Friday, August 25, 2017

Allman Brothers Band - I'm No Angel-Pattern Disruptive

Disruptive Angel - The Wilderness Years: After the Arista Clive Davis Prostitution Dickey and Gregg went their own way. Hell I even think there was a moment that the ABB was playing without Gregg. I distinctly remember going what the what how f'd up is that? But the wilderness years weren't all bad for the core fans.

No way brother we got to catch Gregg and Dickey although in separate venues at separate times all alone down front in freakin' bars. Yeah baby. Places the same size or smaller than Grant's only a decade later. We danced and hooted and hollered and partied with the band inches from Gregg with the Toler Brothers and Chaz Trippy and Dickey fronted a power trio. That's right while the kids were swooning over Depeche Mode there I was with "my" brother no less down front raging with every note Dickey powered our way. Crowd sizes were pushing it to reach fifty people including staff and the band on a Tuesday night. Small but hearty my friends and ferocious we all had a ball.

So while it might have been a come down for the band it was a real opportunity and we had a blast. This was all pre-1986. We had the better part of a decade before they climbed back into America's consciousness and started playing sheds again with Johnny Neel, Warren and Woody.

There I sat in my studio faced with three hours of air time....hmmm what should I play? Out comes Fillmore East and Done Somebody Wrong the manager comes in and say’s okay you’ve done that once never do that again…well bullshit to that who cares if it’s not XTC.

I had a 35 mile radius outside of Atlantic City the 52nd largest market just behind New Orleans out of 270 ranked markets. FM airwaves before satellite before streaming and I laid it on thick. I brought the jam and we went to the shows.

I was a man on a mission. You want music I'll show you goddam music. One fellow DJ said out from under his black eye liner at least the guys you play know how to play their instruments. I cranked the studio speakers and the head bangers and speed scale lovers were confused by the back beat. I segued in and out of live sets and the goth kids smiled. I played musicians and musicians played music!

Seeing Gregg in a sleazy bar in Wildwood NJ a puke stained, piss soaked oh dear lord don’t go into the bathroom or eat the food crap hole and handing out tee shirts with the classic mushroom logo to my friends and fans and the band wanted them.

"Hey were'd you get those?"

I jumped up and down in front of the band and Gregg whose B-3 I could touch if I wasn’t respectful I was genuinely into every note (still am). No beer in my hand, air guitar going as I'm rocking listening, dancing, having a hoot grooving hard Danny smiling at me shaking his head and Gregg stepping down off the riser tapping "me" on the shoulder and shaking my hand - just beautiful - drinking with the band at the bar after the show - sitting on either side of me - dynamite!

Well we had us a time. Why is Dickey's bass player grinning like a maniac looking like he's going to have a heart attack? What's in that towel fellas...come on guys right on freakin' stage. We had our own. Invited back stage to talk to Gregg about the double SG that sure as hell looked like Brother Duane's guitar and I was too stupid to get autographs back then.

Then 1986 The Together Again Tour and I have to wake people up shake their shoulder pads and costume jewelry from around their necks. Get your asses to the gig morons. Easily down front again no pushing, dancing, laughing, carrying on and a double bill this time with Dickey Opening and Gregg closing and then the encore together with Duane' guitar...redemption.

Then we get I'm no Angel and Pattern Disruptive 1987 and 1988 and Gregg's back on commercial radio and I'm hollering at the DJ's and Programmers as I roll down the road - about god damn time assholes.

Looking back they learned some lessons from the Arista debacle and while both releases INA and PD have their merits they are still of their time. I’m No Angel especially. However on INA they sneak more blistering guitar work of Dan’s into several songs and not forgetting their true friends and fans close with a new version of Don’t Want You No More into It’s Not My Cross To Bear just a bit glammed up.

Who knew in the following year 1989 with the issue of the Dreams Box Set they would charge on for another twenty four years? And that was the whole point to me. The music was too epic to not forge ahead and when they stayed true to their vision and passion new generations not only us 1970ers but decade after decade of hearts and souls got to experience, re-discover and be informed by the roots of rock n roll, blues, gospel, country, jazz and soul and a whole lotta righteous soul playing groove thundering authenticity.

In the wilderness years of the 1980’s we didn’t want this music forgotten not the fans not the musicians. As I pulled Hot ‘Lanta from the Fillmore East album one day in the 1990’s a returning alumni of the radio station said to me derisively “are you still playing that album” – “hell yeah,” I retorted and after he left and said hello to old friends on the wing the studio speakers screaming that music down the hall he stuck his head back into the studio to say goodbye and spoke emphatically – “keep playin "that" music Paul!”

Mission accomplished

Allman Brothers - Arista Years

Well what are you going to do - its 1980 and 1981 you sign with a new label take their money and Tom Dowd is no where near the studio. The thing that struck me is how many people asked Gregg and Dickey to sign these albums - the other being Reach for the Sky.

It always gave me pause when BOTR or RFTS albums were pushed in front of the guys for autographs. But if you came of age then and this music spoke to you then guess what - awesome - and thats how music works - all things work - and so we shouldn't be so quick to judge. I saw a lot of people want these albums signed. They would probably shrug their shoulders at my passion for Highway Call and you know its all good.

Except I don't think these two albums do the band justice in any way shape or form.

So is there music here worth listening to? Yes there is. Is it righteous.... ahhh not consistently and way over produced. Strip it back down put some teeth in the lyrics and well you have different albums.

Okay look you veer off your vision your trying to reestablish the band grab some money and pay the bills. We get it - and so when it comes time to record the material you try to bring the vision forth by the way you sing a voicing and play a phrase. I got the feeling they dressed all the music in the same overcoat of the era and that every other song was Arista taking the music in one direction and the ABB trying to take it in another direction yet all wearing the same fabric or foundation of the pop music world proven money machine artifice.

But if the lyrics are not inspired and the sound is contrived well the best that can be said is they gave it a whirl. However they did not survive the Arista and Clive Davis bastardizing of the original vision of blues, R&B, soul, gospel and jazz and the American Idolizing of our guys.

