1971 was a big year for the Allman Brothers in many ways. Not only did they finally achieve huge success after the release of their live album At Fillmore East which was released in July, but the year also saw the first chapter in their career come to a sudden and tragic halt. Founding member Duane Allman’s death on the 29th October 1971 would change the band forever, leaving behind (for the time being at least) the dual lead guitar format that had forged their musical sound from day one.
Recording sessions for Eat A Peach, their third studio album, began in September with the band debuting songs on the road to save money in the studio. The band then headed to Criteria Studios in Miami to work with legendary producer Tom Dowd who the band had previously worked with on Idlewild South, on top of Duane’s work with him during the Derek and the Dominos sessions of 1970. After a number of songs were recorded, the band went back on the road and also into rehab. Duane would never work in the studio again. His death could have had so many affects on the band yet they decided the best course of action was to re-group and complete the album. Out of the six original songs on Eat A Peach only three of them feature Duane, the final three.
Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More is a song written by Gregg Allman which was actually put together before Duane’s death although the vocals were written and then laid down after his passing. It’s a wonderful song with powerful opening piano but the first thing you notice is the slide guitar on the track which is played by Dickey Betts who took over slide duties after Duane died. This is something he didn’t particularly like doing but he sounds fantastic on this track. Dickey’s own song, Les Brers In A Minor, follows suit and takes a very different approach. When it comes to songwriting you can’t argue that Dickey is the master of instrumentals and Les Brers In A Minor is no different. The song is a piece of art containing many different styles which when put together make something exceptionally brilliant. Classic Betts. Melissa follows which was written by Gregg four years earlier in 1967 and it was re-recorded and included on Eat A Peach because Duane loved it so much. The song contains one of the finest pieces of music on the entire album in Dickey’s exquisite guitar playing. He really goes above and beyond here, there really are no words to describe how beautiful his playing is on Melissa.
- Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More
- Les Brers In A Minor
- Mountain Jam (Live Version)
- One Way Out (Live Version)
- Trouble No More (Live Version)
- Stand Back
- Blue Sky
The next three songs are live numbers recorded at various Fillmore East shows earlier in the year. The first, Mountain Jam, is from the March 12th show at the venue and clocks in at a whopping 33 minutes and 43 seconds. On the original vinyl versions of Eat A Peach the song was split in two with the second part on side 4 and it wasn’t until the CD release that the full version in it’s entirely was included as one track. It’s followed by the stunning Elmore James cover One Way Out which was recorded on the 27th June 1971 at Fillmore East, closing night. This particular version of One Way Out has certainly grown to become the definitive version of the song, at least in terms of Allman Brothers versions. Both Duane and Dickey shine brightly, as they always did of course, but there’s something about this particular track that really hits the spot. Trouble No More is the final live song, recorded on the 13th March 1971 at Fillmore East.
Stand Back, written by Gregg and Berry Oakley, is the first original song to feature Duane in any capacity. The song was recorded in the studio before members of the band went into rehab, along with Blue Sky, another song by Dickey Betts. Blue Sky is one of the highlights of the album and it’s a song that was tested and played out on the road and various shows in mid-late 1971. In fact there are only a handful of known live recordings of the song and a few in particular really show how explosive a song it was when played live, especially with Duane. The solo sections are simply incredible and none of the magic is lost on the studio version with Dickey in fine form on lead vocals, backed up by Gregg. The majority of the song is a lead guitar section shared by Duane and Dickey and because of it’s foundation in a major key, the guitar playing really adds another dimension to the album. Yet another classic song by Dickey Betts that remained in the setlist up until the last Allman Brothers show in 2014. The final song, Little Martha, is the only song credited to Duane himself and features Duane and Dickey on guitars. Berry originally played bass on the track but that was left out of the final album version and wouldn’t see the light of day for another 18 years. It’s a wonderful track and a fitting tribute to their recently departed founding member and leader, especially having it as the last song on the album.
Eat A Peach really was the end of an era for The Allman Brothers Band. Their leader was gone and their sound would forever be different, no longer led by Duane’s scorching slide guitar playing which had been one of the main protagonists in the band since it’s founding in 1969. Stripped of that solid foundation, the band would go on to re-group under several incarnations but they would remain a five piece for nearly a year after Duane’s death, only inviting Chuck Leavell to play with them shortly before Berry Oakley’s own death on the 11th November 1972. But Eat A Peach remains with us as a lasting legacy to Duane’s tenure with the band, sounding just as fresh now as it did when it was recorded. A landmark album brimming with excellence.