop touring to concentrate on writing and arranging the Beach Boys next album. This is that album. You can hear the beginning of the changes in the arrangements and instrumentation that would later be heard on Pet Sounds. It is the beginning of a change in writing focus as well. This album goes from “Do You Wanna Dance?” and “Dance, Dance, Dance” to “When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)” and “Please Let Me Wonder. A transition from being a girl-crazy, hot-rod driven teenager to “what happens next” 20-something. I have the original pressing of this album on the Capital label. Definitely in my 1001 list.

A Love Supreme John Coltrane – What can I say about this album that hasn’t already be said. I got introduced to this album from my love of Carlos Santana, who always identifies this as one of the top 5 musical pieces of all time. Simply 4 songs: Acknowledgement, Resolution, Pursuance, Psalm. Coltrane recorded this just a few years before he died. Lots of people interpret this album and I find myself reading the “lyrics/poem” included with the vinyl jacket in synchronicity with Coltrane’s tenor sax during Psalm. Just a superb album. Its in my top 25, maybe even top 10.

Live At The Regal B.B. King – What’s great about B.B. King is not only is he arguably one of the most recognizable guitar players due to his unique tone and vibrato but he’s also a pretty amazing singer. This album showcases B.B. at possibly his best vocally. But above all else, B.B. King is the consummate entertainer. He is an amazing bandleader and this group follows his every move with horn rips and a rhythm section that can swing the slack in anyone’s back. Get this album, put it on and dance around the room. You can try to stay still but you will still be swaying.

Bert Jansch Bert Jansch – I can’t believe I hadn’t heard this album before. Bert Jansch (album) is a compilation of acoustic folk blues songs that he wrote. It’s in the 20 Best Folk Music Albums of All Time. The whole album was recorded on a reel-to-reel at the engineer’s house (supposedly the kitchen sounded the best for the recording due to the hard surface reflections). The rumor had it he played the entire album with borrowed guitars. That tape was sold to Transatlantic record label for £100 and they released it as an LP that sold 150K copies. He later went on to write “Blackwaterside” that was blatantly stolen by none other than Jimmy Page for “Black Mountain Side“. He was extremely influential on Page, Neil Young, Nick Drake, Johnny Marr and Beth Orton – professed devotees. Definitely would make my list!

Rubber Soul The Beatles – So, The Beatles made 12 real studio albums – With the Beatles, Please Please Me, A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles For Sale, Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s, Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles (White Album), Abbey Road, Let It Be. All the others were basically compilations. With Rubber Soul, the 6th album by the Fab Four, we hear them taking a departure from singles to a more album-oriented collection of songs. This was the first of what I consider to be the 4 best albums by The Beatles. I could go on at length about these records but suffice to say that there are no “filler” songs on this record. Every song kills. What’s even more impressive is that while each song stands up on its own, it is hard to not think of the track before or after when heard on its own. You play me “The Word” and it feels out of context without hearing “Michelle” afterwards or “Think For Yourself” before it. It probably just means that I listened to this album plenty more than your average bear. Top 100 probably but definitely in the 1001.

Mr. Tambourine Man The Byrds – I thought I was a fan of The Byrds before I started this adventure but I discovered that I only like the hits by these guys. Despite that, this album is a great collection of well done covers. It shows off Roger McGuinn’s 12-string guitar work. All the tunes sound like they are Byrd’s originals when in fact there are just a couple of songs that anyone in the band  contributed to the writing. It’s the kind of album that you are really captured by the harmonic vocals. I think of it as a rock version of the early singer groups that did covers. Motown was notorious (“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”, “(I Know )I’m Losing You”, etc.) for this kind of co-mingling. This album might make my 1001 simply as it was The Byrds debut and they did have a large impact on the music scene in the 60’s, but not an album I will cherish in my collection.