All the old fans threw up and the new ones made excuses. Large vast amounts of puke, many, many excuses.

Dickey and Gregg made a mistake and Miami Viced their sound. They danced to market forces and chased money instead of the muse. There are listenable songs here that would go well with your early 80's collection or if you are binge watching Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas - that show cracks me up - guilty pleasure - love it when they turn out their own co-workers to hook and shoot drugs undercover or was that Rush?

Tequila Sunrise is an awesome movie the 80's had some merit and gave us Mark Knopfler.

Anyway cherry picking off of these two efforts and in no particular order the songs that work best to my ears.

The Judgement
Things You Used to Do
Maybe We Can Go Back to Yesterday
Never Knew How Much I Needed You
From the Madness from the West
Keep on Keepin On
So Long

These are good solid of the era tunes but nine selections and one of them I'm iffy about (oh heck all of them I'm Iffy about) culled from eighteen total tracks tells you all you need to know. I bought both albums when they came out and never played them on the air or bought replacement CDs.

Robben Ford once said stick to your vision - the audience will find you or said another way.

"This above all to thine own self be true.." Polonius

Lesson Learned

Friday, August 18, 2017

Gregg Allman - Outstanding Singer, Vocalist, Soul and Blues Legend

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Since day one and I mean day one of his recording career Gregg knew how to place a lyric, how long to hold the note, phrase the song and hit the right volume in his voice. That comes from really studying the masters first, knowing and respecting the roots, having a genuine and sincere appreciation for what has gone before and then having the soul to deliver.

The man was a singer blessed with an extraordinary voice who knew how to use it and meant it every time he took a breath. He honored the music as he sang ....and he was decent enough to leave us one more set of tracks.

His catalogue from start to finish is remarkable and a treasure trove of nuance and finesse that even the most ardent fans can go back to and pick up on new subtleties yet discovered. We are all very fortunate to be in and of the same time as he.... thank you Brother Gregg for meaning every note, syllable and lyric. Thank you for writing brilliantly and singing so beautifully, hauntingly and righteously through all the tumultuous uproar of your life and ours in the good times and the bad and the in between. Thank you for making this world a better place. I mean that sincerely.

In Ocean A Wash the Gunwale you wrote "I know there's a God up in Heaven who must love rock and roll." You my friend must have been one of his favorite colors to paint with as he squeezed every last drop out of you he could. You felt it and went with it no matter how many challenges ridiculous and monumental self inflicted and not of your own you faced and you delivered respect Gregg much respect and thank you.

Allman Brothers Band - Dan Toler - Enlightened Rogues

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Dan Toler - a lot of musicians in the world but Dan was one of the nicest ones I ever met. His playing was outstanding. A lesser known name but that didn't mean he couldn't play. I loved his work with the ABB, Dickey and Gregg. He's well represented on the Enlightened Rogues tracks and he deserves his own recognition more on that later perhaps.

Returning to Enlightened Draw for a minute. I took my own advice and burned a CD of what I considered the stand out tracks from those two albums that came out in 1975 and 1979 and it works! Dickey and Chuck jamming their brains out Butch and Jamoie present and strong as ever and Gregg pulling out all the stops on heart wrenching ballads.

Can't Take it With You is the first cut and it jumps out with a funky riff and rides along with a great back beat. Dickey cuts loose righteously at the end with a great amount of fire. Then they segue into the blues with Need Your Love So Bad and we remember the source. Win, Lose or Draw is an emotional tour de force. Crazy Love with Bonnie is just a fun raucous number. Pegasus gets overshadowed by High Falls but it shouldn't Rook acquits himself well with some nimble bass work and Dickey and Dan's playing is inspired. Gregg makes that B-3 chime righteously. Just ain't Easy winds out at six minutes. The way that song closes will not leave you disappointed. It has a very emotional feeling to its playing. Nevertheless follows with some of that old Allman Brothers funk shuffle attitude and Gregg's voice sings with the right amount of resignation.

High Falls is just a brilliant landscape of sound and energy. It has such a wonderful cascading vibe as Lamar drives us along. Chuck's keyboards are Jessicaesque and the whole band comes together with the drums splashing everywhere plus it’s funky. We close with Sail Away for the brothers not present.

Death is a funny thing you never forget. Even though our friends and family are no longer with us we hold them in our thoughts and memory and the good in them never fades.

This collection of songs culled from both of these albums Win Lose or Draw and Enlightened Rogues speaks to me and scratches that ABB itch. Their talent is well represented and true. Gregg's voice still rings very honest especially on Win, Lose or Draw. Underestimate or skip these tracks and your are cheating yourself and there is just no need for that.

Make your own copy using this song list and you'll treasure it in your collection.

Can't Take it With You
Need Your Love So Bad
Can't Lose What You Never Had
Win, Lose or Draw
Crazy Love
Just Ain't Easy
High Falls
Sail Away

Total time 59 minutes

Allman Brothers Band Win, Lose or Draw & Enlightened Rogues - Best Of Album Review

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Enlightened Draw:
There is some excellent music here although sadly not every cut. There's a well known picture of the band just wasted out of their minds circulating on the web but I didn't have the heart to post that one. Distractions tempered their focus. What we have here are two ABB releases from the band spanning four years 1975-1979. I bought them both when they came out.

Together if cherry picking tracks you can make a brilliant world changing disc. I often thought they should combine the tracks and reissue like Dickey did with his Great Southern and Atlanta Burning efforts.

Okay so what would be my "world changing" set list and order of tracks on my newly titled Enlightened Draw ABB album? I put some thought into this and they mix well together. The album kicks off strong and the change of pace tracks keep everything fresh. Unfortunately the first title is eerily poignant and unintended but we soldier on now don't we!

Can't Take It With You
Need Your Love So Bad
Can't Lose What You Never Had
Win Lose or Draw
Crazy Love
Just Ain't Easy
High Falls
Sail Away

That's an hour of great vintage ABB. Including Sail Away definitely marks me a sentimentalist. Tastes may and will vary and much has been written in the comment sections alone on Amazon about the merits of both of these albums. Culled from both efforts and in and among all the tracks are some great tunes, beautiful, sincere playing and some of the old fire and honesty we have come to expect. Don't over look these two efforts.

