Allman Brothers
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The Allman Brothers Band (1969), 7/10
Idlewild South (1970), 6/10
Live At Fillmore East (1971), 7.5/10
Eat A Peach (1972), 7.5/10
Brothers And Sisters (1973), 6/10
Win Lose Or Draw (1975), 5/10
Enlightened Rogues (1979), 5/10
Reach For The Sky (1980), 5/10
Brothers Of The Road (1981), 5/10
Seven Turns (1990), 6/10
Shades Of Two Worlds (1991), 6.5/10
Where It All Begins (1994), 5/10
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(Summary)

The Allman Brothers, featuring two lead guitars (Duane Allman and Richard Betts), were the first major band since the Grateful Dead for whom the (improvised) live performance was more relevant than the (composed) studio album. Not surprisingly, they became the only band capable of competing with the Grateful Dead in terms of crowds. Their debut album, The Allman Brothers Band (1969), introduced a form of loose, guitar-intensive blues-rock ballad, a southern version of the Band's roots-rock, but it was the live albums, Live At Fillmore East (1971) and Eat A Peach (1972), that transformed those ballads into epic sonic excursions.


(Translation of the Italian text by Nicole Zimmerman)

Truly the kings of the rock music scene of the 70's and the torch-bearers for Southern rock, the Allman Brothers were the emblematic rock group of the decade, based on the preparation and teamwork that placed the collective performance ahead of composition. Long, improvised tracks resembled a melody of reasons to party rather than inciting delusions of the psyche. Additionally, blues-rock is more stimulated by alcohol than acid, and functioned to entertain the audience rather than expand their minds.

The Allman Brothers largely followed the same path as the Grateful Dead, although much later, to country rock, adapting more to the traditional sounds, and less innovative culture, of the South. The intricate solos of Duane and guitar harmonies of Betts, paired together, were the only true innovation by the group.

Natives of Tennessee, brothers Duane and Gregg Allman, in 1968 (with respect to guitar and organ), formed one of the many complex Californian blues-rock bands: The Hour Glass with albums titled The Hour Glass (1967) and Power of Love (1968). In 1969, they settled in Jacksonville, Florida, and after merging with a local rhythm and blues group, they formed the Allman Brothers. The group debuted with a whiny funk that became their signature sound (Midnight Rider, 1970).

With the group's first two albums, The Allman Brothers Band (Capricorn, 1969) and Idlewild South (1970), reprinted as Beginnings (1974), they gained fame from two sides: Duane participated in dozens of sessions with the giants of soul (such as Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, among others), thus becoming one of the most respected guitarists of the decade. Since he was very familiar with the boogie style, he preceded the slide style of Elmore James, with as much country style picking as jazz phrasing; and the audiences were delighted with the repertoire that included such classics as Whipping Post, Dreams (the first), and In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, coupled with excerpts from the blues ballads of Willie McTell and Sonny Boy Williamson.

The Allman Brothers used their songs as canvases, on which they slowly applied the solid sound of two guitars (usually Duane Allman and Richard Betts in sensational, creative duets), with a consistently fierce and inventive style (supplemented with keyboard by Gregg and bass by Barry Oakley). Their talents enabled them to frequently change themes, a practice that is more common in jazz than rock, but still keep them fully charged and full of manly Southern sound.

It is no coincidence that band was glorified by the live performance of Live at Fillmore East (Capricorn, 1971) and the album Eat A Peach (Capricorn, 1972), which are definitive collections of their musical strengths. On the former, the extended versions of Whipping Post and Elizabeth Reed dominated the album, on the latter, a tremendous version of There Is A Mountain by Donovan that has a series of improvised variations that lasts about half an hour, and is the heart and soul of the psychedelic -blues genre (from the influences of Cream and the Grateful Dead). Also on the latter, versions of the group's classics (true to the originals) stand out. Such as Ain't Wasting No More Time, Melissa (a romantic country ballad by Gregg), Les Brers In A Minor (a psychedelic instrumental), and a breath-taking version of One Way Out.

Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in October 1971 solidifying him as a recording legend, followed by Oakley (also killed in a motorcycle accident in 1972 near the spot where Duane was killed). In 1973, approximately 600,000 fans gathered for a concert at Watkins Glen - an event that made Watkins Glen famous, even today. However, the group was never the same. After Brother And Sisters (1973), which sold over a million copies, the group made it on the soft compositions of the new guitarist Dickey Betts, with ballads such as Southbound, both funky and lively with the velvety piano from keyboardist Chuck Leavell, and Ramblin' Man, the groups most catchy country-rock (written by Betts). There was also the syncopated blues song (using a dobro guitar) Pony Boy, and Jessica, a franticly paced soulful instrumental that featured a soaring solo by Leavell on piano and an electrifying refrain on guitar by Betts. These were sophisticated songs that mixed country- blues with a modern spirit and were always enlivened by fluid mini-jam instrumentals. So also Don't Want You No More (on the new double, Wipe The Windows, 1976), but Win Lose Or Draw (1975) did not have much to offer.

