The Allman Brothers Band (album)
|The Allman Brothers Band|
|Studio album by The Allman Brothers Band|
|Released||November 4, 1969|
|Recorded||August 3–12, 1969
(New York City)
|The Allman Brothers Band chronology|
|Singles from The Allman Brothers Band|
The Allman Brothers Band is the debut studio album by American rock band the Allman Brothers Band. Produced by Adrian Barber, the album was released on November 4, 1969, in the United States by Atco Records and Capricorn Records. The album was recorded and mixed in two weeks at Atlantic Studios in New York City. Much of the material presented was premiered live over the preceding months and combines jazz, blues and country music to varying degrees.
Much of the material collected on The Allman Brothers Band was written between the period of May to August 1969 and premiered live. According to drummer Jai Johanny Johanson, the group gauged crowd reaction to the numbers and adjusted the songs accordingly. "Before we went into the studio, we had a very clear idea of what we were all trying to do musically and that it was unique, totally different from anything else that anyone was playing," said Betts. "From the earliest rehearsals, we all had the same mind-set."
The band had no commercial success in mind, having had troublesome experiences individually in the past with producers and labels that pushed for radio hits. The band felt that with time they would develop a small, devoted following and be strong enough to collect $3–4,000 dollars per night.
Recording and production
The band set off for New York City in August 1969, and faced setbacks along the way, such as their equipment truck breaking down in South Carolina. In addition, they had arranged to work with Cream producer Tom Dowd, who was unavailable; Atlantic Records house engineer Adrian Barber stepped in to record the sessions in his first producer credit. "I was supposed to have done the first album with the band up in New York, but some way or other I got detoured. Jerry Wexler made a deal to keep them in the studio for three or four days when they were supposed to be with me," recalled Dowd.
The Allman Brothers Band was recorded and mixed in two weeks, and according to biographer Alan Paul, "virtually no outtakes exist from the sessions." Staying at the "closest Holiday Inn to 1841 Broadway," the band had performed their songs countless times in the preceding months and "[had] them down cold." Ray Charles had recorded on the studio's house Hammond organ, but Gregg Allman set up his own instead, feeling unable to play on the same instrument Charles played. A red light on the recording board would go on when the band began recording, and it made Gregg Allman nervous; in order to perform takes as needed, he unscrewed the light. The two week booking was initially designed for laying down basic tracks, with overdubs following later, but the group ended up cutting the entire record in six non-consecutive days. They first entered Atlantic Studios that Sunday night (August 3) to "get sounds"; the band layed down the album's openers, "Don’t Want You No More" and "It's Not My Cross to Bear", as well as "Dreams," which the band set aside. "Dreams" and previously been recorded as a demo at Macon’s new Capiricorn Studios in April.
On August 5, the band cut "Black Hearted Woman" and "Trouble No More", and the group completed "Whipping Post" after another day off on August 7 (it took the entirety of that day’s session to complete the recording). The next day, the band attempted to record "Statesboro Blues," which was the song that influenced Duane Allman to begin slide playing. Unable to achieve the same energy as it would performed live, the band scrapped the recording and session for the day. "Every Hungry Woman" was recorded on August 11, and their last day in the studio on Tuesday, August 12 produced a final version of "Dreams". Johnson remembered the process as only taking four days; "We went in there, played our asses off, and that was it; we were done in four days and they spent the rest of the time mixing," said Johnson.
Johnson, Betts and Oakley were unfamiliar with studio recording, but nevertheless did not feel intimidated. "They were out of their element in New York, hustled by a chap with an English accent," said Dowd of Barber. He spoke of Barber's direction as "perhaps intimidating, or push-push, shove-shove. 'Do what the guy says and let’s get out of here.'" "Dreams", which later gained regard among band members as the high point of the record, was the only song in which the group got stuck, due to Duane Allman's displeasure with his guitar solo. The performance captured on record came when Duane instructed the other members to turn of all the lights in the studio after the day's session, and sat in a corner beside his amp and baffle. Allman played slide (which was not employed in previous attempts) and improvised the performance, bringing all of the members to tears. "It was unbelievable," recalled Trucks. "It was just magic. It’s always been that the greatest music we played was from out of nowhere, that it wasn’t practiced, planned, or discussed."
During their tenure in New York, the group made their debut over three nights at Ungano's in Manhattan, a club that would eventually become regarded within the ensemble as their "second home." Following their sessions, the band returned to Macon; Duane continued to travel to Muscle Shoals often to work as a session musician. Gregg Allman felt the band had rushed through their debut recording and was later unhappy with his vocal sound on the record; "They were recorded with the regular old tape echo "Heartbreak Hotel" setting," he recalled. Barber disagreed with this assessment, and, not wanting to cause any quarrels, Allman backed away.
