Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Allman Brothers Band-The Allman Brothers Band

The Allman Brothers were the pioneers of southern rock, their self titled debut album was the first shot across the bow for the genre. Duane Allman had a vision for the type of band he wanted and the music that he wanted to play. Built around the rawness of the blues and the intensity of soul music, he had the perfect foil in brother Gregg who had a powerful throaty roar. Duane wanted a duel guitar attack, a foil to bounce of his elongated soloing, a picker with fast fingers, into the fray stepped one Dickey Betts. The rhythm section needed to swing, a predisposition towards modern jazz would match Duane's own interest. Behind the stool he found two drummers Jai Johanny Johanson a veteran of the southern and chitlin road circuit with the likes of Percy Sledge and Joe Tex, but also a drummer with a fondness for Miles Davis. Also steeped in jazz as well as the southern musical tradition of blues and gospel was Butch Trucks. Duane wanted a certain drive in his sound a busy bassist who could fill the spaces when required, Berry Oakley provided that especially on songs like Whipping Post that thunderous opening was a concert highlight. The band had been woodshedding material in Jacksonville Florida from early March 1969, by the time they hit the studio in August they had an impressive collection of songs built on their lengthy jamming sessions which would also become a mainstay of their live concerts.

Don't Want You No More which kicks off the album was a Spencer Davis Group cover, it's a sinewy meat on the bones blues number which Betts and Oakley had played when they were members of the band Second Coming. The song then morphs into a more leaner jazz style feel, Gregg Allman kicks things off with inimitable Jimmy Smith style hammond work. There is a maturity to their sound even on debut, where many blues rock bands played loud and fast there was a certain feeling of meandering, the Allman's had a sense of precision and even when the band went into Jam mode there was nothing repetitive. It's Not My Cross to Bear slows things down, it has a gospel feel Allman in all his torturedness and misfortune knows he will go on because after everything he has gone through it's not his cross to bear. Black Hearted Woman was written by Allman about a woman he knew whilst he was living in L.A around the time that he and Duane were working with the band Hourglass. It also featured Duane playing bottleneck slide and the fills in between the verses are fast and furious. Trouble No More features Duane at his best, piercing slide guitar the studio version doesn't quite match the intensity of the live version on the At Fillmore East live album. Dreams has a subdued jazz opening shuffling along before Oakley weaves front and centre with his loping bass runs. Duane recorded his amazing solo at the end of one of the sessions, instructing the rest of the band to switch off the studio lights whilst he sat by himself in the corner next to his amp. The almighty Whipping Post which would become a fan favourite closes with that familiar opening, Berry Oakley's ominous welcoming. Gregg Allman was nervous and somewhat intimidated when he attended the first rehearsals prior to entering the studio but his vocals are assured and as he had already shown in Hourglass he possessed a powerful soulful voice.

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