Highway 61 Revisited Bob Dylan – Could there have been a more apt song to define the late 60’s than “Like A Rolling Stone”? To think that Dylan wrote and released this in 1965 is still kind of surprising. With Presley’s “Roustabout“, soundtracks “The Sound of Music” and “Goldfinger“, the Beatles’ “Beatles ’65”, “Beatles VI” and “Help!”and the Stones’ “Out Of Our Heads” topping the Billboard charts in 1965, it is even more impressive that Dylan could squeeze this rocker into the mix.  Most of these songs are over 5 minutes long making them relatively unsuitable for radio airplay at this time. However, this might be one of my favorite Dylan albums. Definitely in my 1001 but might even crack my top 200!

The Who Sings My Generation The Who – The Who’s debut, in itself, is worthy of a listen. Very crass and rough as though these guys were just emerging from their mod days into bonafide rockers. Obviously, the big hit is “My Generation” but the album holds up outside of that track. “The Kids Are Alright”, “Out In The Street” and “A Legal Manner” round out the hits but this album feels so angry that its cool.

The List – 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (The 50’s)

So approximately 2 and a half years ago, my office mate – the estimable Matt Milsark – embarked on a fairly crazy journey. We both are very much in love with music and we both share similar tastes in that music.
I received the fabulous book called “1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die” by Robert Dimery and Michael Lydon. This book is compilation of 50 music industry people who have brought to the table their top 100 choices to play for someone before they die. This was whittled down to simply the 1001 albums that one should hear. Matt and I decided to listen to them all, in their entirety.
This is no simple task. We set some pretty specific rules:

  • We would only listen to them in the office we shared.
  • We would only listen to them together.
  • We tried our best to own the recordings or at the very least borrow them from people that had them.

What we found was the list in the book that I had was already changing. So, we compiled the list from the website, 1001 Albums Before You Die, and worked from the latest errata.

I just completed this list today. Yes I said “I”. My very good friend, Matt, moved on to another company and I was left to my own listening and finishing the list. Since Matt and I spent so much time and effort into listening to these albums, I thought I would share my thoughts on the albums we listened to. I don’t think it would be a good idea to break these posts into sections and I will add them as I can. I am hoping to Matt’s thoughts at some point in time as well. So here is 1955-1959 and they can be heard on Spotify with the playlist that I have created for everyone to follow along. The book begins with 1955 and works all the way up to 2010. Here goes:

1955 – In The Wee Small Hours of the MorningFrank SinatraGREAT ALBUM! This was one of the first albums that I went out and bought to meet the needs of listening to these albums. I have always loved Frank and was surprised to realize I had never listened to this album. If it came out today it would be considered a total “stalkerazi” album but the timbre of Frank’s voice just kills.

1956 – Ellington at Newport ’56Duke Ellington – There was nothing really that stood out with this album with the exception of some introductions done by a priest. The album was good but nothing was overly spectacular. I’m not sure I would have included this in the “Must Hear” category but it was a good listen. The version that I listened to was an expanded edition on CD that had a lot of material.

1956 – Elvis PresleyElvis Presley – This album kills, another CD I bought and then purchased on vinyl. Great example of why everyone was so hot on “The King”.

1956 – Songs for Swinging LoversFrank Sinatra – I loved this album as well, great swing feel. It felt like the beginning of the Rat Pack time frame. Favorites include “It Happened in Monterey” and “Anything Goes”.

1956 – Birth of the CoolMiles Davis – True bebop at it’s best. Miles kills on “Budo” and “Deception”. “Boplicity” is extremely cool but this also includes “Darn That Dream”. Anytime I listen to Miles Davis I feel as though I have viewed a miraculously beautiful painting and don’t know what to say afterwards.

1956 – Tragic Songs of LifeThe Louvin BrothersOMG!! I can’t tell you enough about this album in a simple blog. Go out and get this album! It is a great example of 50’s country music that was transitioning from the bluegrass of old to the more storytelling form. Great, great stuff.