Let It Flow - Elvin Bishop - Classic Album Review

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This is another "joyous" release and if I'm writing about it you know I love it - I mean really love it and I love Elvin Bishop our very own “Poor Drunken Hearted Boy".

Let it Flow is not only a great album it’s a great way of life. I recall once upon a time and still have Jeana's postcard from Europe where she said she was taking my advice. She had just spilled a beer in Austria and was letting it flow. Now that’s a big sister. I have a great photo from Jeff hung high with Elvin’s Let it Flow poster underneath so you know this album has a huge place in my heart. Plus it’s just flat out fun! Didn’t Duane have a lot to say about music getting too serious and needing to stay fun?

Let It Flow is lighthearted, bar room, barrel house, not afraid to cry in its beer music that celebrates the environment and espouses a pastoral, down home philosophy that refuses to take itself too seriously except when it comes to having fun and having the right attitude even when facing death. Between all the music, fun and craft you might miss it but its there.

Every song expresses a positive take on everything from no regrets, no worries, to love, to life style, to fishin and well hell children life is for the living. If a fish bites my line on Sunday I'm gonna real em on in ain't nobody cryin'.

Ground Hog is a riot like a boy loves his slide, the piano break on Honey Babe is strong, and all the background, singing, shouting and talking perfectly placed. I’m gonna pick up my guitar and start to sing…..let it flow indeed!

This album is jam packed with musicians including Dickey Betts, Vassar Clements and Johnny Sandlin from the Highway Call session and then everyone else under the sun. We have guest spots from Charlie Daniels, Sly Stone, Toy Caldwell (Marshall Tucker) Randall Bramblet (Cowboy), Paul Hornsby (Hourglass) , Mickey Thomas, and Steve Miller to name a few.

But the musician in that all-star lineup that grabs my attention is Johnny Vernazza. Johnny V is another gun slinger with great taste who I would love hearing more from and would have given Dickey a strong foil to play off of with the ABB. All these cats were co-mingling and cross pollinating in Macon at the time. It must have been a freak show and Grant's Lounge must have been swinging crazy, stumblin’, dancing, loud and spilling out into the street.

Elvin Bishop is still putting out albums and performing don’t pass him by if you get the chance. On Let It Flow he crafts a bunch of rowdy songs and hits some righteous covers (Lightning Hopkins) Honey Babe (Hank Williams) Hey Good Lookin' and (Merle Haggard) I' Can't Hold Myself in Line. Before closing with Bourbon Street.

That song in and of itself may have been why I applied to Tulane. Talk about train wreck they actually let me in....... but not for long (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). I was too busy tearing around New Orleans. There was an old club called Old Man Rivers where I saw Elvin with fifty people tops, Dickey and Peter Tosh came through as well…. Let It Flow puts me in touch with and breaks the fun barrier as Amy used to say!

Of course we have Travlin' Shoes a 7 minute locomotive that just cooks tightly with high energy and ringing guitar licks. Hey Good Lookin’ with Dickey and Vassar trading licks. The classic Fishin’ down there on the crick……how can you not smile?

Let It Flow is an acknowledge classic a touchstone of a moment in time that is eternal. Attitude is everything and Let It Flow brims with the right attitude song after song, note after note, lyric after lyric. You can feel the grass between your toes and smell the air, the sun on your back and the sky in your eyes. Get the whole neighborhood over and we’ll just have a time here tonight!

Highway Call Album Review - Richard Betts, Chuck Leavell, Vassar Clements, John Hughey

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Highway Call is a great album that I absolutely love! I would use it on my radio show to segue in and out of a variety of themes and sets including the ABB, Blues, Blue Grass, Country and Rock and Roll. Whether it was Coltrane or Doc Watson, Lowell George or John Hartford, Duane, Elvin, Jerry, Chuck Berry, Jimi, Janis, John Hurt or Muddy Waters I could lay this wax down and spin in and out of whatever set I could dream up.

Playing this album like all the music I played and play was/is a labor of love. The versatility of the playing on this disc lent itself to any moment in time across the musical spectrum. I used the hell out of this album often pinning the needles so the public could hear the birds chirping at the end of Let Nature Sing. I respect and love this album deeply.

Dickey's in a reflective mood with his lyrics and playing and it’s a real celebration of living. The playing by everyone is beautiful, lyrical and pastoral very positive upbeat and it evokes the spirit of and respect for the environment that quite frankly this music all music springs out of as we do ourselves.

The musicianship is top shelf with Vassar Clements and Chuck Leavell just dancing and romping through the tracks affirming their taste skill and virtuosity. There is more than a touch of western swing as this music romps and all the musicians and singers get to stretch out. It’s just plain fun and the pedal steel brings it all back home.

Dickey's Highway Call a 1974 release is a vision that precedes the David Grissman Quintet by three years (1977). The reason I bring up DGQ is that group featured Tony Rice whose uncles the Poindexter’s are all over the Highway Call album.

The music is authentic kids the real deal dare I say Americana before there was that word. Tony’s brother Larry Rice toured with the Highway Call Band on the Great American Music Tour. So the Rice family was certainly tuned into this album as it was being made, after its release and subsequent tour. I am sure it affected Tony's approach not only to the DGQ but where he could take that high and lonesome sound beyond its Bill Monroe roots. Replace Chuck's piano runs with Tony's guitar and I think you see my meaning here.

Highway Call was a trail blazer of an album and actually charted on the Billboard charts so many people got to hear it and be influenced by what Vassar Clements called Hillbilly Jazz. Did I mention Vassar was on this album well let me mention it again and again and again. A hall of fame player in my mind he was fourteen years old when he started playing with Bill Monroe. And let’s not forget Dickey he’s a pickin’ and grinnin all over this thing. His ABB sensibilities are right there just below the surface without the Marshall amp roar but stylistically there and I say unabashedly this may be the best thing he has ever laid down.

