52 Albums, Week 25: The Allman Brothers Band
I haven't yet mentioned Gregg Allman's recent death here, so am going to take this occasion to honor him and the entire original Allman Brothers Band. I don't have much time, but then I don't really think it's necessary to talk at length about this album. In my not-so-humble opinion, the Allman Brothers at their best, before Duane was killed, were the greatest blues-rock band ever. It's difficult to imagine anyone ever surpassing them, because the whole cultural and musical landscape has changed so much. I'm sure there will be many other musicians working in this basic style, but the roots that nourished the Allmans, the historical moment in which they flourished, are gone now. (That's true for other groups that appeared in the Sixties, too, for instance the Beatles, but that's another topic.) You can read the band's long story at Allmusic.com.
The Allmans never, to my thinking, did anything better than this album, which was their first. As good, yes--the Fillmore recordings certainly meet that criterion--but not better. It came out in late 1969, when I was still in college. I think I became aware of it through a musician friend, who moved in some of the same southeastern musical circles as the Allmans, though I don't think he knew them himself. I recall listening to it for the first time one afternoon after class, probably a few months into 1970, and even on that hearing thinking it was really good. After a few hearings "good" became "great", and that's still my view, almost fifty years later.
Duane Allman is of course a legendary guitarist now. I wrote about him in the 52 Guitars series a few years ago. I'd argue that Gregg deserves equal respect as a blues or bluesy singer. I don't understand how a 22-year-old could sing like he did on "Whipping Post," which he wrote, and which became something of a signature song for them.
A couple of years ago in comments on some post or other here there was some discussion of whether a vocal talent like Gregg's was a gift of nature or something he learned. The obvious answer, I think, is that it was both. Later I read his autobiography, My Cross to Bear (the title of another of his songs, which also appears on this album), and can say definitely that it was both. Obviously he had a rare gift, but he worked long and hard to develop it, and had a lot of tutelage from a black singer, Floyd Miles, in whose backup band Gregg and Duane played for a while.
I call them the greatest blues-rock band, but that term doesn't describe all their work. This is another signature tune, also written by Gregg. His singing is of course very bluesy but the song itself is not especially. That of course is Duane's long slide guitar solo.
The only thing wrong with this album is that it's too short, only thirty-three minutes. But it's thirty-three mighty fine minutes.
Gregg Allman, Duane Allman, Berry Oakley, and Butch Trucks, RIP.
--Mac is the proprietor of this blog.
I have always been anti-jamband but I must confess that the Allmans are one that sounds real good to me whenever I hear them. I guess it really is Gregg's voice, as you alluded to in your post. I have never listened to this album in its entirety but of course the music is ubiquitous in classic rock circles. Weirdly, I first came to know the song "Whipping Post" through some Frank Zappa live album rendition of it. Isn't the Fillmore version supposed to be the one to hear, all 22 minutes of it?
Posted by: Stu | 06/23/2017 at 08:35 AM
Not necessarily. Depends on whether you just want to hear the song, which is excellent, or a jam based on it. I've heard that Zappa version, or anyway one version by him. I was very surprised. Thought he might clown it up somehow but he doesn't. Unusual for him ( in my experience).
Posted by: Mac | 06/23/2017 at 09:32 AM