|Studio album by The Allman Brothers Band|
|Released||September 23, 1970|
Capricorn Sound Studios
Criteria Studios, Atlantic South
Regent Sound Studios
(New York City)
|The Allman Brothers Band chronology|
|Singles from Idlewild South|
Idlewild South is the second studio album by American rock band the Allman Brothers Band. Produced by Tom Dowd, the album was released on September 23, 1970, in the United States by Atco Records and Capricorn Records.
Following the release of their 1969 debut, the Allman Brothers Band toured the United States extensively to promote the album, which barely made a dent on pop charts. Their performances, however, did create positive word of mouth coverage that extended to more famous musicians, such as Eric Clapton, who called upon group leader Duane Allman to contribute to his 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.
Due mostly to the band's relentless touring schedule, Idlewild South was recorded gradually over a period of five months in various cities, including New York, Miami, and Macon, Georgia, the band’s home. Tom Dowd had previously been arranged to record the group's debut but was unavailable. The material presented on Idlewild South was written during this period and tested out on the road at shows. The album's title comes from the band's nickname for a ramshackle, remote cabin the band rented out and used for rehearsals, as well as wild parties. Idlewild South contains two of the band's best-known songs, "Midnight Rider" (later a hit for various artists) and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed", which became one of the band's famous concert numbers.
The album was released in September 1970 but again failed to connect commercially. Sales began to grow, however, due to the band's touring schedule (they played over 300 shows in 1970), setting the stage for their artistic and commercial breakthrough with their follow-up, 1971's live album At Fillmore East.
By August 1969, the Allman Brothers Band had committed their first studio performance to tape, and their eponymously-titled debut was released that November through Atco and Capricorn Records. The record received a poor commercial response, selling less than 35,000 copies upon initial release. Executives suggested to the band's manager, Phil Walden, that he relocate the band to New York or Los Angeles to "acclimate" them to the industry. "They wanted us to act "like a rock band" and we just told them to fuck themselves," remembered Trucks. For their part, the members of the band remained optimistic, electing to stay in the South. "Everyone told us we’d fall by the wayside down there," said Gregg Allman, but the collaboration between the band and Capricorn Records "transformed Macon from this sleepy little town into a very hip, wild, and crazy place filled with bikers and rockers." Oakley's wife rented a large Victorian home on 2321 Vineville Avenue in Macon and the band moved into what they dubbed "the Big House" in March.
Idlewild South would be the band’s first effort with producer Tom Dowd, known for his work with artists such as Cream and John Coltrane. Dowd first heard the band rehearsing while visiting Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon, demanding to know their name and remarking to Walden, "Get them the hell out of there and give them to me in the studio. They don’t need to rehearse; they're ready to record." Dowd was initially scheduled to work with the band on their debut but was called away at the last minute. Initially, the band had asked friend and colleague Johnny Sandlin to produce their sophomore effort, but as recording inched closer, it became obvious they wanted him to co-produce with Dowd. In one of their first sessions, Sandlin was giving suggestions and acting as a co-producer, though no one had informed Dowd; Sandlin was very embarrassed and did not return to the studio.
Recording and production
The band moved to Criteria Studios in Miami, where Dowd felt more comfortable producing albums; he viewed the then-new Capricorn as still a work-in-progress and unfit to record in. The band was constantly on the road touring in the period in which Idlewild South was developed, leading to a fractured recording process completed in fits and starts. During short breaks they would receive from shows, they would reconvene with Dowd to continue work. In addition, group leader Duane Allman still received invitations to play as a session musician elsewhere; on the "rare instances when [the band] could return to Macon for a short break," Allman would hit the road for New York, Miami or Muscle Shoals to contribute to other artists' sessions. On days in which the band would be available, manager Walden would phone Dowd to inform him; he would often catch their show and spend the rest of the night in the studio.
Instead of using the recording techniques growing in popularity at that time, such as the advent of multitrack recording, the Allman Brothers Band opted to cut most of Idlewild South live, with all of the musicians performing together. On rare occasions would they go back to overdub sections that weren’t up to standard. “The idea is that part of the thing of the Allman Brothers is the spontaneity — the elasticity. The parts and tempos vary in a way that only they are sensitive to,” said Dowd. Duane would often make the decision to leave a song alone for more work and testing out on the road. "They would record maybe five songs. Then they might say, 'I don’t think that song was good enough,' or, 'I don't think that song was ready to record,'" remembered Dowd. Joel Dorn, predominantly a jazz producer for Atlantic, stepped in to produce one song on the album, "Please Come Home". (More songs were recorded, but only "Please Come Home" made the record.) The band were in New York at the time and Dowd was unavailable.
After nearly half a year and over three different recording studios, production wrapped up on Idlewild South by July 1970.
"Midnight Rider" came together when Gregg Allman and a roadie broke into the studio late one night to record it.
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"Revival" initially took shape as an instrumental, and lyrics were an afterthought. "An instrumental has to be real catchy and when you succeed it's very satisfying because you have transcended words and communicated with emotion. I don't really have a specific technique, but I put in hours of deliberation as to what note should follow each other in order to get the best phrase," said Betts. The song takes on a decidedly gospel flair midway through, accentuated by "old-fashioned church-like hand clapping." The Allman-penned "Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'" follows, featuring Duane on slide and Thom Doucette on harmonica; Douchette was an old friend of Oakley’s from their time in Florida. "Midnight Rider" developed quickly and featured lyrics written by roadie Robert Payne, who threw out the suggestion while getting high with Allman at their equipment warehouse. Unable to gain a key to the nearby Capricorn Sound Studios, the duo broke in and recorded a quick demo with Twiggs Lyndon on bass and Johnson on congas. Duane eventually laid down acoustic guitar tracks for both "Revival" and "Midnight Rider", as he was quicker to record and more technically savvy due to his session work in Muscle Shoals.