Chuck’s playing is extensively all over this album as well and he is unleashed in much the same way he was with Jessica. If you love yourself some Chuck Leavell Brothers and Sisters you owe it to yourself to scoop this album up right now.

Get Highway Call back out and throw it in the player of your choice invite your friends over and have a barbecue while the weather is still nice and the grass is still green. It never fails to put a smile on my face and it’s a heavenly musical excursion. Hand me a tall one darlin'……

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Allman Brothers Band - Chuck Leavell

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Leading off with the Brothers and Sisters Super Deluxe Set which I am finally, forcefully tucking back into my collection Chuck's dominance, artistry, skill and taste are all over this collection. The aforementioned A Minor Jam and the Southbound rehearsal are but two examples.

The live set from Winterland that make up disc three and four shine. The whole show holds up really well after all these years except for an unfortunate long solo by Dickey on Done Somebody Wrong and Dickey sounding so alone on all the Duane and Berry era tracks when he steps out for a solo.
However there are exceptions to that obviously missing Duane and Berry counter attack. Stormy Monday comes to mind and features Chuck well suited and perfectly dynamic trading riffs with Dickey and that’s not the only time. It’s a testament to how excellent a player Chuck is and how good a band we have here.

Other stand out tracks are all the tracks this lineup originated on its own and they fly. Les Brers clocks in at 25 minutes with an absolutely stunning drum segue that floats, chugs, crashes, meanders and gently settles down. It has a melody of its own. It’s a standout moment in my mind, stunning and speaks volumes to just how good Butch and Jaimoe were together and maintaining that sympathetic ear.

The power excellence and mastery of Butch and Jaimoe is fully realized here on this extended jam and it works as a standalone piece of music unlike any other drum segue, or solo I have ever heard.
I've listened to a lot of music in my day and have gone to a ton of shows both large and intimate and spent ten years plowing through three hour sets on the air. I have been studiously listening to the ABB catalogue processing, honoring, sharing, relieving and letting it inform my writing. So how can a drum solo not get old after repeated listening? Most do on just the second run through.

This is really a standout track and a word on Lamar as he gently joins the band after the monumental excursion stepping in as if on air. He melds with Butch and Jaimoe before thunderously launching the band back into the main refrain. Lamar helped anchor down the groove and held that bottom end firmly in the pocket his playing much more refrained somewhere between Berry and Woddy’s efforts Oteil being to the left of Berry in my opinion. Woddy I have a mad love affair with but later on all of that.

Chuck's work here is what we recognize so clearly as if Big Ben was ringing right in our face. Who knew what to expect after Eat a Peach and wow Southbound and Jessica just re-energized not only the band but the fan base taking us by surprise and delivering the goods in a serious, beautiful landscape of poetry, finesse, and energy. We’re back kids and keep the faith!

Charles deserves high praise and appreciation for re-launching the Allman Brothers back over the fence after Duane and Berry. He is a pillar of the band propelling them forward in a significant way.
Brothers and Sisters cemented the ABB in the general population’s heart and minds. The road that goes on forever gets a little rocky going forward but the work Chuck did not only with Laid Back, Brothers and Sister, but Highway Call galvanized the concept of virtuosity be associated with this band to the world at large.

When Chuck takes the hand off on In Memory of Elizabeth Reed here on this Deluxe Collection there is no mistake that he is an Allman Brother, born a brother, and a brother he always shall be.
When he hands the break back to Gregg no one is wondering who or what that was or notices someone else has stepped in and Dickey's playing on this live track is freakin' fierce.

The music is the music of the ABB and Chuck Leavell is right there where it belongs bringing it to us despite the travesty of fellow band members dropping like freaking flies for god's sake. But the challenge almost doesn’t exist as the gods call forth the muse again and again not to be denied by human failings. If brother Chuck doesn’t have a mushroom on his calf I’ll put one there myself!

Allman Brothers Band Brothers and Sisters Deluxe Edition

Brothers and Sisters - The Super Deluxe Edition is a four disc orgy of music from 1972 and 1973 as the ABB sought to redefine itself after Duane and Berry departed. Disc one is the album of course but disc two has some very nice surprises of unreleased outtakes, rehearsals and jams.

Berry, Berry, Berry, dear lord if Berry could have just hung in there flat picking the bass like a guitarist working alongside Dickey what a dream that would have been. We catch glimpses of this in the outtakes.

Brothers and Sisters proper comes to us with Berry only on two tracks. And while we can hear him funk it up beautifully on Wasted Words with the ABB's opening swagger fully present he's lost in the mix of Ramblin Man. Dickey and Les Dudek’s guitars jangle out front so far that Berry's left to anchoring down passive beats.

Duane gets the headlines understandable but Berry is a beautiful and unique player his loss is just as immeasurable. So it is with great joy that on the rehearsals on disc two Berry is featured on four more cuts.

To hear Berry funkin' it up on Southbound is fantastic. It's an instrumental take and they just get right into it with Chuck Leavell. In the liner notes I seem to recall Chuck's glowing words about how accommodating and welcoming was Berry. It’s such a shame we couldn’t have had a healthy fully realized Berry for as long as we had Gregg and Butch and have Jaimoe, and Dickey.

Duane and Berry one or the other sacrificed to the music gods is bad enough (horrible for family and friends) but losing both wow what a devastating blow across the board. But we have their music and the soul of their expression.

On another rehearsal take the ABB casually saunters into Outskirts of Town with a mellow sway that gives Gregg and Chuck ample opportunity to play together and create. It's fantastic hearing so much of Gregg’s playing and alternating sounds as he and Chuck trade passages.

The final track of the Rehearsal Disc is simply called “A Minor Jam” and it features Les Dudek, Chuck and Lamar with just Butch and Jaimoe. Maybe this is the birth of Sea Leavell in Chuck's mind? I can certainly see that germinating because this track just rips it up in a jazz inflected cadence that jumps out with a crescendo and a very fast back swing. It’s a tremendous track and clocks in at a healthy sixteen plus minutes. I absolutely love it.

