1969 saw the release of one of the most underrated blues/rock albums of all time, the self-titled debut from The Allman Brothers Band. It would take the release of their 1971 live album At Fillmore East for the band to get the recognition they deserved but their debut effort contains some fantastic music.
Don’t Want You No More is the opening song which really sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album. It’s in instrumental number which when paired with the second track, It’s Not My Cross To Bear, forms one of the all time best one-two punches to start an album. While both songs are very different they fit together beautifully to the point where one without the other just doesn’t sound right. They need to be listened to together and that is when everything falls into place magnificently. The Allman Brother Band with Duane Allman can be considered one of the most tight, focused and “musically together” bands of all time and that comes across so strongly here. Not a bad way to open their debut album. The storming Black Hearted Woman comes next, an incredible Gregg Allman original. The opening guitar riff is one of the most infectious on the whole album and Allman gives one hell of a performance to the point where you completely forget that he was only 22 when this album was recorded. His voice during this period of The Allman Brothers Band always sounded more advanced than his years and it’s one of the key things that contribute to the overall sound of the band.
- Don’t Want You No More
- It’s Not My Cross To Bear
- Black Hearted Woman
- Trouble No More
- Every Hungry Woman
- Whipping Post
The band continue with a cover of Trouble No More by Muddy Waters. It’s a song they would continue to perform live in concert with one of the best versions coming from their March 1971 shows at Fillmore East in New York. Hearing the studio version is a real treat though due to the inclusion of an acoustic guitar which didn’t make it into the live versions for obvious reasons. Every Hungry Woman comes next and the opening guitar playing couldn’t be any more 1960’s. In fact it has always reminded me a lot of early Led Zeppelin and it’s not until the the full riff and band come in that I fully know it’s The Allman Brothers Band. When listening to this song on good headphones it’s a real joy to hear the outstanding playing on drums by Butch Trucks and Jaimoe. The whole album contains some great drumming and with headphones you can fully appreciate the greatness of those two guys.
Dreams is the second to last song which is so totally different to anything else on the album. It’s a monster, a beast, a mammoth sized musical adventure. At nearly seven and a half minutes in length it’s the longest song on the album and the live versions are even longer. It’s arguably the first indication on record as to the future sound of The Allman Brothers Band, at least for the following few years with Duane at the helm. Improvisation and loose playing has always been one of the most exciting features of the band and their music and Dreams really goes off beautifully. It’s one of the most exciting and beautiful moments of their entire recording career, a moment which they multiplied a thousand times over when playing it in a live setting. Superb on even level. The final song, Whipping Post, is another musical moment which would continue to grow and grow whenever the band played it live. Berry Oakley begins the song with that bass riff but for me it’s Gregg Allman’s lyrics and vocals that make this song really special, at least when it comes to this studio version. It’s one of his finest performances as a vocalist in my opinion and while the solo sections are exciting it was in a live setting where this song properly showed off the musical abilities of each band member.
Overall The Allman Brothers Band is an album that needs to be more widely recognised as an album that is one of the best in the blues/rock genre. It’s superb on every level and while the band may not have received the recognition they deserved until their 1971 live album At Fillmore East was released, they were a fantastic studio band and these seven songs show that beautifully.