1957 – The Atomic Mr. BasieCount Basie – Another very cool period piece that probably wouldn’t have made my list. Don’t get me wrong this is a really good album but would I play it for a friend before they kick the bucket to make sure they have heard it, probably not. It starts off kicking with “The Kid from Red Bank” which always make me think of Kevin Smith (still not sure why). Just a great example of swing/big band jazz, not the crooner stuff like Benny Goodman.

1957 – This is Fats DominoFats Domino – NOT AN EASY ALBUM TO FIND! I had to reconstruct this album from various albums and that’s always a challenge since you aren’t sure if the recording or take is the exact one from the album. This is Fats Domino is basically what you would expect from Fats – “Blueberry Hill”, “Blue Monday”, “Reeling and Rocking”, etc. Good, possibly great album but not really surprising.

1957 – Here’s Little RichardLittle Richard – This album KILLS!! Great example of being polar opposite from the Fats Domino album. “Tutti Fruitti”, “Jenny, Jenny”, “Ready Teddy”, “Long Tall Sally” are of course the hits but the album as a whole is amazing, so much so I bought it on vinyl for keeps. This is one that would make my list now that I have heard it.

1957 – The Wildest!Louis Prima – Hilarious!! Matt and I listened to this album and Matt’s comment said it all for me “These guys sound like they had a freaking great time making this album!!” That is exactly what I thought as well, it’s got hits like “Just a Gigolo”, “The Lip” and “Jump, Jive, An’ Wail”. While those 3 are enough to put this album on my list but the rest of the tracks are just as fun and good. Highly recommended.

1957 – KenyaMachito – this is an example of good Afro-Cuban Jazz but seemed very “lounge-y” to me. Not really my cup of tea, lots of orchestration and vary simple rhythms. Sounds a lot like a movie soundtrack from the early 60’s so it is possible this set off a genre.

1957 – Palo CongoSabu – another example of Afro-Cuban music but this one was more intriguing for me because it is primarily focused on poly rhythmic percussion. As the title implies, lots and lots of conga but there are a number of featured instruments. This is one that I would recommend but I’m not sure I would put it on a list this esteemed.

1957 – The “Chirping” CricketsThe CricketsBuddy Holly‘s group before he became the focal point for all things 50’s rock ‘n’ roll. It’s the only Crickets album that features Buddy, which is really strange to discover. This album is definitively a must hear and belongs squarely in the 1001. “That’ll be the Day”, “Oh, Boy” and “Not Fade Away” are all on this album.

1957 – Brilliant CornersThelonious Monk – Very, very cool jazz piano with Max Roach on drums and Sonny Rollins on sax. Seems like everything I hear on Riverside records is cool. This is a straight out jazz from the Miles Davis, Charlie Parker feel. Very cool but not in my top 100. Probably would make the 1001 though.

1957 – Lady in SatinBillie Holiday – Listening to Billie Holiday is like watching a beautiful slow motion tragedy (train wreck, car crash). Her voice is so beautifully sad it breaks your heart. She is an amazing vocalist and will make you sob uncontrollably like a 14 year old girl who just found out the boy she likes is enamored with her best friend. Great album but not in my top 100.

1958 – Jack Take the FloorRamblin’ Jack Elliott – SUPERB! Fantastic example of the roots folk music. Jack Elliott was a traveling companion of Woody Guthrie and this album hearkens to that sort of American Folk music that defined our nation. This is extremely hard to find and was one of the last 10 I was able to obtain. It would be in my top 100.

1958 – Live at Mister Kelly’sSarah Vaughn – Bought this on vinyl at a garage sale and restored it as best I could. This is a very cool live album that was recorded by simply starting the recording and doing pretty much zero editing. Ms. Vaughn is singing with a simple trio of players – Jimmy Jones, piano; Roy Haynes, drums; Rich Davis, bass. She is so laid back on this recording it is disarming. This is a great example of an early live recording. In the 1001 but probably not in the top 100.

1958 – Dance ManiaTito Puente – How can you not love Tito Puente. Very cool rhythms and everything that makes Latin dance music cool! I loved listening to this album and it is a great early example of the Latin pulse running through the US before Cuba got excommunicated. I would recommend this to be in the 1001.