So “what if” Les had been brought in would the ABB had more of a jazz fusion bite than it already was going to have? Listen to this cut if you haven't in a while. It's strong. So what's up with the whole Les Dudek thing?

According to Les after Duane died Dickey was going to form his own band. There was plenty of music at that time in Macon including the Caldwell Brothers and Marshall Tucker. Everybody was cross pollinating with each other and Les was living in Macon as well. Gregg asked Dickey to hang in there with the ABB and Brothers and Sisters was born. It appropriately features four Betts originals with Les Dudek’s help on Ramblin’ Man and Jessica.

Les is a great sideman who played with a bunch of heavy weights including Steve Miller and he has the chops. He would have really flourished with the ABB rhythm section and Chuck and their collective vision. Les's solo albums in my opinion don't come anywhere near the glimpse we get here with the McCoy Tanneresqu so called "A Minor Jam". It's a heavy jazz stretch that works and I for one would like to hear more of Les Dudek from these sessions.

The thing is Les is still out there and so is Chuck and so is Jaimoe. It offers intriguing possibilities and I'd sure as hell would buy a ticket and purchase the music. Lamar sounds great on this track so the bass player needs to have that jazz soul as well. If I were King I would make this happen.

Disc one features the original release and while we were all captured by Jessica the blues swing of Jelly, Jelly and Pony Boy really still captures my heart after all these years. The sequencing of the songs is excellent and Southbound just jumps out after Jelly, Jelly. After Jessica triumphantly closes Pony Boy waltzes in with a piece of straw in its mouth and a casual tude that flat out states fuck this bullshit we’re alive lets have some fun. It’s rambunctious, it's acoustic with a standup bass and closes with some dueling hambone and a subtle chuckle at the end what’s not to like?

There is not a bad song on Brothers and Sister and it’s a triumph of perseverance and vision. It’s worlds away from Beginnings, Fillmore, and Peach but respectfully so and how could it not be? The road going on forever such as it does you’ve got to expect a few turns even radical and so we all have. Dickey’s melodic technique and voice come to the fore different than Duane but well established and part of the texture and landscape we had come to love. A necessary foil to Duane’s greasy slide attack and taste Dickey is now out front on his own. Truthfully in some parts of the many varied tracks on this monster release even with Chuck Leavell’s enormous talent Dickey just sounds lonely and it’s sometimes sad. I’m not taking anything away from the music but it must have occurred to him as well and all the band.

You have to compartmentalize the sounds of the ABB before and after Duane and Berry don't compare them. It's then and only then that they both stand as monumental pillars of our global musical heritage second to none both historically and righteously forever in the moment and hitting the note.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Allman Brothers Band - Brothers and Sisters

Brothers and Sisters has taken up residence in my player. Bill put together a beautiful "Super Deluxe Edition" and Scott wrote a beautiful essay with Kirk and many others including EJ contributing. There is a ton of music.

And so now the band's sound has changed. Of course it has how could it not? You cannot take the human element away from the creation and not have that creation change in a profound way. No gear or person can substitute step in for another and have it be the same. It’s a physical impossibility. It doesn't matter if you have the licks down, it doesn't matter if you have the gear, it doesn't matter if you have the throat. The human factor, the heart, the hands, the journey, the affinity for the music, the vibe, the understanding, the knowledge, the study, the dedication, the humility, the ego, the upbringing all speak to the particular individual the intent, the focus, the clarity it’s all a part of the mix. Remove something as dynamic as one human individual and it changes. It's in the blood.

The beauty of the ABB is that they knew this quite clearly as Duane and Berry were their own men. And so they forged ahead without their brothers and created a new version of themselves as a band, a group, but more than that they stayed on the mission to stay as pure to the music as they could. They were still listening to each other both on and off stage.

Time doesn't stand still it morphs and changes as we do as well. Along the way it informs us as we mold the clay that is ourselves with our decisions, intentions, actions, thoughts, words and deeds. That is who we are and that is what comes out after we plug in. It sounds like you because it is you and you are who you are and what it is, what it becomes depends on those very factors, those points, that DNA that road you traveled and no one else has – hopefully it’s a good one and you are the hero of your own story. The guy on the left sure as hell was.

Duane Allman - Little Martha/Ain't Wastin' Time No More

Little Martha - whether Duane was referring to an old girlfriend or not is irrelevant. The fans have designated this young soul as Martha. How could we not? After all she stands watch forever forlorn in Rose Hill Cemetery just the way we feel after the smoke has cleared and the show has ended. And the fans do get a say about all of this the ABB fire and passion, life and journey, the gothic southern novel of it all and the revelation of the music.

Little Martha: Two minutes and seven seconds is never going to sound so complete and pastoral. When I finally arrived at performing a facsimile of this song I was there. It was one of my goals to try and learn it and it takes time. There are so many moving parts and I'm not a full time musician but a labor of love and love is after all what it is all about. Of course my version pales to the original I’m only two hands but when I get it moving and it starts to transcend and I follow the melody and inspiration where it takes me well the muse is floating there smiling and I feel as one feels when they get after it and hit the note, take the journey and feel the vibe. That’s why we play isn’t it and why we share of ourselves to bring it all out and bring it all together?

And so we have the closing of Eat a Peach but what about the opening?

What better tune than Ain’t Wastin Time No More expresses lyrically each of our precarious positions in this reality? It’s as much of a lyrical touchstone as Little Martha is an instrumental touchstone. Both are gigantic in their beings complete and resounding at once effortless and complex. A lyrical milestone Ain’t Wastin Time No More covers the whole realm of existence in stanza after stanza. That’s right its poetry and more than a song. Gregg has composed words to live by. I had a friend once say to me, "you can always make money but you can't make time." I fully encourage everyone to play hooky as often as you can. Life is so much more than punching the clock, collecting a pay check and paying a bank. Listen to Ain't Wastin Time No More back to back with Little Martha and hit repeat it's kind of a revelation of juxtapositions with Gregg's lyrics sitting beautifully next to Duane's acoustic poetry.

