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The Allman Brothers Band – Why they are the greatest Rock band in history

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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…….

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About Chris Wilson

  • Chris Kent

    Shogun works….but I meant shotgun…..

  • HW Saxton Jr

    “Double Barrel Shogun”? Sounds like the
    next Tarantino flick to me………

  • Chris Kent

    Tarantino deserves a blog….I must have been thinking ahead…..

  • HW Saxton Jr

    So does the “Live At The Fillmore East”
    LP/CD.Good Post.

  • Chris Kent

    If stranded on a desert island, please allow me to play “Live at Fillmore East” whenever I wish……

  • Josh

    First of all, Chris, let me say that I TOTALLY agree with your views on new music. It is indeed “packaged” and very repetitive. The Allman Brothers Band were definitely great, but I disagree about them being “the greatest rock band in history”. They are constantly credited as the greatest improvisational band, but there were other bands who could improvise better (Quicksilver Messenger Service, Cream, Ten Years After and others). But there’s no denying the band’s talent. Especially Duane’s slide guitar prowess!

  • Chris Kent

    I appreciate all of the bands you have mentioned (Quicksilver Messenger Service, Cream, Ten Years After, etc…), but none of those bands had the longevity of The Allman Brothers Band. Those guys are still rocking to this very day, cashing checks and taking names. The mentioned bands will never have the lasting impact or importance of The Allman Brothers Band……or the influence. Cream, granted had Eric Clapton, but they were a mere blip on the screen – two good albums, influencing a few……The Allman Brothers Band influenced tons, and are still around today……they are solid…while the others are fleeting……I don’t think there’s a comparison….

  • Chris Kent

    The Allman Brothers Band by nature, cannot be comfortably fit into today’s mass marketing compaigns. Their songs are long, there is no teeny bopper-looking lead singer, and most important of all, they just don’t give a shit – thus, they are pure, and therefore, the greatest of all time…..

  • Josh

    True, none of those bands had the longevity of The Allmans, but as far as JAMMING ABILITY goes, they were every bit as good, maybe better.

    With all due respect, I can’t believe what you said about Cream. “A mere blip on the screen – two good albums influencing a few”. Are you kidding me? First of all, they made more than just two albums. Second of all, their influence is unbelievable. Not only were they deemed “the first super group”, but they reinvented the blues and they defined improvisational jamming. You should listen to their live version of “Spoonful” from the album WHEELS OF FIRE. The improvising on this song is unreal. The guitar, bass and drums are all one solid force, playing with extraordinary dexterity. And the time changes are remarkable, as they go from soft to blistering in a seemingly effortless manner, before Clapton takes it into overdrive and brings his guitar playing to an orgasmic climax. In short, Cream could improvise better than The Allmans. In fact, Cream were a big influence on The Allmans. It’s true.

  • Chris Kent

    If I had a dime for everytime someone pontificated about Cream to me, well hell, I could buy a nice home in the suburbs. So I suppose it must be true. I only have their first album “Fresh Cream,” which is quite good – however, I argue that The Allman Brothers Band took the improvisational music of Cream 12 steps further. Certainly they could have been an influence, but I think The Allman Brothers Band are, in many ways, an entity unto themselves……Cream may have laid the roots, but I think The Allman Brothers Band realized them…….there is no band without influences…..I just think in the long run it is hard to compare any band with The Allman Brothers band – a unique force in Rock.

  • Curtis A Stinnett

    Cream was good live but often self indulgent. There studio stuff is better. ‘Derek and the Dominoes’ is Eric Claptons best work. I seem to remember Duane Allman was involved.

    As far as the Allman Brothers Band and improvisation – I recommend a listen to ‘Live at the Fillmore East’. It regularly turns up on top ten lists of live albums with good reason.

  • Ga-ne-sha

    The allman bros do not even appear on my radar.

  • duane

    “Cream was good live but often self indulgent.” Yeah, well, self-indulgence is a good thing when it comes to music. Self-indulgence is not always a good thing. It’s not good if you’re a cab driver or a bank teller. But if you’re any kind of artist, it’s a good thing. So why do you people always complain about certain musicians being self-indulgent? What are you complaining about, exactly? That’s one of the reasons why Cream were so good. Because they were self-indulgent. Same for the Allman Bros.