1959 – Time OutThe Dave Brubeck Quartet – “Take Five”, “Blue Rondo a la Turk” are worth buying the album alone but this what I consider the very first album I ever heard that sounded truly sophisticated. It’s a California jazz at its finest and is timeless. This is in my top 100 and maybe even in my top 25.

1959 – Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Song BookElla Fitzgerald – This is a 4 disc set that is extremely comprehensive but if you are going to have to choose one Ella Fitzgerald album, I guess this would be it. Lots and lots of great songs. Probably wouldn’t be in my top 100 but would crack the 1001.

1959 – Gunfighter Ballads and Trail SongsMarty Robbins – This album clearly falls outside what I would consider to be my tastes but I gotta say that this was a wistful listen that rang clear and bright for me. I dug it. “Big Iron” and “El Paso” are the tunes everyone knows but the rest of the album is really cool. It tells great stories. It will make my 1001 even though I had never listened to it before.

1959 – Kind of BlueMiles DavisBEST JAZZ ALBUM EVER! End of story. This album is in my top 5. Listen to it.

1959 – The Genius of Ray CharlesRay Charles – This is an early example of Ray but not my favorite. It does have “Let The Good Times Roll” and “Deed I Do” but it isn’t the one I would have put in the list. I would have probably gone with Ray Charles at Newport but this isn’t a bad album by any means.

Well, that was the 50’s and for the most part this list got it right. All really good selections but only a few fell short of great. Coming soon, the early 60’s!

Peace out!

Funeral Songs – Samba Pa Ti by Santana

So there was some discussion amongst my blogging mates about what would be the perfect song to be played at your funeral. That was really easy for me to state, I have – for the better part of my life – felt that there is only one song that when my friends and family heard it on the radio, it would bring a smile to their face and have thoughts of our relationship. That song for me is “Samba Pa Ti” by Santana.

Samba Pa Ti” was written by Carlos Santana and performed on the 1970 Abraxas album. It is one of the 26 songs included in Nick Hornby’s Songbook (31 Songs in the U.K.).  To me, it’s simple; this song “Samba Pa Ti” drags the listener through a slew of emotions with simple melodic lines and delightfully enticing musical interplay.

The first 50 seconds grabs the listener and fills the ears with this sad and soulful melody line played by Carlos.  It is underscored brilliantly by Gregg Rolie’s Hammond B-3 organ, Chepito Areas’ and Mike Carabello’s simple conga backdrop.  The song starts with Carlos’ guitar bringing everyone else in after 2 seconds, 18 seconds in he repeats this line to draw the listener in a little as though he has something tender and beautiful to say. At 24 seconds, Carlos lets out a cry from his guitar that slightly expresses the sorrow in his heart.

He begins to repeat himself at 50 seconds and by this time the listener is on the edge of their seat waiting for the crushing blow of sadness from his guitar.  At 1:12, he barks out a a cry that makes you the listener clutch at you own heart.  He begins to hasten the pace of his story.  At 1:35, Rolie’s Hammond screams out to Carlos’ guitar in effort to pull him up and tell him that it will all be better.  The interplay here between Rolie’s organ and Carlos’ guitar is not just soulful but it is a musical interplay that resembles that of a loving relationship.  The pain of one can be vanquished by the enveloping love of another.  You can hear the anguish in the notes dripping out of Carlos’ amp, the blanketing warmth of Rolie’s organ pouring out of the rotating Leslie speakers.  The organ actually lifts the guitar.

At 2:02, the bottom drops out of the support and you quickly hear a lightness in the notes of the melody.  It reminds me of a bird learning to fly on it’s own for the first time.  There in the nest one moment; then realizing that it is flying without that support underneath it.  Loving the freedom, loving the feeling of flying.  At 2:22, the melody changes completely to be elegantly cheerful and continues throughout.  Dipping in out of powerlines and doing fly-bys on neighboring windows.  Spinning in the loop de loop.

