I’m No Angel: Live On Stage (DVD) by Gregg Allman

December 14, 2012

2012 has been a good year for Gregg Allman. The Allman Brothers received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, plus he published his autobiography, My Cross To Bear. To capitalize on those milestones, Cherry Red Films will release a somewhat odd DVD on December 11, 2012 that contains some good music.

The title of the DVD, I’m No Angel: Live On Stage, gives the impression that it was a performance of his 1986 iconic album of the same name. The music was taken from a November 1988 concert at The Cannery in Nashville, Tennessee. That particular tour was in support of his Just Before the Bullets Fly album. Thus four of the tracks are from that release, with only three from the album advertised in the title. It was also a short performance of just under an hour. He was the opening act for Stevie Ray Vaughan, so his set was adjusted to reflect that fact.

The good news is that there is some very good music contained on the DVD. His solo career began shortly after his brother Duane’s death and while he continued to perform and record with The Allman Brothers, by 1988 his solo act had been honed and he had accumulated a good catalogue of his own music. His backing band of guitarist Dan Toler, drummer Dave Toler, bassist Bruce Waibel, keyboardist Tim Heding, and percussionist Charles Trippy had backed him in the studio and were tight on stage.

Three songs are from the album I’m No Angel. “Don’t Want You No More,” “It’s My Cross to Bear,” and especially the title track are more raw and stark than their studio counterparts. Four tracks are from Just before the Bullets Fly. The title track, “Demons,” “Fear of Falling,” and “Slip Away,” show just what a good musician and vocalist Gregg Allman was live on stage.

The highlight of the concert was the old blues classic, “Statesboro Blues,” which was a part of the Allman Brothers repertoire. It may not have the guitar power of the original but it was a wonderfully gritty version of the old Blind Willie McTell tune from the 1920s.

The sound is excellent as the various instruments and vocals are clear and distinct. The camera angles are limited and the picture quality is average. It was probably another one of those concerts that was not meant for general release at the time, so the recording process was haphazard.

I’m No Angel: Live On Stage may not be the definitive Gregg Allman concert experience as the song selection is a bit dated and the performance is short. Still, what is present is a fine introduction to his solo career.

Article first published as Music DVD Review: Gregg Allman – I’m No Angel: Live On Stage on Blogcritics.

Nothing But Tears 45 by Hour Glass

September 9, 2012

All careers have to start somewhere. Before Duane and Gregg Allman formed the Allman Brothers, they were a part of the Allman Joys and Hour Glass. Both bands reveived little commercial success but they set the tone for what was to follow.

The Hour Glass were formed during 1967 by Gregg and Duane Allman plus keyboardist Paul Hornsby, drummer Johnny Sandlin, and bassist Pete Carr. They opened for such bands as The Doors and The Buffalo Springfield.

Their debut single was “Nothing But Tears,” which received no chart action whatsoever. Hour Glass was more of a psychedelic rock band than the future Allman Brothers. The picture sleeve remains an excellent relic of the psychedelic era.

One Way Out by The Allman Brothers

March 28, 2011

One Way Out is a two disc live album released by The Allman Brothers on March 23, 2004. It was recorded during a two night stand at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, March 25-26, 2003. It is the first live album to feature current guitarists Derek Truck and Warren Haynes together. It is also the last Allman Brothers album to date.

The album is a chronicle of the band’s career as both old and new material is included. The songs are both tight and loose extended jams, with five of the tracks clocking in at over tem minutes and two more falling just short of that mark.

While Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes will always be compared to Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, they need to be evaluated on their own terms. When that happens, they emerge as one of the finer guitar combinations working together today. I also like the fact that Trucks’ guitar comes out of the left speaker and Haynes’ from the right.

The four man rhythm section of drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks, percussionist Marc Quinones, and bassist Oteil Burbridge are one of the best in the business. When you add in Trucks, Haynes, and keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Allman, you have a solid unit of seven excellent musicians.

The Allman Brothers, whether their classic Duane Allman lineup or their 21st century aggregation, have always been more adept live than in the studio.

