Artist: The Allman Brothers
Album: Idlewild South: 45th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Release Date: 12/04/2015
Instigated in 1969 by the now-fabled guitarist Duane Allman and instituted in the spirit of serious music-making within a Southern hippie brotherhood vibe, the six-piece interracial (one of the first ever) Allman Brothers Band quickly became one of the most influential groups in the history of American rock music. Idlewild South—the second of only three studio albums to feature brothers Duane and Gregg Allman—surges with the formula the band would continue to expand upon, and solely own, for 45 years. Their self-titled debut had generated a huge buzz for its unique and expert melding of slow-to-roaring blues, soul and jazz in a rock context. Idlewild introduced the compositional flair of Dickey Betts—himself an unusually fluid and inventive guitarist. Betts’ penchant for easier-riding, country-inflected ways added much to the dynamic. His “Revival” opens the album with gospel-like, countercultural joy wrapped in an irresistible melody and sing-along chorus. That gem, not at all dated, stands today as a singular accomplishment in the Allman Brothers canon.
Gregg Allman laid back in the groove too, delivering perhaps his best-known song, “Midnight Rider,” in the defiant drawl of a man very sure of himself in a mostly black music realm, but inside a country/beatnik beat. Funny thing is, it was his Laid Back solo album version three years later that became a hit. In the under-heralded “Please Call Home,” Allman wrenches out his blues as the music rolls and carries him gently. During the rare outtake (one of five extras) of Betts’ free-flowing instrumental opus “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” the guitar interplay juxtaposing Duane Allman’s fiery intensity with the author’s more direct and rounded tone bests the take on the album proper. And the fine outtake of Blind Willie McTell’s rowdy “Statesboro Blues” stands out, because it inexplicably never made one of the studio albums.
Surely, the most compelling reason for the die-hard to buy this package is the inclusion of an expanded and remarkably cleaned-up Live At Ludlow Garage 1970. The Ludlow album was always a must for the band’s slow burn through Ray Charles’ “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town,” and its barrage through John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples,” featuring an uncommon vocal by Duane Allman. But the sound was a rough mix. Finally, the album received its deserved spit-shine, and it’s a revelation. Anyone else looking to find out what The Allman Brothers Band are all about couldn’t possibly go wrong with this set as an introduction. However, those folks should certainly buy the recently re-mastered At Fillmore East along with it.
– Tom Clarke