Beauty and blissful joy because in the end it will all be fine and if not, then it isn’t the end.

How I Became Dazed and Confused

I know you might be thinking to yourself, here goes another article about Led Zeppelin.  To ease your mind, I recently (within the last three years) became a Zeppelin fan.  Why did it take so long for me to actually become a fan of one of the greatest Rock n’ Roll bands of all time?  Growing up in the MTV generation, it was frowned upon to be cliché and listen to what you were told to listen to.  Wow, that is a cliché it itself judging from today’s MTV generation.

I took an interest in Led Zeppelin after listening to a couple of vinyl records that an old lady gave me in return for helping her move some furniture.  The vinyl’s she game me were “Led Zeppelin”, “Led Zeppelin II”, “Led Zeppelin III” and “The Song Remains the Same”.  I took them home and laid them on the shelf for a couple of months.  Finally, I broke them out and gave them a real listen.  I had heard Zeppelin songs before, but listened to them like some people do.  I had listened to The Yardbirds and Cream before, how different could they sound from that? It wasn’t until I REALLY listened that I came to appreciate the band tremendously.

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In A Genre of Their Own

While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on musical genres, I have listened to a fair share of music in my time and truly dig songs from all types of genres. Usually I stay within the same 4 or 5 genres (namely classic rock, jam bands, reggae, bluegrass, and folk) but can’t help but love when musicians mix genres, cross genres, or create new ones all of their own. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a huge success but when it does work, it is one awesome sound…take for example the Easy Star All-Stars reggae remake of Pink Floyds’ Dark Side of the Moon.  Even more appealing is when I come across a group with its’ own sound that really doesn’t fit into one of the traditional genres.  The three bands below have only been releasing albums for the past 5-10 years, but they are so unique and so good at what they do I believe they deserve a genre all of their own and therefore I have taken the liberty to create some new genres for them.

Artist: J.J. Grey & Mofro New Genre: “Swamp Rock Funk”
While it is hard to compare J.J. Grey & Mofro to any other artist I have ever listened to, they could arguably possess the smoothness of Marvin Gaye, the funk of Stevie Wonder, the jams of Curtis Mayfield, and the masterful organ playing of Gregg Allman. Add to these resemblances some amazing harmonica playing and a screaming slide guitar, and you have one of the best bands to surface this decade. When you first listen to Mofro, you might envision a rundown house on a dirt road in a small Mississippi town back in the 1960’s. You can imagine a couple of guys sitting on the front porch on a blistering hot summer day singing about the good times and the bad times. There’s no audience, just soulful sounds and heartfelt lyrics that make you feel like you were sitting on that same front porch. The brilliance of J.J. Grey & Mofro is that they are a couple of white guys from southern Florida who weren’t even born in the 1960’s, yet their songs tell stories that bring you back in time when things were simpler. Do yourself some justice and listen to everything these guys have released….it’s that damn good!

Artist: Xavier Rudd New Genre: “Didgie Jam”
Imagine a voice that resembles Paul Simon, rhythms that compare to Bob Marley & The Wailers, and slide guitar playing that would make Ben Harper jealous. Now add the unique and mesmerizing sounds of the didgeridoo and you”ll have a sound the echoes that of Australian native Xavier Rudd. The first time I heard Rudd was live at the 2004 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. A group of us were heading back to our campsite when we were stopped dead in our tracks by a gratifying sound coming from one of the side stages. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard a the striking vibrations of a didgeridoo before, it was the fact that on stage there was one guy sitting on a stool playing an unbelievable jam with 5 different didgeridoos, a slide guitar, and the drums…that’s right, one guy! Since then, Xavier Rudd has added a full band and has expanded his offerings with a darker sound that features more slide guitar and deeper jams (as evidenced in its latest album Darker Shades of Blue). Even though he has shown an impressive range in his sounds, Xavier still sticks to his island roots and produces the kind of music that can turn a bad day into a good one!

