I had the good fortune of being sent a terrific CD of The Allman Brothers – “Live at the Atlanta International Pop Festival July 1970.” While I’ll be the first to admit I have eclectic tastes in music, let me go on record now by saying this CD is fantastic. And let me also go on record as saying that The Allman Brothers Band is one of the greatest damn bands of all time. Why? Let me count the ways.
Yes, they are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (headquartered in Cleveland, great hall if you haven’t seen it – I mean what place could boast John Lennon’s guitar AND Sid Vicious’ leather jacket?!). They also produced music during a time in which great rock experimentation was taking place – the late 60s early 70s. This was a premiere time in rock history. The Beatles were still around playing rooftops, the Stones were cool, Hendrix was alive, Joplin hanging on, “LA Woman” massaging the airwaves…….If only to have been a teenager during this extraordinary moment – yes, I was watching “Captain Kangaroo.”
So when I put in this CD, a live affair, crowds cheering, some goofy guy introduced the opening act of the fest – unknown Southern locals from down the highway, hungry, pissed, hungover and just looking to jam baby. The chords to “Statesboro Blues” begin, and suddenly, rock history has begun. To hear it, full blast – exactly as is, supreme and sublime, is to dine on half-cooked meat and thick mashed potatoes.
These guys rock, playing by instinct, lyrics secondary to the chords, constant. Songs range in length from 11:35 to 14:47. “Mountain Jam” clocks in at an unbelievable 28:20. They go and go baby, guitars perfectly choreographed, keyboard filling in the spaces, drums in tune, from a planet and sphere unknown to few bands today.
This Fourth of July Fest, a year after Woodstock, was highlighted by Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, BB King and Mountain – but the great discovery was the unknown kids from down the road, once gravel, now unfortunately cement – The Allman Brothers Band. They opened and closed the show, and the concerts are heard in their entirety on two incredible discs. “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Whipping Post,” “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” “Stormy Monday,” these guys play rock with the sensitivity of a double barrel shotgun blasting doors off hinges. When listening to this greatness today, one realizes they don’t make rock bands like this anymore. And they don’t. So don’t even try to argue your Metallica bullshit.
Today’s music is so packaged, perfectly timed for a nice video, displaying a strategic bit of T & A, belly rings, tattoos, shaved head, pure unadulterated shit. The Allman Brothers Band playing for 15 minutes is not conducive to a comfortable video. They rock with reckless abandon, rain pouring down, unfiltered cigarettes staining fingers, Jack Daniels drained from small dirty glasses, reveling in their lucky Southern, Blues, Gospel, Jazz and ultimately-fusing-with-Rock roots.
You see them in photographs, the late Duane Allman, the intimidating Gregg Allman, and the rest, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, J Johnny Johnson, Thom Doucette, adorned in bell bottoms and Goodwill trench coats, and you realize that if these guys were sufficiently pissed off, they would grab Pantera by the balls, look them in the eye, and literally kick their ass just for the fun of it.
And that’s the beauty of The Allman Brothers Band. Backstage, any overrated band would have their asses kicked soundly and efficiently. And then Greg, Duane and company would calmly step onto the stage, a few skinned elbows, clothes only slightly disheveled, and put on the concert of a lifetime. Bells and whistles are an unfortunate adornment of modern rock. With The Allman Brothers Band in 1970 Atlanta, no such pyrotechnics were necessary.
Listen to this CD and appreciate it. But listen closely, because you will hear the ghost of Rock and Roll wailing with the passion of a forgotten, if not lost, banshee…….Powered by Sidelines