"In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" was penned by Betts for a woman he was involved with in Rose Hill, who was Boz Scaggs's girlfriend. "She was Hispanic and somewhat dark and mysterious—and she really used it to her advantage and played it to the hilt," said Betts. The song is named after a headstone Betts saw at the Rose Hill Cemetery, a place frequented by band members in their early days to relax and write songs. Considerable legend developed about what Betts was doing at the time, some originated by a possibly put-on interview Duane Allman gave Rolling Stone. The song contains a "droning organ" in addition to Betts' first real guitar solo on the record. The band's rearranged version of Muddy Waters's "Hoochie Coochie Man" featured Oakley on his only studio lead vocal, and was culled from his and Betts' days performing the number in their earlier band the Second Coming. The Allman Brothers version is nearly twice as fast as Waters' version. "Please Call Home" was cut in New York with jazz producer Joel Dorn in two takes, with Johnson switching from brushes to a mallet on the second, final take. "Leave My Blues at Home" contains hints of funk and a twin guitar melody reminiscent of album opener "Revival."
The album's title came from the band's nickname for a $165-a-month farmhouse it rented on a lake outside of Macon during the recording, the busy comings and goings at which reminded them of New York City's Idlewild Airport. Idlewild South was the home of rehearsals and parties, and was "where the brotherhood came to pass," according to roadie Robert Payne; "There was a pact made out there around a campfire—all for one and one for all. […] Everybody believed [in the band] 100 percent." Much of the material presented on the album originated at the cabin.
Scott Boyer spoke on the cabin's history in the 2008 book Skydog: The Duane Allman Story:
It was like a hunting cabin. The back of the house had a porch that was built out over a manmade lake that was maybe five or six acres. It was a cabin made out of old pinewood, and it had been there for a long time. […] The Allman Brothers used it as a rehearsal facility — that and a place to go maybe to consume a little something that wasn't quite legal. There were parties out there. It was in the middle of 130 acres of land — there weren't any house next door for anybody to hear what you were doing. Hell, they had target practice out there. Butch [Trucks] almost shot his foot off one night practicing quick draw."
Release and reception
Idlewild South was issued by Atco and Capricorn Records on September 23, 1970, less than a year after their debut. The album sold only "marginally better than its predecessor, though the band had a growing national reputation and the album included songs that would become staples of the band's repertoire—and eventually of rock radio." While the album did help boost the band's popularity, the Allman Brothers' name really grew in fame due to their live performances. Walden doubted the band’s future, worrying whether they would ever catch on, but word of mouth spread due to the band's relentless touring schedule, and crowds got larger.
Rolling Stone's Ed Leimbacher wrote that Idlewild South "augurs well for the Allmans' future," calling it "a big step forward from the Allmans' first" but considering the second side of the LP a disappointment. Robert Christgau at The Village Voice gave the album a "B+" and considered it a companion piece to Duane Allman's work on Layla, noting that "a lot of people think that Duane Allman is already a ranking titan of the electric guitar." A retrospective five-star review from Bruce Eder at Allmusic deemed it "the best studio album in the group's history, electric blues with an acoustic texture, virtuoso lead, slide, and organ playing, and a killer selection of songs."
All songs written by Gregg Allman, except where noted.
- Side one
- "Revival" (Dickey Betts) – 4:05
- "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'" – 3:31
- "Midnight Rider" (Allman, Robert Payne) – 3:00
- "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" (Betts) – 6:56
- Side two
- "Hoochie Coochie Man" (Willie Dixon) – 4:57
- "Please Call Home" – 4:02
- "Leave My Blues at Home" – 4:17
All credits adapted from liner notes.
- Freeman 1996, p. 59.
- Paul 2014, p. 64.
- Paul 2014, p. 65.
- Paul 2014, p. 66.
- Paul 2014, p. 71.
- Paul 2014, p. 72.
- Poe 2008, p. 144.
- Paul 2014, p. 73.
- Poe 2008, p. 143.
- Poe 2008, p. 147.
- Poe 2008, p. 148.
- Poe 2008, p. 150.
- Paul 2014, p. 74.
- Poe 2008, p. 151.
- Freeman 1995, p. 72.
- Paul 2014, p. 79.
- Patterson, R. Gary (2004). Take a Walk on the Dark Side: Rock and Roll Myths, Legends, and Curses. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-4423-0. pp. 42–43.
- Freeman 1995, p. 73.
- Poe 2008, p. 153.
- Paul 2014, p. 75.
- Paul 2014, p. 92.
- Poe 2008, p. 154.
- Paul 2014, p. 94.
- Freeman 1995, p. 74.
- Ed Leimbacher (December 24, 1970). "Reviews: Idlewild South and Layla". Rolling Stone (New York City: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc.) (73): 51. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
- Christgau, Robert (March 11, 1971). "Consumer Guide (16)". The Village Voice. Retrieved September 24, 2011.
- Bruce Eder. "Review: Idlewild South". Allmusic. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
- Idlewild South (liner notes). The Allman Brothers Band. US: Atco. 1970. SD 33-342.
- Paul, Alan (2014). One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1250040497.
- Freeman, Scott (1996). Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0316294522.
- Poe, Randy (2008). Skydog: The Duane Allman Story. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0879309398.
- Allman, Gregg; Light, Alan (2012). My Cross to Bear. William Morrow. ISBN 978-0062112033.