The Allman Brothers Band – The Allman Brothers Band (1969)

Allman_Allman5 out of 5 Stars!

It’s rare when a band barrels out of the gate with a debut album that not only includes a wealth of stunning material, but also has such a unique sound/style as to create its very own musical genre, but that is exactly what The Allman Brothers Band did back in 1969. This collection of tunes, this magnum opus of Southern Rock, created a standard/mainstream musical genre for decades to come and put this band on the road to deserving stardom. It certainly remains one of my all-time favorites in the genre, and the performances by all involved are nothing short of brilliant and breathtaking.

Side A, from start to finish, is sheer and utter perfection. The upbeat guitar-driven instrumental “Don’t Want You No More” showcased the dual-guitar action of Duane Allman and Richard “Dickey” Betts, then ushered in “It’s Not My Cross to Bear,” a slow bluesy track that introduced to an unsuspecting public the gruff and gritty power of Gregg Allman’s voice atop a Hammond organ backdrop. “Black Hearted Woman” and “Trouble No More” offered more engaging Southern-tinged Hard Rock, and with the formidable rhythm section of bassist Berry Oakley and twin-percussionists Jai Johanny Johanson and Butch Trucks never letting up for a moment, helped to make these two foot-tappin’ tracks instant epitomes of the genre.

Side B is just as stunning, from the riff-laden opener “Every Hungry Woman,” through to Gregg Allman’s signature Hammond-lush semi-ballad “Dreams” with its mesmerizing guitar solo, and finally to the album’s explosive climax, “Whipping Post,” where each band member gives the performance of his life to make this tune (and the aforementioned “Dreams”) one of the band’s concert staples for its entire existence. Talk about a classic track!

As I said earlier, the album is nothing short of a masterpiece. Yet, despite this lofty designation on my part, I do grudgingly admit, I find one minor flaw—the album contains only seven songs, where I would have wished for many more. But I suppose any additional tunes might have screwed up the flawless sequencing of the tracks and destroyed this ne plus ultra in Southern Rock, so I have never grumbled too much about not getting my wish. And thankfully, Idlewild South, the band’s impressive follow-up, arrived about ten months later and came damned close in matching the debut’s unquestionable vigor and long-lasting influence on the music industry and in the minds of the fans, including myself.

Although many of the skillful artists performing on this album are no longer with us, leaving the world way too young, they gifted us with a treasure trove of musical riches by which to remember them for generation after generation. May Duane Allman, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and most recently Gregory LeNoir Allman rest in peace…and thank you, guys, for leaving behind such a timeless musical legacy.

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Gov’t Mule – Gov’t Mule (1995)

GovtMule_14.5 out of 5 Stars!

Good gosh, put on this CD and you’ll take a journey back in time to approximately 1970-1975.

This release was a breath of fresh air when it came out amidst all the Grunge and Pop and Rap and other diverse musical styles that dominated the mid-’90s and otherwise left me yawning and yearning for the “old stuff.” Here we find excellent musicianship, outstanding blues (ie. whiskey-soaked) vocals, and a heavy, albeit laid-back delivery, that smacks of Robin Trower meets Free (check out the remake of “Mr. Big”!) meets Cream meets Ten Years After meets Savoy Brown only with a more updated/modern production quality.

Very late-1960s/early-1970s-influenced, Gov’t Mule had the balls to issue a back-to-basics release such as this in the midst of yet another musical revolution/generational age gap quagmire of lackluster fare. This CD kicks ass! I knew deep in my heart that the newer members of The Allman Brothers Band were just dying to deliver a punch of straightforward, blues-based rock ‘n’ roll if only given the opportunity…well, they got it, and damn, do they deliver!

Highlights include the exceptional “Painted Silver Light” (the vocals are thunderous), the aforementioned Free cover of “Mr. Big,” as well as “Mother Earth” and “Left Coast Groovies (For FZ).” The track “Trane” also reminds me of early The Allman Brothers Band jams, yet without the countrified influence…more blues based, like the best of the Fillmore East or Eat A Peach days. The addition of the harmonica on “Mule” adds even more “trips down memory lane to the late ’60s/early ’70s” when blues-rock trios stirred the soul. In truth, there’s not a duff track on offer here, so the highlights are extremely difficult to select.

If you’re a fan of the “olden days” when rock trios with minimal production yet tons of grit forged new paths through the music industry, then you’ve gotta love Gov’t Mule.

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