  • http://home.earthlink.net/~fwbull/sale_intro.html Shark

    Aside:

    Cream said they were stoned out of their minds when they played live.

    I saw them twice on tour—and I’d have to agree. Of course, those jams sounded great if the audience was as high as the band.

    Which we were.

    —-also: Cream’s Disreali Gears was a pretty revolutionary album at the time.

    re: Allman’s LIVE – Thanks for the review; I’ll have to steal, I mean ‘buy’ it soon!

    re: “Greatest of all time…” – suffice it to say that their catalog of songs is filled with timeless classics that will never die.

    Meaningless Trivia: One of the first albums I ever bought as a kid was a band called “Hour Glass”; I bought it because the cover looked cool (remember those days? 12″ x 12″ art?)

    Anyway, it was pretty bad, but they later became…

    The Allman Bros.

    more meaningless trivia: Jack Bruce probably had one of the best voices in rock history, but his main love was jazz. He made a few solo albums and played with some pretty esoteric combos after Cream.

    Which meant he disappeared into relative oblivion.

  • http://home.earthlink.net/~fwbull/sale_intro.html Shark

    CHRIS,

    What’s the sound quality like on the new Live album? I understand it’s live, but sometimes those ‘festival’ sounds suck.

    thx,
    Shark

  • Chris Kent

    Shark,

    I think the sound quality is inferior to “Fillmore East.” What I like most about “Live at the Atlanta International Pop Festival July 1970″ is that it is a great document of the beginning of The Allman Brothers Band. These guys were unknown except to a few in 1970. It’s raw, but to me that’s why it’s good.

  • mooncricket

    “Jack Daniels drained from small dirty glasses”? Son, any self respecting Georgia boy like myself drinks uncle jacks elixir straight from the bottle!

    Couldn’t agree more about the album though – amazing they had not even been together a year at that point. Really impressed with the sound quality as well – definitely not bootleg sounding.

    I hope that the other acts from that 3 day festival are recorded and will be available soon. Atlanta pop festival is an underrated festival from that era.

  • Josh

    Shark, you did not have to be stoned to enjoy Cream’s jams. The fact that you even said that is ridiculous.

  • Chris Kent

    Were Cream entirely British? Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker – were those guys all British?

    I just don’t thank a bunch of guys from England jamming could even touch the Allman Brothers – kind of like Eric and Keith Richards trying to jam with Chuck Berry – Chuck didn’t even give them the time of day……

  • Josh

    Right, just because Cream are British, they can’t touch The Allmans. That’s some logic you’ve got there. (Jack Bruce was from Scotland, by the way).

    And perhaps Chuck Berry didn’t give Clapton the time of day because he knew that Clapton would bury his ass alive. (Actually, Clapton DID bury his ass alive, on the Chuck Berry TV special “Hail Hail Rock & Roll”, Clapton’s guitar playing totally dusted poor Chuck, but that’s no surprise).

  • Chris Kent

    LOL….Point well taken Josh.

    I just mean the roots rock of The Allman Brothers Band has a purity which Cream never had. The jams of the Allman Brothers have an esthetic beauty which Cream never touched.

    The great irony is there probably was not a single musician in The Allman Brothers Band as talented as Eric Clapton. But as a whole, they dusted Cream and just about everyone else….and you can take that to the Liverpool bank.

  • Shark

    Josh: “Shark, you did not have to be stoned to enjoy Cream’s jams. The fact that you even said that is ridiculous.

    Whatta you, Nancy Reagan?

    Lighten up.

    PS: You had to be there.

  • Anthony g

    Guess whos back, back again, Anthonys
    back, back again.

    Whats up Josh. My dogg.

  • dennisw

    My Allman Bros. connection:

    My cousin was road manager for them circa 1988, back when they were uncool. Dickie Betts pulled a knife on him and my cuz was soon gone.

    Ha!

  • Chris Kent

    Did your cousin play in Pantera?

  • http://electriccollage.com SteveC

    I was there and did the light show. This festival had everything that was good about pop festivals. Now this Cd is available for your listening pleasure. It will surely bring back some great memories.

