The Allman Brothers Band

Allmans Better Than Ever After 35 Years

Chad Berndtson
2 April 2004 / The Patriot Ledger
Copyright (c) 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

ONE WAY OUT, The Allman Brothers Band (Peach/Sanctuary Records)

Southern blues rock gods the Allman Brothers Band celebrate their 35th anniversary this year, and for a band whose legal and internal troubles are as storied as its music, it’s quite a revival. With its annual Beacon Theater residency in New York City under way and a sizeable summer tour in the works, the Allmans are also celebrating with two new releases: first a DVD, released in October, and second a live CD, just out – both culled from last year’s incendiary Beacon run.

“One Way Out” is one of the finest albums of the band’s career: an 18-song testament to how the band’s latest lineup – its eighth overall – is its best since the original, and how in performance, improvisational ability and musicality the ABB is suddenly one of the best live bands on the planet again, period.

Presumably gone are the ego problems, the drugs and the storm clouds that have covered the various incarnations of the group since the deaths of two of its originals, guitarist Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley, more than 30 years ago. Definitely back is the mojo: a sober Gregg Allman sounding fit and full of life (his vocals haven’t been this fluid since the 1970s), the four-man rhythm section (two drums, percussion, bass) providing a powerhouse foundation, and the twin lead and slide guitars of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, who are the best front line duo this band has seen since Duane and Dickey Betts mounted improvisational duels in the late 1960s.

Widely considered a “grandfather” band of everything from classic southern rock to modern jamband noodlers, the ABB is as fresh and imposing in a live setting as any rock band around.

The most telling sign of that freshness is the album’s closer, a 16-minute workout on one of the hardest, meanest and most beloved of all Allmans originals, “Whipping Post.”

Bassist Oteil Burbridge kicks things off with the famous rumbling intro: a powerful force coming from somewhere below that makes the song feel like a freight train barreling down the track. Once Allman completes the song’s first two verses, an all-out guitar assault unfolds over 12 minutes, first shot from the frisky, syncopation- heavy Trucks and then from meaty Haynes, whose multi-layered solo redefines what actor-musician Jack Black would no doubt call a “face- melter.”

This is the first officially released recording of this legendary tune that measures up to the ones performed by the original lineup, and the same goes for other ABB chestnuts on these discs like “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’,” “Statesboro Blues” and “Wasted Words,” all of which sound as if they’ve been given new life. Even more encouraging is how well the newer tunes (most from 2003’s excellent studio disc “Hittin’ the Note”) maintain that improvisational dynamic. Rather than feeling like “new” Allmans tunes from a “new” Allman Brothers Band, songs like the painful “Desdemona,” (a willing companion to Allman’s phenomenal psych-blues “Dreams”), Haynes’ “Rockin’ Horse” and the 15-minute Mingus-style jazz exploration “Instrumental Illness” are effortlessly interwoven with old favorites and destined to become ABB war horses and go-to tunes.

Of course, the setting is integral: New York’s venerable Beacon Theater has hosted the Allmans in a residency format every spring (almost always in March) for 15 years. It’s an event that regularly sells out, draws diehard ABB fans from all over the country (the Boston area boasts an exceptionally healthy contingent), and usually abounds with three hour-plus shows, special guests and song surprises. As one Attleboro native described it on the band’s web site, “the Beacon run is Mecca to the devoted Allmans fan.” —

Although no dates were available at press time, the band’s publicist, Todd Brodginski, assures that Mansfield’s Tweeter Center will be a stop on this summer’s 35th Anniversary Tour, possibly for multiple nights.

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