If you do run the tunes together back to back after Little Martha ends the intro to Ain't Wastin' Time No More is an acoustic piano. There seems to be some righteous acoustic symmetry to that and righteous was the way the brothers – all the brothers in the band - treated their music their creation and that’s why the payoff was so huge.

There’s a lesson in that for all of us in how we choose to live our lives, what we say, how we act and what we do. The lesson is quite literally in the lyric of Ain't Wastin' Time No More and that feeling embodied by that lesson is in the song Little Martha as it translates those words into a painting of notes awakening across the sky of your soul. One preceded the other so perhaps we have Gregg translating for us what Duane was trying to tell us in his music and all you really need to live a life well fulfilled with joy and happiness and prosperity brothers and sisters is to bring some righteousness to what you do and how you live and breathe.

Allman Brothers Band - In Memory of Elizabeth Reed

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed off of the Eat a Peach Deluxe CD from the June 27, 1971 closing of the Fillmore opens up deliciously smooth and elegant. The band just slides into a relaxed tempo and it’s the most refreshing version of this number I have heard. Here the band is taking its time. The intensity slowly builds like true love making ought to be through this excursion.

The lead work is original and in the moment. The drums splash beautifully in the background as Dickey drives his vision forward with the band having his back all the way. After you play so long together you have a true sense where your band mate is going and you are allowed to listen and get there with them. You can really hear this in Berry’s playing and the drums, oh the drums gently sitting in the mix right where they should be never over powering but well heard. The rhythm section has the anchor and counterpoint in complete subtle sympathetic syncopation.

Gregg jumps in with short chord runs sharply leading the band. The clarity of the mix is perfect with the organ fully heard out front and it chimes and grooves and swaggers righteously. It sounds beautiful, fresh and inventive....then his brother steps up....

Biting, sharp, relentless guitar attacks funk out before sailing off and then returning to a blistering foray all the while Butch, Jaimoe Gregg and Berry keep the tempo locked down as we drift off into a meditative frame punctuated by mid tone arpeggios as the band sways easily like spanish moss....and then the gibsons get vicious, biblical with fierce clean attacks and not overwrought then settling down again for more delicious mid tone punctuations the entire band right there as the drum sticks come forward just a bit then everyone builds together catching fire once more in a tenacious drive while the overall groove stays calm and cool....(how the fuck do you play the guitar like that) fantastic as they perpetuate the drive forward abruptly to the drums briefly and then back to the closing and locking it back down as they close the door on their creation. Holy shit what’s behind that door they just opened and what kind of force, power and vision did they tap into in that graveyard? It's a thing of monstrous beauty whatever it is and strongly rendered. This is a sublime ferocious and beautiful version of a seminal tune.

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed deserves its own spot in the Smithsonian and for that reason I'm singling it out here. We all know the tune there must be thousands of renditions but this one reads all the passages in such a refreshing calm inventive and fierce manner. The nuanced beginning followed by the expansive meditative dynamic giving way to the fiery crescendos and the thundering close. It’s a standout version at once both mellow and intense with a deep deep groove. Upon hearing it again after so many years with fresh ears it is all too clear while some of us have the good fortune to be totally obsessed by this band and their music...

Allman Brothers Eat A Peach - Deluxe Edition Appreciation

Eat a Peach - the Deluxe Edition with the second disc devoted to the closing of the Fillmore in June is a freakin' tour de force. Scorching through the stratosphere Hot Lanta is just fantastic. The mix is stellar and I've been listening to it on crappy car and desk top speakers as well as my treasured Polks. Berry is clearly heard and of course the tone of the guitars is so vintage, biting, just the right amount of fuzz not overwhelming to distort the true tone of the notes just scorching. The twin drums are settled in so nicely and everything is heard with the Hammond B-3 building slowly to a crescendo and then punctuating the soul groove.

The way the band and Berry jump out on Whipping Post is serious. Whether it’s my imagination or not it sure sounds up tempo to me. Berry is more than ready to bring it and it feels like he catches the band by surprise as he furiously launches into the opening... so great to hear and it’s a pace that doesn't let up.... as the boys just go with it - oh my the little touches on the guitar twin attack. I have to stop myself right now or I'll spend the next twenty minutes celebrating every note, turn, phrase, sound and riff just beautifully rendered together. I mean the tone of that band and tighter than tight. Gregg’s vocals are heard beautifully just right above the mix.

When they slow it down you can hear that B-3 just stalking the band the chords sustaining like wind through your hair. Their gentle segues arrive tear inducing as they reach for the heavens follow. If you don't get a lump in your throat you don’t know how to listen to music.

Get Eat a Peach back out and it will seduce you with its magic so passionately. I’m so happy that it was captured in real time for all time just a blistering messianic journey to the soul of creation.

It's mind boggling how a band can sound this excellent, the drive and the power, the determination. Music wasn't a distraction it was a mission.

Stand Back I’m laser locked on that tune the way it jumps out and grabs you with that riff. The Allman Brothers knew what they were doing and the lyrics “a dagger in my back while she's calling me honey" just fantastic. Look a lot has been written about the jazz influence on the ABB - granted – and it’s all good and true but don’t forget the funk. They can authentically bring that swing and swagger just funkin, funktastic. Funkified freaks every funkin where they funkin can the ABB throw that groove at a very righteous magnitude with Berry and Butch as far into the pocket with Gregg grinding the soul foundation and Jaimoe painting over the top.

“Hey have you seen my copy of Eat a Peach” wait I can hear it blaring upstairs in my sisters room. As I open the door Amy and her friends are moving to Les Brers as if their lives depended on it – “just don’t scratch it” as the door slams back in my face.

Allman Brothers Band - Eat A Peach

Stand Back - when listening to Eat a Peach and believe me it was almost impossible to get to as I had to pry The Fillmore Concerts out of my player - its beguiling to think, project where and what the band was going to do next had brother Duane decided to stick around for some more studio albums. His contribution to Les Bres alone would have taken that tune to another level and I say that absolutely loving that butt shaking tune that Berry just rumbles through.