I have always been attracted to their longer pieces, especially in a live setting, as it gives the band a chance to stretch out and be spontaneous. The album’s longest track is the 16 minute plus “Instrumental Illness.” While I thought the studio version was okay, this live presentation is classic Allman Brothers at their best. Haynes and Trucks trade solos and everything is connected by a five minute drum solo. Their 15 minute version of “Whipping Post” may not be the equal of its storied past, but it is a very good modernization of this classic song. Gregg Allman steps forward on 13 minute “Desdemona.”

The shorter tracks are tighter and more structured, but are also very good. “Statesboro Blues,” “Midnight Rider,” “Come and Go Blues,” “Trouble No More,” and “High Coast Of Low Living” are all given nice work-outs. They also give a gritty performance on the classic blues tune, “Good Morning Little School Girl.”

The Allman Brothers are one of the great survival stories in rock history, as they have overcome death, addictions, and personnel changes. Their current group may not have the finesse as that of their classic predecessors, but they are probably more powerful. It’s been seven years since their last release, so it’s about time for another.

Alum as first published by me on http://blogcritics.org/music/article/music-review-the-allman-brothers-one/page-2/#ixzz1HxMZGSEX

Hittin’ The Note by The Allman Brothers

March 28, 2011

The Allman Brothers released Hittin’ The Note, March 18, 2003. It was their first studio album in nearly nine years and a lot had changed for the band. Guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody had left to form Gov’t Mule. They were replaced by bassist Otiel Burbridge and guitarist Derek Trucks. Next, Dickey Betts was fired from the band he helped to form. Allen Woody passed away and Haynes decided to rejoin the band. Finally they added conga player Marc Quinones as a third percussionist. If your keeping track, The Allman Brothers now consisted of Haynes, Trucks, Burbridge, Quinones plus original members, keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Allman and drummers Jai Johnny Johanson and Butch Trucks.

Allman and Haynes were now the dominant members of the band and they formed a surprisingly adept songwriting combination and here they co-wrote five of the eleven tracks. Allman’s voice is in fine form and his keyboards are more front and center than in the past. Haynes co-wrote an additional 3 tracks with other partners for a total of eight, plus acted as co-producer for the release.

Trucks and Haynes now occupied the twin guitarist’s role and they brought the band into the 21st century. How they are compared to the classic combination of Betts and Duane Allman is up to the listener, but I tend to take them on their own terms, and their quality is very high. All four guitarists made the Rolling Stone Magazine list of the Greatest Guitarists of all Time. While I miss Betts and his country leanings, Trucks brought a bluesy sound to the band which was a nice change.

One of the positive attributes was the album was basically recorded live in the studio. There were a few overdubs after the fact, but what they played is basically what you get.

There is a lot to like about this album. “Firing Line,” “Maydell,” and “High Cost Of Living” are all very good rock/blues pieces. “Desdemona” at over nine minutes, gives both Trucks and Haynes a chance to provide solos.

“Instrumental Illness” was a Haynes/Burbridge instrumental composition, which will always be compared to the Betts catalogue of instrumentals. It was more solo oriented and not as melodic as the Betts material, but did receive two Grammy nominations. At over 12 minutes, both Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes string together a series of solos that are both creative and memorable.

Hittin’ The Note is a fine modern day Allman Brothers album. The songs are well written, the band tight, and the musicianship is exemplary. It remains an excellent listening experience and a treat for fans of the band

Article first published as Music Review: The Allman Brothers – Hittin’ The Note on Blogcritics.

Where It All Begins by The Allman Brothers

March 25, 2011

Where It All Begins was the third of three comeback studio albums The Allman Brothers released during the first half of the 1990s. While it may be the weakest of the three, it is still a very solid release, as it contains nothing bad but nothing really outstanding as well. Still, it remains very listenable today.

The band’s personnel remained intact for the second album in a row. Gregg Allman was getting clean and sober and his performances are some of the album’s highlights. He became more of a presence than he had been in the past. Guitarists Dickey Betts and Warren Haynes were together for their third, and last, studio album. They were the second of three great guitar combinations that would grace The Allman Brothers Band.

The rhythm section of bassist Allen Woody and drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks was as proficient as ever. Tom Dowd returned to produce his sixth album for the band, which added to its stability.

The sound may have been a little more mainstream than in the past, plus the improvisation was less than usual. On the positive side, it was the group’s usual mixture of southern rock and blues.

Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts share the principal writing chores. Allman co-wrote four of the tracks and Betts wrote or co-wrote five more. Betts would compose no more songs with another band member, which may have looked ahead to his leaving the band he had been with since its beginnings.

“Sailin’ Cross The Devil’s Sea” is an Allman, Haynes, Woody, and Jack Pearson composition and has a nice funky feel to it. It is Dickey Betts’ slide guitar that provides the highlight. “Temptation Is A Gun” was written by Allman, John Friga, and former Journey member Neal Schoen. It contains a wonderful and bluesy vocal by Allman.

Dickey Betts goes in a more rock direction than in the past. “Back Where It All Begins” clocks in at over nine minutes, which gives ample time for both Betts and Haynes to weave their guitar magic both by themselves and together. “No One To Run To” and “Mean Woman Blues” may not be the best songs Betts ever wrote, but they have a nice hard edge.

Where It All Begins would be a steady seller and eventually receive a gold record sales award. With the release of this album, the Allman Brothers would move confidently into the future. The band would remain a concert attraction as one of the best live bands in the business.

Article first published as Music Review: The Allman Brothers – Where It All Begins on Blogcritics.

Shades Of Two Worlds by The Allman Brothers

March 25, 2011

The Allman Brothers had re-established itself as one of the premier American bands with its 1989 comeback tour and excellent 1990 album, Seven Turns. The group quickly went back into the studio and issued a follow-up album during July of 1991.

Shades Of Two Worlds was a second very good album in a row. It may not have had the consistency of Seven Turns, but it was more diverse and a solid album in its own right.

The band had reduced itself to six members, as second keyboardist Johnny Neel was not asked to return. This meant that Gregg Allman was the sole keyboardist again, and he stepped forward to be one of the keys to the album’s success. It also meant that The Allman Brothers as a group was grounded in a two-guitar sound once more, and the combination of Dickey Betts and Warren Haynes was more than up to the task. They would also combine to co-write four of the eight tracks. The band also asked Tom Dowd to produce the album, marking the sixth time he had served in that capacity.

The album was a return to longer tracks, as had been the norm during most of ita early classic period. The best example is the Dickey Betts solo composition, “Nobody Knows.” At over 10 minutes, it is an epic Allman Brothers track. This is one of those occasions where Betts is smart enough to let Gregg Allman provide the lead vocal on one of his songs, and the results are excellent. In many ways, Allman’s vocal work is some of the best of his career. The dual guitars of Betts and Haynes and the drumming of Jaimoe and Butch Trucks are as good as anything the band would produce.

Betts and Haynes combined to create another classic Allman Brothers instrumental. “Kind Of Bird,” at over eight minutes is as close to true jazz as the band would come. It seems as if every album would contain a memorable instrumental and this track was no exception as Betts and Haynes were a superb combination.

There were a number of other highlights. “End Of The Line” is probably the album’s best known track, as it received considerable mainstream rock airplay in its time. It is a nice rocker written by four of the group members and a good way to begin the album.

“Get On With Your Life” is a Gregg Allman composition and he provides another excellent slow blues vocal. “Desert Blues” is a solid blues/rocker with more stellar guitar work from Betts and Haynes.

The album ends with a cover of blues legend Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen.” Allman’s vocal does Johnson proud and Haynes provides outstanding guitar work.

Shades Of Two Worlds was the Allman Brothers’ second superior album in a row. It proved that the band was truly back and in fine form. Another essential release in the long history of one of America’s legendary rock bands.

Read more: http://blogcritics.org/music/article/music-review-the-allman-brothers-shades/page-2/#ixzz1HkoHFTHB

Seven Turns by The Allman Brothers

March 20, 2011

It had been nearly eight years since The Allman Brothers had played together. They reformed during 1989 and promptly embarked on a well received and commercially successful tour. During April of 1990 they went into the studio and six months later released Seven Turns. It would mark the beginning of the third phase of their career, which continues down to the present day.

