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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