Okay so maybe I'm stating the obvious but we really only get Blue Sky, Stand Back and Little Martha as studio cuts from Eat a Peach. It’s an immense rip off by the music gods. I know, I know they are a live band and Duane is more than well represented on the Eat a Peach Album I'm listening to the Deluxe Edition with the June 1971 closing of the Fillmore represented on the second disc. It's a wonderful compilation with excellent liner notes, packaging and throwback labeling on the discs. But contrast Stand Back, Blue Sky and Little Martha for a moment and hold them in your mind. Each tune is in its own right a different genre. While Stand Back is the fuel injected brothers swaggering through their composition Blue Sky is its melodic counter point. Much like their playing these two songs back to back represent the branches of the tree that was the Allman Brothers. They are two tonal opposites yet together much like Dickey and Duane trading riffs. Of course Gregg is writing here and Dickey is writing there but what brings them together the playing of Duane is a very necessary bridge. Not to draw too fine a point on it but Duane was the glue that kept Dickey and Gregg together and without Duane they blew apart and it’s no one’s fault and their personal vision which they were more than entitled too and deserved were different but Duane was the Fulcrum through which their immense talents traveled.

Considering the emergence of the sound that Dickey was bringing forward (Blue Sky) and the swagger of the ABB (Stand Back) and then Little Martha is it really that far out to imagine an all-acoustic album considering Dickey's Highway Call effort (which I freaking love) and Duane's solo work with Sam Samudio as featured on the track Goin' Upstairs? Would it have been so far out of the question that the Allman Brothers with Duane would have done a record sounding like Taj Mahal melded with their swagger? Considering all their influences that were revealed the above mentioned Highway Call and Gregg's Low Country Blues would such a collective effort over time eclipsed or outfitted the Dawg Music genre with the power of the blues as opposed to just Django? It’s fascinating to imagine what that would have sounded like.

Much has been written and spoken about Duane and the Trane - John Coltrane and Miles - righteous brothers indeed and Tom Dowd's jazz cat ways but what about the root of the tree of music as embodied by Little Martha? How much more of that would we have seen and heard (Pony Boy)? What would have Duane's input done to Jessica and Southbound (songs I am passionate about)?

So here we are with Eat a Peach and we just have three studio cuts that are dynamic and all together different and just the greenest of shoots of the myriad of directions this band would have taken, could have taken, fanning off like a giant river oak.

The tree of music that remained and rebirthed time and time again was fortuitous and mighty in its own right and we are all the better for its perseverance, fortitude, drive and power but for a moment play the what if game and use Stand Back, Blue Sky and Little Martha as your jumping off points.

I'm a big fan of the ABB studio work as well, Gregg's and Dickey's solo efforts but imagine if it had all stayed together - just three studio cuts from Eat a Peach point the way.

The Allman Brothers Band - Berry Oakley

Fillmore East is still tearing up my stereo system and its time for a huge shout out to Berry Oakley who anchored the front line. Duane called him out as the third guitar player. I have spent countless words trying to get at the melded mind set of their musical trajectory coursing through the time and space that confronted them and us and the atmosphere they rearranged with their sonic homage to the creative spirit and their righteous attack that brought such purity to their music but in the end its a futile task just put the music on and listen, listen, listen and listen some more.

I try with varying degrees of success to focus on just one player to really appreciate what they are bringing to the show but in the end I'm over taken and overwhelmed by the complexity and intricacy of the entire dynamic and simply blown away by it all voice, words, tone, tempo and magnitude. So hell yeah I'm still listening to Fillmore East (The Fillmore Concerts version Tom Dowd mix) and hell yeah I can't surprise there though as well to all the brothers and sisters.

The Allman Brothers Band - The Filmore Concerts

Still listening to the Fillmore Concerts 1992 mix by Tom Dowd - Whipping Post is just crazy - the first six minutes dissolve into an amalgamation of themes, trances, movements and refrains that eclipse the standard format of what a popular song is and evolve into art. The shifts that this live exploration of sound make are a kin to winding through a mountain pass so subtle and soft are their landings you may fail to notice every strand of grass or shift in rock formation but they are there.

In its whole its a creative work of genius and the gods but each note, arpeggio and sonic exploration has a purpose and melds from the righteous spirit that drove their creation in the first place.

Their work together on these recordings are true compositions rivaling the masters Bach, and Mozart. Call it jazz, call it rock n roll but it is so much more and beyond the "jam band" moniker its ridiculous. Get this music out listen to it again deeply and pay attention. If you think you know it because you listened to it repeatably years ago you will be surprised at the sophistication, the maturity, the musicianship and the touches and flourishes that permeate the main themes and arcs. It's quite unbelievable what is going on here as the musicians work together and intertwine with each other.

Eat a Peach is on deck next on my musical sojourn back through their catalogue but its going to have to wait for a while more as I re-listen to disc two and circle back to the first disc - I really don't see an end in sight and that in and of itself is a beautiful thing.

The Allman Brothers Band and the Simultaneous Groove

My oh my this is a great shot of the original sextet working the simultaneous groove. It looks like its Berry's turn to break out notice where Butch's eyes are watching on Berry's hands.

I can't over emphasis the beauty, power and velocity of talented musicians owning their musicianship fighting the urge of ego, working together and delivering the goods like no other.

A friend of mine asked me to differentiate between the grateful dead and the allman brothers after I laughed out loud (its a blotter vs mushrooms, roses vs peaches thing) I thought for a moment. Please know I'm a veteran of decades of both bands and I would simply state the ABB locked in more often, stronger and together. It's degrees of variation but while the grateful dead was more of a cosmic soup sloshing around the bowl of existence lapping up side to side with solar flares of transcendence over heart aching ballads and thundering reverberation following Jerry religiously no matter what blind alley he lead them down, through or up the Allman Brothers Band in contrast jumped on that first note like a skim boarder ridding a wave as far as it would take them then turning and charging after the next wave of music and consciousness shredding the lip catching air, turning and pivoting with the waves. Tighter by necessity the ABB driven by a freight train of rhythm, organ and bass achieved thundering elevation immediately while the Dead meandered wobbly floating seemingly directionless then focusing sharply in an Escher like pattern getting there sooner or later but getting there they did.