Four original members of the band were joined by three new ones, which made them a seven-man band. Organist/vocalist Gregg Allman, guitarist/vocalist Dickey Betts, and drummers Jaimoe Johanson and Butch Trucks were all back. New members included guitarist Warren Haynes, bassist Allen Woody, and keyboardist Johnny Neel. Haynes would be the key addition as he is now recognized as one of the premier guitarists in the world. He and Betts would quickly become a formidable duo. Not to be overlooked was Neel, as his piano playing complemented Allman and returned the group to the two-keyboardist styling’s of the Chuck Leavell era.

The other old friend whose name appears in the album credits was producer Tom Dowd. He produced most of The Allman Brothers best work and has been honored as one of the premier producers and engineers in rock history. Dowd proved to be the final piece of the puzzle as Seven Turns ranks among their best albums.

“Good Clean Fun” is the album’s first track and immediately announces that the Allman Brothers are back and in fine form. It is a rocker with Betts and Haynes making their debut as guitar partners, and it is spectacular. Gregg Allman’s voice is in fine form as well and fits the song perfectly.

Warren Haynes also proved to be a capable songwriter as he co-wrote several of the better songs. “Gambler’s Roll” is probably the album’s strongest track. It is a haunting song and Haynes was smart enough to allow Gregg Allman to provide the lead vocal. His performance is almost painful as it perfectly captures the essence of the blues. “Shine It On” was written with Betts and goes in a different direction as it returns the band to their southern rock roots.

Betts and Haynes also composed another excellent Allman Brothers instrumental. “True Gravity” goes in a jazz direction and while it may not be as well-known as some of Betts’ previous instrumental creations, it remains a fine song in its own right. Another highlight is Betts’ title track; he provides some nice slide guitar on this country/rock tune.

Seven Turns was a fine comeback for The Allman Brothers. It would initiate the modern period of their career, which continues today. If you like The Allman Brothers or their brand of rock, you can’t go wrong with this album.

Read more: http://blogcritics.org/music/article/music-review-the-allman-brothers-seven/page-2/#ixzz1HChEx7FC

Brothers Of The Road by The Allman Brothers

March 19, 2011

The Allman Brothers returned during 1981 with their third and last album by what can be considered their mid-career line-ups. It would also be their last studio album for nine years as the band would dissolve during 1982, with various members vowing never to play together again.

The big change was drummer Jai Johanson had been fired before the band entered the recording studio. It was the only studio album in the band’s history on which he did not play. Original members Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, and Butch Trucks remained as did recent members, bassist David Goldflies and guitarist Dan Toler. The new additions were David Toler as the second drummer and Mike Lawler as a second keyboardist, which made the group a seven man band.

Brothers Of The Road was recorded in an atmosphere of animosity and the quality of the music reflects that fact. The band also tried to modernize their sound as the songs are shorter with little of the improvisation that highlighted their best work. They also moved in a more rock direction, leaving their blues roots behind. Dickey Betts and Dan Toler were a very good guitar duo, but here there is little of the fire of their past efforts together. It all added up to an uninspired effort that ranks near the bottom of their catalogue.

Dickey Betts wrote or co-wrote five of the ten tracks but there is nothing that approaches his best work. The best of the lot was “Straight From The Heart,” which became a top forty single hit for the band, but even here it is Gregg Allman who makes the song better than average. It seems that Betts is just going through the motions with little passion.

Gregg Allman can’t save the album but he takes part in most of the highlights. His vocals on “Never Knew How Much (I Needed You),” “Maybe We Can Go Back To Yesterday,” and “Straight From The Heart” are worth a listen.

The band members would quickly go their separate ways. Allman and the Toler brothers would form the Gregg Allman Band and record and tour with moderate success. Betts, Trucks, Goldflies, and former member Chuck Leavell formed BHLT, which only lasted a couple of years. Dickey Betts would then go on to form his own band.

There would be better times to come for The Allman Brothers. Fan can be thankful that this was not their final album, as it would not have provided a fitting end for a great band. Brothers Of The Road is only for fans who want anything Allman.

Article first published as Music Review: The Allman Brothers – Brothers Of The Road on Blogcritics.

Enlightened Rogues by The Allman Brothers

March 17, 2011

The Allman Brothers reunited during late 1978 and entered the recording studio to produce their first studio album in four years.

