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.

Eat A Peach by The Allman Brothers

March 6, 2011

Life was good for The Allman Brothers. At Fillmore East had been a commercial breakthrough for the group. It was then recognized as one of the best live bands in the world and Duane Allman had ascended to the top rung of guitarists. Rolling Stone Magazine would place him at number 2 on its list of The Best Guitarists Of All Time.

Everything came to an abrupt halt when Duane climbed onto his motorcycle on October 29, 1971. Shortly after, he was dead as a truck came to a halt in his path. Bassiet Berry Oakley would die just over a year later in a similar accident three blocks from Allman’s.

Producer Tom Dowd would assemble Eat A Peach from studio tracks recorded before and after Duane’s death, plus live material left over from the band’s last album. Eat A Peach was released on February 12, 1972. While it may not have been as consistent as some of its other releases due to its piecemeal approach, many of the songs when taken individually were brilliant and remain some of the strongest the band would produce. Just shy of four decades later, these tracks retain the brilliance and creativity that marked the original Allman Brothers Band.

The center of the album was the debut of the 33-minute live “Mountain Jam,” which has since been added to the extended CD reissues of At Fillmore East. The energy that is maintained for a half hour is amazing, as it provides an eternal document at just how good the band was at this point during its career. Duane Allman does what he was born to do, and that is playing the guitar. While all the members take solos, it is Duane who soars during the last 10 minutes.

The album’s first track, “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,” was written before Duane Allman’s death. It was a fitting tribute, as it deals with thoughts about immortality. Dickey Betts steps forward as the one guitarist in a two-guitar band.

“Melissa” was a song co-written by Gregg Allman that dated back to his and Duane’s Hour Glass days. This old ballad has remained an important part of the group’s live show for decades.

“One Way Out” and “Trouble No More” are both classic blues tunes. They both are live performances and find the band in its comfort zone as it presents solid interpretations.

The final three tracks of the original double vinyl release were the last studio tracks featuring Duane Allman. “Stand Back” features Duane’s slide guitar technique and has a nice funky feel. “Blue Sky” is a Dickey Betts ballad, which contained his first lead vocal. Both he and Duane take solos. The album concludes with the only Duane Allman solo composition. The all to short “”Little Martha” is a wonderful acoustic piece featuring basically Duane and Dickey.

Eat A Peach brought the first phase of the band’s career to a close. There would be a lot more good music to come but it would not be the

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At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers

March 2, 2011

The Allman Brothers took the stage at The Fillmore East on March 12-13, 1971. They did not realize it at the time but they were creating one of the best live albums in rock history. Rolling Stone Magazine would rank it as the 49th best album of all time and during 2004, the Library of Congress added it to the National Recording Registry.

Tom Dowd returned as producer for the second album in a row. He is now recognized as one of the most accomplished producers in music history and he worked his magic with this release. He reduced the running time of some of the songs, plus he assembled certain tracks from two different performances.

The original vinyl release was a two-record set, yet only contained seven songs. Two of the tracks cover an entire side each, which created a far different type of album than the group’s two studio releases had. They traveled in a musical direction that few bands have traveled before or since. The length of the songs gave the band room to stretch out and improvise, with a result that proved to be consistently excellent, some of the best performances you will ever hear.

The highlight of an album filled with good performances is “Whipping Post.” It clocks in at just over 23 minutes as both Dickey Betts and Duane Allman take creative solos, and it combines their guitars as few duos have been able to do. Gregg Allman’s voice is perfectly suited for this rock/blues classic and drummers Jai Johnny Johnson and Butch Trucks lay down a thunderous foundation. What is truly amazing is the energy that is present throughout the entire song.

The second highlight is an extended version of the Dickey Betts tune, “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” It is a song I have returned to many times over the last 40 years and it remains fresh, interesting, and entertaining. It is a combination of jazz. rock, and blues as Gregg Allman’s organ provides a foundation for Betts and Duane’s guitar excursions.

The album has one strong track after another. Willie Cobb’s “You Don’t Love Me,” at just less than 20 minutes is another guitarist’s delight. The band also does justice to the old blues classic, “Stormy Monday.”

“Hot ‘Lanta” is a complete group effort and demonstrates what a tight band they were at the time. “Statesboro Blues” is the shortest track at just over four minutes and shows that they can also operate inside a structured song.

The album has been released in an extended form a number of times. If you don’t want the original release, track down a copy that has the 33-minute “Mountain Jam.” It is another Duane Allman extravaganza.

At Fillmore East is an album that has withstood the test of time well. Released during July of 1971, it remains Duane Allman’s defining moment. The only negative was that he would be dead a little over three months after its release. It remains an essential rock experience.

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The Allman Brothers Band by The Allman Brothers

February 24, 2011

Duane and Gregg Allman may have been young in 1969, but they were experienced. The brothers had been members of three bands; The Escorts formed in 1963, followed by the Allman Joys in 1965, and finally Hour Glass in 1967, with whom they released two commercially unsuccessful albums.

The fourth time was the charm for Gregg and Duane. The Allman Brothers Band was formed in 1969 and would quickly become recognized as one of the best and most creative bands in the world. The original six members included vocalist/organist Gregg Allman, guitarist Duane Allman, guitarist Dickey Betts, bassist Berry Oakley, drummer Butch Trucks, and drummer Johanny “Jaimoe” Johnson.

They released their self-titled debut album November 4, 1969. It would be a hit in their native South but receive little notice outside of that region of the country. It would peak at number 188 on the Billboard Album Chart. People didn’t know what they were missing at the time as the album introduced southern-style rock to the world, fueled by one of music’s legendary guitarists.

While The Allman Brothers would become noted for their live performances, their debut was one of their better studio releases as it fused rock, blues, and even a little jazz into a soulful mix. Gregg Allman has a perfect blues voice and the combined lead guitars of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts made for one of the best combinations in rock history.

The album is just about a perfect selection of five original compositions by Gregg Allman plus two cover songs that blend into a cohesive unit as each builds upon one another as the album progresses.

From the opening notes of Spencer Davis’ “Don’t Want You No More,” you know you are in for something different. It sets up the blues of their own track, “It’s Not My Cross To Bear,” which introduced the world to Gregg’s voice with one of his finer performances. “Black Hearted Woman” was a total group effort from one of rock’s tightest bands. “Trouble No More” is an old Muddy Waters tune and the band updates it in a good way.

As good as the first four songs are, I have always considered the three songs that formed the second side of the original vinyl release as superior. “Every Hungry Woman” starts with some slide guitar by Duane before moving into full rock mode. “Dreams” is a nice slow blues song that at seven minutes gives Duane some room to improvise. The album ends with “Whipping Post,” wherein the guitars of Dickey and Duane intertwine together. It would become a famous part of their live show and, years later, The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame would honor is as one of “The 500 Songs That Shaped Rock ‘N’ Roll.”

The Allman Brothers Band was a consistently excellent album that would begin the career of one of America’s best bands. It holds up well 40 plus years after its release.

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