I watched Pelicans dive for game yesterday afternoon striking their targets, diving in directly from over head in a straight line quickly and with acceleration hitting their targets repeatably over and over again - the visualization of screaming marshals and stalking thundering rhythm in a cascade of movement and righteous glorious splash reversing gravity throwing water in the air as they submerged and reemerged floating then taking flight again seemingly effortlessly sweeping through the air wings fully extended only to recoil and strike again. It was something to marvel at and behold and it looked like music to me and felt like something heavenly

Playing Live The Allman Brothers Band

I want you to take a good look at these musicians and how they are all concentrating and looking at each other. This is how its done. It's Dickey's turn a guitar god in his own right to lead but the ensemble playing behind him including Duane is playing "with" him and working, concentrating, and listening in order to weave in and out of the magic.

Each musician is propelling the other and informing the other as the music takes direction. It is an amazing amount of good fortune that this sextet with these specific musicians was captured live by such a renowned and skilled producer Tom Dowd.

Fillmore East as I have just been re-listening to it only recently is a freaking stunning collection of musicianship,and fire. It is an outrageously groove driven pallet of sound, an avalanche of intricacy and composition with halting pinnacles of contemplation and I haven't even gotten to the second disc yet.

I'm listening to "The Fillmore Concerts" a 1992 remaster of the original release just as the ABB were emerging again off the heals of the Dream Box set and Seven Turns. I'm ecstatic to have it in my collection and truth be told haven't listened to it in decades as I was all in on the later day sextet with Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks and Oteil Burbridge.

Berry Oakley's bass work while never receiving as much press as Duane's guitar skill, drive and vision possess the same amount of finesse, brilliance, heart, drive and fire. It is something to behold listening to the original six working together and it is a miracle that this moment in time was captured. Imagine if this recording suffered the fate of the Layla sessions ohhh my what a tragedy that would have been. Instead we have this prodigious amalgamation of the pinnacle of music that is certainly the Mount Everest of music here on Earth and quite possibly a sliver of what it must sound like in heaven - effortlessly dancing and commingling each note, chord and beat thundering through its woven path, barreling through passages of time momentarily settling like a light rain upon your soul and then exploding like a volcano. You better believe it was all about the music and if you bring any other attitude to the stage you suck.

Contemplating Gregg Allman

Contemplating filling up another music hall and the people who he doesn't know or may ever see again who absolutely love him. It would make me wonder as well as to the gift that was larger than myself yet so very much a part of who I am and the universality of it all and yet here I stand just a man but then again all this has evolved before my eyes and so it informs me and I inform it and it being the music and if it ever becomes more than the music I lose my way, my frequency, my channel, the signal, the muse with the confusion, cloudiness and static of the ego and yet my soul, my journey, my life informs the art and distills the creativity so much bigger than who I am but still entwined and coalesced around my very soul and being and the love and the passion and the energy and the enthusiasm from so many strangers and their life's trajectory and myself with friends, family and lovers swirling through the score and yet alone here leaning on my Hammond informed by the vision, reminded by the words as I play and sing, and contemplate and listen and listen and listen some more digging deeper into the moment I can hear it, so I can feel it so I can share it and help to try and bring it forward with all of you and everyone about to arrive, who set the stage and play along and this is what I imagine Gregg Allman is here/there thinking.

Defining What It Means To Be A Man

Men of real accomplishment and legacy who affected positive change both for themselves and those around them. That is what real legacy is all about not passing your name down, or slapping it up on every building and billboard you can find or digging a hole so deep looking for gold you can not climb out.

We are steps away from success for all on our tiny planet with our whisper thin atmosphere in this enormous universe but that step is going to have to be a step up in consciousness. And its going to take real strength not avarice or a sycophant commitment to ones own ego.

These men lead by example and persevered undaunted by the attack the messenger clan of bullies. It takes real strength to be a gentleman, to be patient, to listen, to see the others point of view and to work out differences, to truly listen and it takes nothing at all to be arrogant, greedy, ignorant and afraid of the knowledge that confronts you and tells you who you are. We are steps away from a better world but its going to take the strength of humility and wisdom to confront the obvious wrong and make it correct. That's what these two men spent a life time doing and thats why in the final chapter they are both smiling.

Beginnings - The Allman Brothers Band

Beginnings: It's still so highly inconceivable that these young men in their twenties created such an abundance of sophisticated music. Go back and listen to the first two albums (ABB and Ildewild) reissued in 1973 as the album Beginnings. The level of musicianship is already in place and each track is a mini symphony of blues, gospel, soul, jazz and screaming rock and roll played not only with fire but nuance. Check the 3:12 mark of Dreams as Duane dances dramatically on point literally sliding through the song seemingly effortlessly. The road had taught tightness but each member brought their own life experience to the band. Dickey grew up in a family full of musicians, Jamioe had been playing in Otis Reddings band, Duane had worked with as many top notch musicians and artists as one possibly can. This wasn't a garage band. This wasn't just a bunch of stoned out hippies. These guys were deadly serious about their music. Lifting the arm of a 45 player with your foot studying the old blues masters I mean come on I love my guitar and to play out live but I freaking hate changing my strings.

Go back and listen to each song deeply and take the time to notice the interplay between Butch and Jaimoe. Listen for the bass how it runs along side of the guitar leads while still holding down the rhythm, listen to that organ as it stalks the whole movement in the background and then when it captures the front of the mix and the words. World weary at such a young age already confronted by a record industry selling them out and the music out to churn out a buck, witnessing the struggles of a single Mom in the 1950's and 1960's these men had a depth of character and a level of commitment and a vision they were not going to relinquish.

Get Beginnings if you don't have it put it in your car player and listen. There is a tidal wave of interplay going on each and every cut a miraculous layering of acoustic, electric rhythm and voice. If you are in a drum circle focus on Jaimoe and Butch. The subtleness and sensitivity in which these twenty year olds played right out of the gate on their first two albums is beyond incendiary.