  • http://www.abc.go.com Allen

    What makes the Brothers the best band ever is that they fused musical styles.
    They played blues, rock and jazz…sometimes all at once.
    AND they’ve adapted to change.
    Imagine trying to “replace” a talent like Duane.
    They couldn’t.
    So they went out and got a great piano player and changed their sound.
    Chuck Leavell…now banging the ’88’s for the second greatest rock band ever…the Stones.

  • Chris

    I might have a biased opinion because the allmans are my fav band, few bands come close to how good they were/are. live at fillmore is prob top 5 best albums ever. duane couldnt be replaced but imagine if he lived the music they would have made. even with his passing they still continue to make great music but noone will ever be able to replace him. RIP duane.

  • Old fart

    I lived down the road from the band, saw them a few times at the Macon Holiday Inn, and some gym in Central Georgia. I was in my teens, and used to walk down the lane to the sound of their sessions, and sit on a log out back and listen.

    Were they really improv? If memory serves they rehearsed a lot, every day, all day and long into the night. I rather think, well I know they rehearsed to the point of sounding improv or likened to one accord. But that took many, many hours. As it does for anyone or any group.

    Don’t think for a moment that anyone or any group can just go on stage, plug in and wha-laa out comes polished, perfect sets and song lists.

    Do think that, does a dis-service to the art, and to most musicians who could arguably be considered the most overworked and underpaid group out there.

    That’s one reason I don’t patronized DJ’s… they stole the paychecks right out from under thousands of muscians feet.

  • MM2

    was at the festival(and it was the best) and the bros were one of the main reasons i and tens of thousands from the southeast went (although it wasn’t till the live lp they caught on nationally) there was free music every other sunday in piedmont park in downtown atlanta from may to october and the bros would play the opening and closing sundays for free till duane died whether they are the greatest this or the best that is a matter of individual taste but without a doubt they gave their fans everything they had all the time

  • brent

    Not sure if anyone is on here anymore, but if you like the Allmans and Duane you should check out the new book ‘Sky Dog’ by Randy Poe….good stuff in this biography.

  • SillyTalk

    Honestly, discussion as Allman Brothers and Cream or even QMS as the best improvisers is just silly to me. Maybe if we’re talking about ROCK improvisers, then OK. Most modern jazz guitarists improvise with far more incredible precision and variance then this bluesy stuff. Plus, in general, if you include the organ solos of the Brothers, then we’re introducing keyboard soloists, which means there really is no logic to comparing them with some of the great jazz piano players like Hancock or Sun Ra. Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew blows the lid off any of the improvisations that the Brothers could do, and as the one comment pointed out, this band rehearsed ALL THE TIME. Records like Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson or Herbie Hancock records were worked out AND recorded in a few hours. Of course many of those artists wouldn’t be mentioned in conjunction with bands like Cream and the Brothers because more than likely, there’s no experience with other music besides blues-based rock. I mean, honestly, Zakir Hussein and Ravi Shankar playing as a duo put on a far more complex (and musical) improvising performance than these guys did on any of their recorded performances. But they are playing a music many “Western” people don’t really understand. So repeating the same phrase for 10 bars (i.e Hotel California or Stairway to Heaven) is mind blowing and the others are weird or “not music.” I mean have you ever heard of Sun Ra’s Arkestra? That’s mind blowing improvisation not the blues pentatonic scale for 30 minutes.

  • Tim Childers

    Buddy, you are damn right on the money with this article. I could not agree more. Most of the bands today couldn’t and will never hold a candle to the legendary, awesome, Allman Brothers Band. They were the best, back in their prime in the early seventies. I just can’t help but wonder, what if, what if; What if, if not for Duane and Berry’s untimely fates. I’m sure that’s the eternal question of every Allman Brothers fan, one which sadly, we will never have the answer to. So, just do what most of us do: enjoy and revere the music, and smile smugly at the know nothing’s who think they know of rock and roll music, based on what they hear today. There are other great bands out there, past, and (maybe) present, but there will never be another to make and record the magic of those boys. Long live the Allman Brothers Band!!!! Peace- Eat a peach for Duane, Berry, and the rest of the Brothers, once a Brother, Always a brother!!!

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