Artist: Railroad Earth New Genre: “Bluegrass Jam Rock”
One of the members of Railroad Earth classifies themselves as “an amplified string band with drums” while another member says they are “a Country & Eastern Band.” However, the resemblance that might be missing the most from the bands’ description of themselves is that they are also a “Rock and Roll Band”! Before the band ever released its first album, an organizer for the world famous Telluride Bluegrass Festival got a hold of one of Railroad Earth’s studio sessions and they were quickly added to the lineup. Listening to the voice of lead singer Todd Sheaffer might remind you of little bit of Jerry Garcia, but there is a range to his voice that will be sure to surprise you. The bands’ last album, Amen Corner, has a harmony and flow that will give you goose bumps. It is a beautiful collection of songs that all have a sense of optimism to them, making it hard not to tap your foot and wear a big smile. Whether you are a country fan, a jam band fan, or a bluegrass fan, Railroad Earth is sure not to disappoint.

With Warren (1990 – present)

With Warren” marked the resurrection of the Allman Brothers Band.  Warren Haynes showed up at studio in 1989 to do some vocal backup work.  Dickey Betts was recording there as well.  Dickey had heard Warren play and asked him, in jest, if the producer had brought Warren in to replace him on his own solo record.  They had a laughed and Warren ended up complimenting Dickey’s playing on the solo effort, “Pattern Disruptive”.  Next thing, Warren is the new guitarist in the ABB.  Warren brings a spark that they had been missing since the death of Duane.  Don’t misunderstand, Warren isn’t the new Duane.  Playing styles are completely different but what Warren did bring is a the drive and work ethic that Duane had back to ABB.  He pushed them to be more than what they had become and remember why they got into the ABB in the first place. 

“Seven Turns” starts off blazing with “Good Clean Fun and runs through numbers like “Low Down Dirty Mean,” “Shine It On,” and “Let Me Ride“.  Almost all completely written by Dickey (aided by new pianist Johnny Neel and Warren).  The killer for me is the track “True Gravity“, probably the best instrumental to come out of the ABB since “Jessica”.

“Shades of Two Worlds” was almost overlooked by most people.  This returned ABB to their truest blues roots since “Idlewild South” .  “Bad Rain” and “Come On In My Kitchen” are flatout smokin’ acoustic blues.  They both invoke a back porch feel that is missing in a lot of electric blues.

“Where It All Begins” might not be as strong as the previous two but contains some of my favorite tracks.  This is a “live-in-the-studio” album.  Recorded like the days of old without many overdubs.  It has a good earthiness to it as well.  It has possibly my favorite and simplest Haynes’ composition “Soulshine”.  To me, an absolutely beautiful folk song.  Other high points, IMHO, are “All Night Train”, “Sailin’ Cross the Devil’s Sea” and “No One to Run With”.  These are well written and have the good blend of lyrical content and jam sessions.  “Back Where It All Begins” is a great groovin’ jam with Dickey and Warren trading really hot licks.

Then 9 years later, “Hittin’ The Note”.  A little background here, ABB had pretty much called it quits – Allen Woody and Warren Haynes left to form Gov’t Mule.  Dickey was working on Great Southern, Gregg was putting the finishing touches on “Searching for Simplicity”,  Butch was doing Frogwings with Jimmy Herring, Derek Trucks, Marc Quinones and Oteil Burbridge.  In 2000, Allen Woody, bassist on the previous 3 albums, died while preparing to tour with Gov’t Mule.  This was the impetus behind Warren coming back to a new version of ABB.  Butch Trucks brought Derek Trucks and Oteil Burbridge to Jaimoe and Gregg.  He convinced Warren to come back and they moved on without Dickey for the first time since the formation of the Allman Brothers Band.  What was produced was the most electrifying album since “Brothers and Sisters“.  The combination of Warren and Derek are the closest thing I have heard to Duane and Dickey.  Truly complimentary, truly melodic and just amazing.  This is also the first time we hear Haynes taking a big role vocally.  This bounces back from smokey lounge jazz fusion that would make Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock take notice to whiskey drinkin’, cryin’ in your glass blues that could make Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker sob in their graves.  “Firing Line“, “Who To Believe”, “Rockin’ Horse” are the real rockers on the album.  For those in need of serious blues, “High Cost of Low Living”, “Desdemona”, “Old Before My Time” and the Stones’ cover “Heart of Stone”Jazzers will love “Woman Across the River”, “Maydell” and the amazing “Instrument Illness“.