The four original members, keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Allman, drummer Jaimoe, lead guitarist/vocalist Dickey Betts, and drummer Butch Trucks had resolved their differences, at least for a while. Bassist Lamar Williams and pianist Chuck Leavel, who had replaced original members Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, were not asked to return. In their place was guitarist Dan Toler and bassist David Goldflies. The addition of Toler meant that the band had returned to the two-guitar line-up of its classic years.

The other important addition, and a return to its early period, was producer Tom Dowd. He produced three of their classic albums and was instrumental in the development of the band’s sound.

What emerged was a very good, if not excellent album. If you want to experience some good music by The Allman Brothers, but are not in the mood for their longer, drawn-out, improvisational material, then Enlightened Rogues is an album for you.

It may have been four years since their last album, but Dickey Betts was still the focal point of the band. He wrote or co-wrote five of the eight tracks, provided the lead guitar work, and shared lead vocal duties with Gregg Allman.

There may not have been any tracks that can be considered essential, but the album is populated with a number of consistently good songs. The best of the lot was a Dickey Betts instrumental. “Pegasus” was a guitarist’s delight as Betts and Toler melded together well, plus the band members each step forward like The Allman Brothers of old.

The best of the other Betts compositions was the rocker, “Crazy Love,” which became a Top 30 hit single for the band. Betts’ slide guitar and vocal drive the melody along.

The most unique song was “Try It One More Time,” which he wrote with bassist Goldflies. Allman and Betts exchange lead vocals throughout the song, which makes it one of the more unusual ones in its catalogue.

Betts ventures into blues territory with “Can’t Take It With You,” which gives both drummers a chance to shine.

Two blues tunes are given modern interpretations. B.B. King’s “Blind Love” features a bluesy vocal by Gregg Allman and driving guitars by Betts and Toler. “Need Your Love So Bad” is a competent cover of Mertis John’s old blues tune, first recorded by his brother Little Willie John.

The only Gregg Allman composition was “Just Ain’t Easy.” While it may not be the best song he ever wrote, it is a ballad that represents this era of The Allman Brothers well.

Enlightened Rogues is an underappreciated album that sometimes flies under the radar. It is an excellent look back at the middle period of the group’s career.

Article first published as Music Review: The Allman Brothers – Enlightened Rogues on Blogcritics.

Reach For The Sky by The Allman Brothers

March 17, 2011

The Allman Brothers returned during the summer of 1980 with their ninth album, Reach For The Sky. Its line-up of keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Allman, guitarist/vocalist Dickey Betts, drummer Jai Johnny Johanson, guitarist Dan Toler, bassist David Goldflies, and drummer Butch Trucks remained intact for the second album in a row.

I have two basic problems with this album. First, the songs are good in places, but they do not hang together particularly well. Many of the songs seem a better fit for a Dickey Betts or Gregg Allman solo album than for an Allman Brothers release. Secondly, the group should have made a better label choice. Its long term Capricorn label had folded for financial reasons. I’m not sure the Arista label quite knew what to do with them or how to promote the band, as many of its artists were far removed from their southern rock sound. They should have accepted The Allman Brothers on their own terms as they did the Grateful Dead, who were also signed to the label. It all added up to an average release with moderate sales.

Dickey Betts continued to be the primary composer, as he wrote or co-wrote five of the tracks. Gregg Allman contributed two and guitarist Dan Toler co-wrote three tracks.

As was becoming the custom, the best of the tracks was a Dickey Betts instrumental. “From The Madness Of The West” may not have been as melodic as some of his other creations, but the guitar work is some of the best of his career. He had developed a unique style, which was and remains instantly recognizable. Toler proves more than able as his second guitarist. There is a classic drum solo that connects the two parts of the song.

There are a number of other representative tracks. “Hell and High Water” is a nice autobiographical song with a gospel feel to it. “Mystery Woman,” written by Gregg Allman and Dan Toler, quickly finds a nice groove. It may be a little more pop-oriented than a lot of The Allman Brothers material, but it is pleasurable. “So Long” was another Allman/Toler composition, and Allman shines.

Reach For The Sky contains no big surprises and is representative of the mid-period of The Allman Brothers career. It contains some good and some very average music. If you want the best of The Allman Brothers, there are a lot of better places to start.

Article first published as Music Review: The Allman Brothers – Reach For The Sky on Blogcritics.