The Allman Brothers Band at the Beacon Theatre: Preview 2004
“ The Allman Brothers are now bringing passion and commitment to a legacy that once again seems worthy of legend ”
The Allman Brothers have always been fearless and throughout their 35 plus year career it has both blessed them and cursed them. The same courage that lent itself to the exploration of a marriage of blues, rock and jazz also caused, at least in part, the deaths of two founding members of the band. The resolute unwillingness to let the name lie dormant for too very long has brought about more regroupings and splits than any other rock and roll band in history has endured and right now, it is neither implausible or hyperbole to say the lineup as constituted in 2005 meets and exceeds the standards set by ABB at any other high points of their time together, either in the original sextet including Duane Allman and Berry Oakley or the single-guitar alignment within which pianist Chuck Leavell played so prominent a role. At this point, The Allmans' artistic integrity is virtually matched by its popular acclaim, while their commercial savvy grows in direct proportion to the group's increasing level of activity as 2005 progresses.
There has never been another band that sounded quite like the Allman Brothers Band. Even when Dixie rock was all the rage in rock during the Seventies, and every other band in existence seemed to emanate from below the Mason/Dixon line, no group managed to fuse electric blues, hard rock by way of England and the genuine jazz aesthetic of open-ended improvisation like ABB. There was a sense of abandon and adventure in their musicianship that could conjure up music in turn utterly divine and downright dirty.
It's probably better left to an insider with more perspective than you can get in early 2005perhaps see ex-roadie Willie Perkins' recently published book No Saints No Saviorsto document the true history ofThe Allman Brothers Band. Let it be said right now though, that the story of this seminal southern bandcontains all the lore of true rock and roll mythology, containing as it does the tragedy of death, themelodrama of violent intra-band discord as well as the soap opera of romance, all within the de rigueurcomings and goings of a successful band including musical conflicts and business dealings. Aprospective movie script recounting these goings-on might be rejected for being implausible.
What's most remarkable of all is, on the eve of the group''s 35th anniversary, is that after all the sideroads , regressions and breakups, the newly-reconstituted band finds itself quite literally back where it all began. Comprised of a potent lineup of musicians, inspired by each other to pursue the collective adventure of being on stage together, meanwhile savoring a personal camaraderie that fosters the composition of new original material, refined studio work and the practical necessities of touring together, all the while allowing time for the individuals to pursue their respective interests. While perhaps not intending to, since in most cases, the decisions have been made based on its pure survival, The Allman Brothers Band have become a prototype of the fluid unit that thrives on flexibility at every level.
Who could've imagined there would be an ABB at the time of Duane Allman's untimely death in late 1971?'On the verge of a breakthrough to the masses based on grueling roadwork and the seminal live document of their shows Live at Fillmore East , the band minus its figurehead hardly faltered, playing at his funeral as a quintet, then trudging right back to the studio to complete the Eat A Peach album begun earlier that year. As a quintet, the group healed itself and bonded to fill the void left by their leader, finding its profile elevated by the death of the Skydog; the group had begun to regain its momentum when original bassist Berry Oakley, reportedly traumatized in the year following Duane's death, succumbed to a fatal motorcycle accident in eerily similar circumstances.
Having kept working during all this time, the decimated Allmans realigned themselves in multiple ways. Dickey Betts having become frontman by default as the remaining guitarist, he now became as prominent a songwriter for the group as sibling Gregg, proffering a country-tinged style that hit the chord of commercial prosperity with "Ramblin' Man." Quite unlike the Latin-tinged instrumentals he had previously written, such as "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," this tune, as well as a new signature song "Jessica," featured the tradeoffs between Betts and newly recruited pianist Chuck Leavell, whose sparkling playing rekindled much of the inspirational spark from the original lineup, albeit with a wholly different texture. Further augmented by the enlistment of bassist Lamar Williams, whose dark r&B lines underscored and contrasted the brighter tones of Betts and Leavell, ABB in 1973 completed a remarkable reinvention of themselves and the masses recognized it with prodigious sales of Brothers and Sisters