The group's situation contributed to the divergent and ideological disagreements among the members about the style of music: the more bluesy Dickey Betts (the main composer) and the more country Gregg (the legitimate heir of the group and the husband of singer Cher). A more businesslike approach and rigid routines were the final blows and the group split up.

Betts formed the Great Southern and his band continued to produce the hypnotic sounds of the late Allman Brothers. The same applies to Gregg Allman. The keyboardist, Leavell, formed the Sea Level, which played a more interesting jazz-rock.

The Allman Brothers came together for a reunion (without Leavell) for Enlightened Rogues (1979), Reach For The Sky (1980), and Brothers Of The Road (1981) which imitated the old sound (Straight From The Heart), then Dreams (1989), and finally an anthology. This was Betts' group however, not Allmans', but in the end they were just as good as the original.

Veri dominatori della musica rock degli anni '70 e porta-bandiera del rock "sudista", gli Allman Brothers sono l'emblema del rock d'equipe del decennio, basato su preparazione ed affiatamento, che relega a un ruolo secondario la composizione rispetto alla performance del collettivo. I lunghi brani improvvisati rassomigliano piu` a medley di motivi celebri che non a deliri della psiche. D'altronde questo blues-rock e` stimolato piu` dall'alcool che dall'acido, e ha la funzione d'intrattenere professionalmente un pubblico pagante piu` che di espandere le loro coscienze.

Gli Allman Brothers hanno seguito grosso modo la parabola dei Grateful Dead, sia pur con qualche anno di ritardo, dall'acid-rock al country-rock, adattandola al piu` tradizionale e meno innovativo humus culturale del Sud. Gli assoli intricati di Duane e le armonie chitarristiche in coppia con Betts sono le uniche vere innovazioni apportate dal gruppo.

Nativi entrambi del Tennessee, i fratelli Duane e Greg Allman erano nel 1968 (rispettivamente alla chitarra e all'organo) titolari di uno dei tanti complessi blues-rock californiani: gli Hourglass, titolari di The Hourglass (1967) e Power of Love (1968). Nel 1969 si insediarono a Jacksonville, Florida, e, dopo essersi fusi con un complesso locale di rhythm and blues, diedero vita agli Allman Brothers, esordendo con un funk lagnoso a ritmo pellerossa che sarebbe diventato la loro sigla (Midnight Rider, 1970).

Sui primi due album, The Allman Brothers Band (Capricorn, 1969) e Idlewild South (1970), ristampati come Beginnings (1974), gli Allman Brothers si conquistano una doppia fama: Duane in prima persona che, partecipando a decine di session con i mostri sacri del soul (Aretha Franklin e Wilson Pickett fra gli altri), e` diventando uno dei chitarristi piu` stimati del nuovo decennio, familiare tanto con lo stile boogie alla lead quanto con lo stile slide di Elmore James, tanto con il picking del country quanto con il fraseggio del jazz; e gli Allman nell'insieme incantando sia le platee, con il loro possente blues-rock sudista, sia la critica, con un repertorio che comprende classici della statura di Whipping Post, Dreams (sul primo) e In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed, insieme a tanti estratti dal libro del blues (da Willie McTell a Sonny Boy Williamson).

Gli Allman Brothers usano la canzone come un canovaccio, attorno al quale si sprigiona piano piano il solido sound a due chitarre (in genere Duane e Richard Betts in sensazionali duetti "creativi") e a due batterie, con una formazione (completata dalle tastiere di Gregg e dal basso di Barry Oakley) che garantisce uno stile al tempo stesso feroce ed inventivo. Indubbie doti di performer consentono alla troupe di variare all'infinito il tema prescelto, secondo una prassi piu` jazz che rock, ma caricando gli spunti di un umore virile e corposo tipicamente sudista.

Non a caso la consacrazione del gruppo avviene con i due doppi dal vivo Live At Fillmore East (Capricorn, 1971) e Eat A Peach (Capricorn, 1972), raccolte definitive dei loro cavalli di battaglia. Sul primo troneggiano le versioni fiume di Whipping Post ed Elizabeth Reed, sul secondo una monumentale serie di variazioni sul tema della There Is A Mountain di Donovan che dura in tutto piu` di mezz' ora, lungo viaggio senza ritorno nel cuore della musica ed estrema consacrazione del genere blues-psichedelico (improvvisazione libera alla Cream e suite oscura alla Grateful Dead). Sul secondo brillano anche versioni sanguigne di loro classici come Ain't Waisting Time No More, una romantica ballata country di Greg, Melissa, lo strumentale psichedelico Les Brers In A Minor di Betts, e una versione mozzafiato di One Way Out.