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The arrangements on The Allman Brothers Band were largely crafted upon Gregg Allman's arrival in Jacksonville, Florida in March 1969. Most of the songs were devised from longer, impromptu jam sessions. The group's style evolved from a mix of jazz, country music, blues and rock, which was the result of each individual member turning the others onto their particular interests. Trucks introduced Johnson to the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones; Johnson likewise introduced the group to jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and Betts did the same with country music and Chuck Berry. Duane Allman had previously listened to Davis and Coltrane before Johnson's suggestion, and his two favorite songs — Coltrane's version of "My Favorite Things" and Miles Davis' "All Blues" — were the basis for the majority of the band's modal jamming, "without a lot of chord changes."
The album opens with an instrumental, a cover of Spencer Davis' "Don't Want You No More," which had previously been employed on set lists of the Second Coming, Berry and Betts' former act. Allman and Betts' guitars perform in unison on a five-note melody while Johnson concentrates on his hi-hat, with Gregg Allman's organ receiving a solo section. The song contains two guitar solos, with the latter "[coming] in behind the first one for a darting buildup that sound[s] like something taken from Brahms." It segues into a "lazy blues shuffle" titled "It's Not My Cross to Bear," which Allman had written in Los Angeles for a former lover. "Black Hearted Woman," also penned on the same subject, follows, and the album returns to a blues-based sound with a cover of "Trouble No More," featuring Duane’s debut bottleneck guitar performance.
Among the most changed were two songs that would become the basis for two of the Allman Brothers' most famed epic concert numbers: "Dreams" and "Whipping Post". Oakley "played a huge role in the band’s arrangements," changing numbers such as "Whipping Post" from a ballad structure to a more hard-rocking song. "Dreams" developed from a jam in which the band toyed with the theme to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and has been referred to by Johnson as Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" with lyrics. Johnson's drum fills were pulled from Jimmy Cobb's performance on "All Blues"; he later commented that he "did a lot of copying, but only from the best." "Dreams" begins with "intricate, subdued drums playing under a soft organ with only the hint of guitars before Gregg begins singing about disillusionment and broken dreams."
The final song on the record, "Whipping Post," was written shortly after Allman returned to Jacksonville. The song came to him shortly before bed, but he was unable to acquire a pencil and paper to write down his ideas, as there was a child asleep in the room and he could not turn on the lights. Turning to his next best alternative, he struck two kitchen matches (one for light and one, later blown out, as a charcoal writing utensil) and wrote down his lyrics on a bedside ironing board. "Whipping Post" was similar in composition to "Dreams" in its first incarnation, with Oakley later creating the heavy bassline that starts off the track. Duane and Betts take quick solos before the track builds to an "anguished climax," leading to Gregg Allman's solo voice, singing the song's refrain: "Good Lord, I feel like I'm dyin'." Allman had no idea the intro was written in 11/4 time — "I just saw it as three sets of three, and then two to jump on the next three sets with" — until his brother pointed it out for him. "My brother told me — I guess the day I wrote it — he said, 'That's good, man. I didn’t know you understood 11/4.' Of course I said something intelligent like, 'What's 11/4?' Duane just said, 'Okay, dumbass, I'll try to draw it up on paper for you.'"
Gregg Allman's lyrical contributions to the band's debut album have been called "remarkably mature lyrical conceptions for such a young man, expertly executed in a minimalist, almost haiku style." Allman's inspiration came from his time in Los Angeles as a part of Hour Glass, "getting fucked by different land sharks in the business," experiencing great frustration among fierce competition. The traditional blues songs were, likewise, regarded as "songs that were so good they couldn’t be left off the album."
The cover for the album was taken by photographer Stephen Paley. Paley had gotten to know Duane Allman during photo shoots for Atlantic. Paley stayed for "about a week" in Macon with the band, partying with girls and doing drugs with the group. He and the group approached any areas about the town that appeared photogenic, such as "fields, old houses, railroad tracks, [and] the cemetery." The front album cover photo was taken at the entrance of the College House (now owned by Mercer University) next door at 315 College Street. The back cover photo of the album was taken at the Bond Tomb at Rose Hill Cemetery located at 1091 Riverside Drive in Macon.