Seven Turns by The Allman Brothers Band
Thank God that Warren Haynes
found his way into the studio that
Dickey was playing in!!!

Shades of Two Worlds by The Allman Brothers Band
Thick electric and acoustic blues
throughout the whole album.

Where It All Begins by The Allman Brothers Band
This album as a whole might be the weakest
of the first 3 but still has some
of the best songs.

Hittin' The Note by The Allman Brothers Band
Just my favorite ABB album.

Pattern Disruptive by Dickey Betts
Warren Haynes and Johnny Neel in some pre-ABB work

Searching for Simplicity by Gregg Allman
Gregg rehashes the ABB sound without the
band but included Derek Trucks

With Duane (1969-1971)

This might seem to a huge slight to the amazing talents of Forrest Richard “Dickey” Betts but is more of a defined change in the sounds and direction the band took.  “With Duane” saw the formation of the group and the had Duane “Sky Dog” Allman as the engine of the group.  He pushed and prodded everyone to be better than they thought themselves to be.  This brought to us the studio albums “The Allman Brothers Band” and”Idlewild South“, producing staples such as “Dreams“, “Whipping Post“, “Revival“, “Midnight Rider” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed“.  This was also the category that sees the release of the highly lauded “At the Fillmore East“.  The only live album that I have owned in more formats than I care to mention ( currently stuck on the 1992 Polydor release called “The Fillmore Concerts” which is a remix by Tom Dodd of both nights).  On October 15, 1971, “At the Fillmore East” goes gold; 14 days later “Sky Dog” was gone.

Bridging the gap between “With Duane” and “Without Duane” was “Eat A Peach” containing live tracks from Fillmore and more ABB staples, “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”, “One Way Out”, “Melissa”, “Blue Sky” and “Little Martha”. So, that’s what?  10 undeniably classic tunes captured on 3 albums in less than 3 years, oh and let’s throw in one of the best live albums ever recorded…ever?  And that’s just the first category!!!The Fillmore Concerts by The Allman Brothers Band
The album that started them down the road.

Idlewild South by the Allman Brothers Band
Smokin’ yet not receiving the kind
of sales they expected.

The Fillmore Concerts by The Allman Brothers Band
The first opportunity for
the world to hear ABB live

The Fillmore Concerts by The Allman Brothers Band
A great mix of the original
Fillmore East concerts editted
by Tom Dowd
Eat A Peach by The Allman Brothers Band
Despite the tragedy of losing Duane,
the band played on.

Without Duane (1972-1981)

Without Duane” really had its peaks and valleys.  It started pretty strong despite the loss of original bassist, Berry Oakley with “Brothers and Sisters. Lamar Williams stepped in and the now Dickey Betts driven ABB became more laid back and easygoing and not as driving as the previous category.  “Wasted Words”, “Ramblin’ Man”, “Southbound” and “Jessica” are just classic.  But that’s pretty much where things slow to a crawl for 17 years.  What was to follow didn’t really create too much of a stir.  1975’s “Win, Lose or Draw” was just bad.  Other than a decent cover of a Muddy Waters tune, it just completely misses the mark.  According to Butch Trucks, this was the beginning of the “we’re rock stars” timeframe.  He stated in an interview in 2009 that the music at that time just became second fiddle to the partying and lifestyle.  1976’s “Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas” returned ABB back to what they did well still and that was perform live.  This album has a great representation of the cuts off of “Brothers and Sisters and “Win, Lose or Draw but it’s the 17+minute version of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” that is the crux of the album.  No longer being able to do the fire and brimstone of the Fillmore days, this version is brooding and open making room for Greg Allman and Chuck Leavell to vamp.