Duane Allman si ammazzo` pero` nell'Ottobre del 1971 in un incidente di motocicletta, consacrandosi alla leggenda e alle speculazioni discografiche, seguito a ruota da Oakley (anche lui in un incidente motociclistico, nel novembre 1972, quasi nello stesso punto). L'evento fa comunque pubblicita` al complesso, che registra tutti esauriti a catena fino ai seicentomila di Watkins Glen (1973); ma impoverisce alquanto la classe del gruppo, che in Brothers And Sisters (1973), album milionario, vivacchia sulle tiepide composizioni del secondo chitarrista Dickey Betts, ballate come Southbound, funky e vivacizzata dal pianismo vellutato e swingante del nuovo tastierista Chuck Leavell, e Ramblin' Man, il loro country-rock piu` orecchiabile (scritto da Betts), oppure il blues sincopato per dobro di Pony Boy, oppure ancora Jessica, frenetico strumentale soul che sfoggia un assolo vertiginoso di Leavell al piano e un ritornello elettrizzante per la chitarra di Betts. Sono canzoni sofisticate che amalgamano country e blues con uno spirito moderno, e sempre nobilitate da fluenti mini-jam strumentali. Cosi` anche Don't Want You No More (sul nuovo doppio dal vivo, Wipe The Windows, 1976), mentre Win Lose Or Draw (1975) non aveva molto di nuovo da offrire.

La situazione favori` le tendenze centrifughe, fomentate dai dissidi ideoligici fra il piu` bluesistico Dicky Betts (il principale compositore) e il piu` campagnolo Greg Allman (erede legittimo al trono, nonche' marito di Cher). Un'impostazione piu` commerciale e una routine senza nerbo diedero il colpo di grazia, e il complesso si sciolse.

Betts formo` i Great Southern e poi una sua band, con cui continuo` a proporre il sound soporifero dei tardi Allman Brothers. Stesso dicasi di Gregg Alman. Il tasterista Leavell formo` i Sea Level, che suonano un jazz-rock piu` interessante.

Gli Allman Brothers si riunirono (senza Leavell) per Enlightened Rogues (1979), Reach For The Sky (1980) e Brothers Of The Road (Arista, 1981), che sono parodie del vecchio sound (Straight From The Heart). Dreams (1989) e` un'antologia. Questo e` il gruppo di Betts, non di Allman, ma alla fin fine vale quanto quello originale.

Allman and Betts reformed the Allman Brothers Band one more time with Warren Haynes on slide guitar and Johnny Neel on keyboards. Seven Turns (Epic, 1990) marked an unlikely return to form, with Good Clean Fun and Gambler's Roll sounding like a rejuvinated rock'n'roll band, the instrumental True Gravity stradding the border with jazz-rock, and Seven Turns sounding like the fare of an intellectual singer-songwriter.

Even better, Shades Of Two Worlds (Epic, 1991) includes the lengthy Nobody Knows and the jazzy instrumental Kind Of Bird (the title is a tribute to Charlie Parker and Miles Davis) and is perhaps their best studio album after the debut. But Where It All Begins (1994) is pure nostalgia. Guitarist Derek Trucks joined the Allman Brothers Band in 1998. Hittin' The Note (Sanctuary, 2003), without Betts, was the Allman Brothers' first studio album of new songs in nine years.

Warren Haynes is also the lead guitarist of Gov't Mule, a band that expanded the sounther-rock vocabulary to incoporate jazz and folk. They have released Gov't Mule (Relativity, 1995), Live at Roseland Ballroom (Foundation, 1996), Dose (Capricorn, 1998), the double live With a Little Help From Our Friends (Capricorn, 1998), Life Before Insanity (Capricorn, 2000).

The Derek Trucks also formed his own Band and released The Derek Trucks Band (1997), Out of The Madness (1998), Joyful Noise (Columbia, 2002).

Gregg Alman died in 2017.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Pasquale Robustini)

Allman e Betts riformarono ancora una volta gli Allman Brothers Band  con Warren Haynes alla chitarra slide e Johnny Neel alle tastiere. Seven Turns (Epic, 1990) segnò un improbabile ritorno alla forma, con Good Clean Fun e Gambler's Roll che suonavano come un gruppo di rock'n'roll ringiovanito, la strumentale True Gravity a cavallo del confine tra jazz e rock, e Seven Turns che suona come musica da singer-songwriter intellettuale.

Ancora meglio, Shades Of Two Worlds (Epic, 1991) include la lunga Nobody Knows ed il brano strumentale jazzato Kind Of Bird (il titolo è un tributo a Charlie Parker e Miles Davis) ed è forse il loro migliore album in studio dopo il debutto. Ma Where It All Begins (1994) è pura nostalgia. Il chitarrista Derek Trucks si unì agli Allman Brothers Band nel 1998. Hittin' The Note (Sanctuary, 2003), senza Betts, era il primo album in studio di nuove canzoni degli Allman Brothers in nove anni.

Warren Haynes è anche la chitarra solista di Gov't Mule, un gruppo che espanse il vocabolario del southern-rock fino ad incorporare jazz e folk. Hanno pubblicato Gov't Mule (Relativity, 1995), Live at Roseland Ballroom (Foundation, 1996), Dose (Capricorn, 1998), il doppio live With a Little Help From Our Friends (Capricorn, 1998) e Life Before Insanity (Capricorn, 2000).

Derek Trucks formò anche un suo gruppo personale e pubblicò The Derek Trucks Band (1997), Out of The Madness (1998) e Joyful Noise (Columbia, 2002).

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