The Allman Brothers Band

The Allman Brothers Band

Atco Records, 1969

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


One of the most difficult things for listeners of the present-day to do is try to understand the historical significance of recordings from years past. Oh, sure, some artists, like Elvis Presley and The Beatles, are easy to analyze, maybe because they've been kept under the crosshairs of the microscope of fame for as long as anyone can remember.

In the case of The Allman Brothers Band and their 1969 self-titled debut, it might be a little harder for listeners in 2002 to understand what the fuss was about. After all, the blues explosion had taken hold around this time, and anyone these days who hears the names of Gregg and Duane Allman immediately tie them in with the burgeoning Southern Rock genre, right?

Guess again, Lumpy. While the blues influence is undeniable on this disc, The Allman Brothers Band is about as Southern Rock as Pat Boone is a metalhead. If anything, this six-piece combo could have easily been on the Stax label for their soulful renditions of songs, both covers and originals. It's not the best Allman Brothers record out there, but it's got some stuff that is, even today, absolutely jaw-dropping.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

On the surface, the Allmans had the makings of fitting in to any number of genres. Their Southern upbringing might have mistakenly led people to assume they were some kind of a country band. The two-man percussion unit (Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson) wasn't a new idea - hell, the Grateful Dead had started using that not long before this disc hit the market. The psychedelia crowd latched onto the Allmans; it was not uncommon early in their career to share a stage with the Dead (and sometimes even jam with them).

If you're getting the feeling that The Allman Brothers Band were, at least early in their career, unclassifiable, you're getting the picture - a picture which becomes crystal clear once you hear the music on this disc. Their riveting take on Muddy Waters's "Trouble No More" still sends shivers up my spine, even though I've heard it more times than I can count. Likewise, the jazz-tinged "Dreams" and the show-stopper "Whipping Post" (the latter a playful thorn in Frank Zappa's side) continue to amaze me, among many other listeners. Even a lesser track like "It's Not My Cross To Bear" has its foundation reduced to sonic rubble courtesy of the blues wailings of Gregg Allman - he seals the deal for this track.

I dared to hint that The Allman Brothers Band was not the strongest disc in their collection - a statement I make only because I can run hot or cold on tracks like "Every Hungry Woman" and "Black Hearted Woman". This isn't suggesting these are bad tracks, just that they don't have the same emotional punch to the gut that the barn-burners do.

In all honesty, I'd have no problem recommending to someone interested in learning about the Allman Brothers Band to pick up their boxed set Dreams, price be damned, and to take a big drink from its musical pond. If they only wanted to experience one album - well, it would be a hard call. Eat A Peach is a recognized classic, but The Allman Brothers Band has more than a few strong arguments on its side as well. It's probably the most appropriate place to begin one's journey on all things Allman - and even with slight weaknesses, it was a fine way to introduce themselves to the record-buying public.

Rating: B

User Rating: B+



© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atco Records, and is used for informational purposes only.