The gatefold cover of the vinyl LP features the band posing nude in a brook. The shot was original manager Phil Walden's idea, and the brook was on his brother's property. "The [inner sleeve] photo was taken in Round Oak, Georgia, down behind my log cabin there, which is also the back of Otis Redding's Big O Ranch," recalled Alan Walden. Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner was present with Boz Scaggs, who he was producing at the time. The group brought bubbles to cover themselves up, but the bubbles were washed away by the stream. Trucks had sliced his leg open that day before the shoot, requiring thirteen stitches, and was unable to get in the water; he is standing behind Oakley in the shot. Walden suggested the band take a few shots standing full-frontal; the band was reluctant but he assured them they would never see the light of day. At their first performance at the Fillmore East that December, Trucks discovered the full-frontal shots were printed in a broadsheet alternative newspaper.
"I never liked a band more. I was one of them," said Paley. "It was like being a rock star. I hung out with a lot of rock stars but no one ever did that to the same extent. There was just an ease to the whole thing. They really were the kindest, most fun band I ever worked with."
Release and reception
The Allman Brothers Band saw release in November 1969 through Atco and Capricorn Records. Atco was a subsidiary label of Atlantic Records, and Phil Walden had not even created a logo for Capricorn Records yet; instead, the LP featured an Atco label with a "barely noticeable" line reading "Capricorn Records Series." The record received a poor commercial response, selling less than 35,000 copies upon initial release. Executives suggested to 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."
The band played shows along the East Coast in December 1969, attempting to kick-start the record onto Billboard's Top 200 Pop Albums chart. In January, the band performed at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia and the Fillmore West in San Francisco before debuting at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles, representing the Allmans' first engagement there since their days in the Hour Glass. On the third day of their Whisky residency, the album logged at number 188 on the top 200, "enough to prove that the ABB was more than a regional outfit." Capricorn issued "Black Hearted Woman" as the album’s single, edited down to nearly two minutes shorter in an effort to place on top 40 radio. Despite Ed Och's rave review in Billboard, the single failed to register on pop radio. Rather than employing the standard cover shot for the advertising campaign, marketing rather emphasized the nude group shot, alongside a quote from Och's Billboard review, describing the group as a "bad bunch of electric Southern longhairs."
Rolling Stone's Lester Bangs called the album "consistently [...] subtle, and honest, and moving," describing the band as "a white group who've transcended their schooling to produce a volatile blues-rock sound of pure energy, inspiration and love." A retrospective review from Bruce Eder at Allmusic stated it "might be the best debut album ever delivered by an American blues band, a bold, powerful, hard-edged, soulful essay in electric blues with a native Southern ambience."
All songs written by Gregg Allman, except where noted.
- Side one
- "Don't Want You No More" (Spencer Davis, Edward Hardin) – 2:29
- "It's Not My Cross to Bear" – 4:48*
- "Black Hearted Woman" – 5:20
- "Trouble No More" (McKinley Morganfield) – 3:47
- Side two
- "Every Hungry Woman" – 4:16
- "Dreams" – 4:16
- "Whipping Post" – 4:16
"It's Not My Cross to Bear" ends in a fade-out on most LP, tape, and CD editions of the album. However, original Atco Records LP pressings of the album (catalog no. SD 33-308) follow the fade-out with a "fade-in" to a cold close, adding several seconds to the song's running time.
All credits adapted from liner notes.
|US Top 200 Pop Albums||188|
- Paul 2014, p. 52.
- Freeman 1996, p. 58.
- Paul 2014, p. 51.
- Poe 2008, p. 124.
- Allman & Light 2012, p. 139.
- Poe 2008, p. 126.
- Poe 2008, p. 125.
- Paul 2014, p. 53.
- Allman & Light 2012, p. 140.
- Paul 2014, p. 56.
- Paul 2014, p. 60.
- Paul 2014, p. 61.
- Freeman 1996, p. 59.
- Freeman 1996, p. 60.
- Paul 2014, p. 55.
- Freeman 1996, p. 61.
- Paul 2014, p. 58.
- Poe 2008, p. 128.
- Paul 2014, p. 59.
- Poe 2008, p. 129.
- Paul 2014, p. 64.
- Paul 2014, p. 65.
- Paul 2014, p. 66.
- Poe 2008, p. 137.
- Poe 2008, p. 138.
- Lester Bangs (February 21, 1970). "Review: The Allman Brothers Band". Rolling Stone (New York City: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc.) (52): 52. ISSN 0035-791X.
- Bruce Eder. "Review: The Allman Brothers Band". Allmusic. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
- The Allman Brothers Band (liner notes). The Allman Brothers Band. US: Atco. 1969. SD 33-308.
- 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.