Back together for their final album for Capricorn, 1979’s “Enlightened Rogues” wasn’t so much a bad album as it was an uneventful album.  “Crazy Love” was the hottest track on this on and it still holds up today.  Running a close second was “Just Ain’t Easy“.  Dan Toler brought some fire back to Betts playing and David Goldflies took over the bass duties from the recently departed Lamar Williams (he and Jaimoe went to form Sea Level in 1976).  The last two albums of this category “Reach for the Sky” and “Brothers of the Road” were for Razor & Tie records and were seeing the ABB come into the ’80s and that wasn’t good for any of us.

Brothers and Sisters by The Allman Brothers Band
An amazing tesatament to
the fortitude of ABB after the
loss of Duane and Berry Oakley
Win, Lose or Draw by The Allman Brothers BandA fairly uneventful release despite
a two year span since “Brothers and Sisters”
Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas by The Allman Brothers BandBack to a live album and still the best
way to experience ABB
Enlightened Rogues by The Allman Brothers BandBetter than most but not great,
“Crazy Love” is the best track by far.
Reach for the Sky by The Allman Brothers BandJust not very good,
very gospel but “Angeline” shines.
Brothers of the Road by The Allman Brothers BandJaimoe fired, pop-sheen,
does this make sense to anyone?

The Allman Brothers Band – Best Band Ever?

That’s huge!  The Allman Brothers Band best band ever?  Ever!!?  Not The Beatles?  Not The Stones?  The Allman Brothers Band…ok, they are really good, potentially great, but the best band ever?   Resoundingly, YES!!!  There has been no other band that has evoked the kind of visceral emotion and pulling at every heartstrings.  I grew up on a steady diet of Santana, Yes, Led Zeppelin and Elton John.  Being hispanic, admitting that there are higher planes of musical existence than what Carlos has taken us to is akin to Stephen Hawkins telling us there is no such thing as black holes.  So what is it about ABB that keeps me coming back to them?

Let’s take a deeper look at the catalog that makes me love the Allman Brothers Band above all others – at least for the present time.

First, I separate the albums that ABB did into 3 categories that I think truly defines their sound:

  1. With Duane (1969 – 1971)
  2. Without Duane (1972 – 1979)
  3. With Warren (1990 – present)

Not trying to slight Dickey, I love Dickey…in a strictly non-sexual, uh…man there is no getting out of that one.  Dickey Betts smokes on the Goldtop, back to the categories. “With Duane” was a short 2-3 years but maybe the best because it was so raw.  “Sky Dog” drove the Allman Brothers Band into the stratosphere.  Take an hour and a half out of your busy life and sit down with a pair of headphones or an extremely large pair of speakers that shuts out everything else in the world and put on “At the Fillmore East“.  What I found so amazing about the ABB during that time is the pure energy of it all.  The 1st album was the blues like I had never heard before.  Southern fried tones with really kickin’ grooves – all beautifully colored with the best whiskey drinkin’ voice in rock…period.

Without Duane” was not the most prolific time for ABB.  Best thing that came out of it was “Brothers and Sisters“.  Despite continuous issues, death of Duane and Barry, the bankruptcy of Capricorn – their label, the marriage/divorce/marriage/divorce of Gregg Allman and Cher, Jaimoe and Lamar leaving to form Sea Level and all of this combined with their rock star mythos issues (drug, drink and way too many groupies).  They still kicked out good tunes but not at the level they did before.  I personally loved their live stuff still.  This was nearly the end of ABB.

With Warren” was the ressurrection of ABB.  Never have I heard the kind of jazz fusion, rock, southern tones and fat, fat rhythms.  Three great albums in 4 years then nothing for 9 years.  Some touring, some live recordings but no new material.  I could’ve been happy with just that but then 2003 – “Hittin’ the Note”.  Take a listen, you will be addicted as well.