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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.