Laid Back (album)
|Studio album by Gregg Allman|
|Gregg Allman chronology|
|Singles from Laid Back|
Laid Back is the debut studio solo album by American singer-songwriter Gregg Allman, released in October 1973 by Capricorn Records. Allman, best known as the vocalist/lyricist of the Allman Brothers Band, first began considering a solo career after internal disagreements with that group. He developed the album as a small creative outlet wherein he would assume full control, and he co-produced the album alongside Johnny Sandlin. Laid Back was largely recorded in March 1973 at Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon, Georgia, with additional recording taking place at the Record Plant in New York City.
The album explores Allman's varying influences, including rhythm and blues and soul music. It consists of several cover songs, originals, and a traditional hymn, and contains performances from a host of musicians, most notably Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton on guitars, Bill Stewart on drums, and Charlie Hayward on bass guitar. The album was created while Allman also worked on Brothers and Sisters, the fourth Allman Brothers album. The album title was a studio term Allman coined for relaxing a song's tempo, while its cover was painted by Abdul Mati Klarwein.
Upon its release, Laid Back received positive reviews from music critics, and it peaked at number 13 on Billboard's Top LPs & Tape chart. To support the album, Allman embarked on an ambitious tour, consisting of a full band and an entire string orchestra. Two singles were released to promote the record, with lead single "Midnight Rider" becoming a top 20 hit in the U.S. and Canada. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 1974 for shipping 500,000 copies in the U.S., making it one of Allman's best-selling albums.
Gregg Allman first began exploring music during his teen years in Daytona Beach, Florida. He and his brother, Duane Allman, founded their first band, the Allman Joys, in the mid-1960s. That group evolved into the Hour Glass, which recorded two albums for Liberty Records between 1967 and 1968. Subsequently, the duo founded the Allman Brothers Band, which grew in fame in the early 1970s due to their live shows, which combined traditional electric blues, jazz-style improvisation and self-penned instrumentals. Their 1971 live album At Fillmore East represented a commercial and artistic breakthrough. Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle crash later that year, but the band continued on, recording 1972's Eat a Peach, a hybrid live/studio album that became an even greater success, shipping gold and peaking at number four on Billboard's Top 200 Pop Albums chart.
By that summer, the group began rehearsals for what would become their fourth studio album, Brothers and Sisters. Allman brought the band the song "Queen of Hearts", which he had worked on for, by that point, a year and a half. He was inebriated at the time, and the members would not consider the song. Later that night he returned to Capricorn Studios alone to work on his own songs. He worked for forty-two hours, slept for six, and returned for a final session that wound up lasting a further twenty-eight hours. "Mentally and physically exhausted," he was unhappy with his output, and discarded the tape reels in a trash can, hoping to set them aflame. Producer Johnny Sandlin walked in and convinced Allman to start over. Together, they worked on a cover of the Jackson Browne song "These Days", enlisting Scott Boyer to play pedal steel guitar on the track. Later in the year, he worked on several demos for the album at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida alongside friend Deering Howe and bassist Berry Oakley (who was killed in a motorcycle crash not long afterward).
Recording and production
Work stalled on Laid Back as production commenced on Brothers and Sisters, though the two were worked on roughly concurrently. Sandlin, a former Hour Glass bassist and longtime Allman friend, helped hire various session musicians to work on the album, including Boyer and Tommy Talton on guitars, Bill Stewart on drums, and Charlie Hayward on bass guitar. Allman likened the album's presence to a mistress, noting that the rest of the band were not thrilled. It slowed down progress on their own album, and it created tension between the group, particularly between Allman and guitarist Dickey Betts. Nevertheless, several Allman Brothers members made appearances on Laid Back, including Jaimoe, who provided congas, and Chuck Leavell, a new addition to the Brothers, who added piano. Leavell stayed in Macon after leaving Dr. John's band, and found himself contributing to both albums. Allman felt Leavell's style of playing fit the album perfectly: "He'd give you exactly what you wanted, without any questions, and if he embellished on a song, he made it even better."
Opening the album is a version of "Midnight Rider", which Allman first composed and recorded for the Allman Brothers Band's second album, Idlewild South (1970). For the new recording, Allman aimed for a "swamp"-like atmosphere, "with the image of moss hanging off the trees, alligators and fog, darkness, [and] witches," he later wrote. Boyer wrote the song "All My Friends", which Allman provides harmonies on. "I've always loved the Everly Brothers style of harmony, but I didn't want it to just follow the traditional 1–3–5 pattern," he recalled.
The album cover was painted by Abdul Mati Klarwein, best known for creating the artwork to Miles Davis's Bitches Brew (1971). Allman was introduced to him through a friend. Allman did not have the time to come sit for the painting, so Klarwein worked with a photograph. In Allman's book, My Cross to Bear he said "I loved that cover; I thought it turned out perfect. It cost me $1,500 back then, but today it would like $50,000, maybe even $150,000."  Allman's girlfriend at the time (and later wife) Janice Blair appears on the album's sleeve, riding a horse. The album's title was an inside reference to a studio term Allman coined for when a song had too much energy and needed to be more relaxed, or "laid back." He spoke more on the term in his later autobiography, My Cross to Bear:
|“||I've always pictured it this way: go at it as if you were Mr. Natural, that R. Crumb character. Mr. Natural's feet always got to where he was going before his head did, so "laid back" means don't dive in there headfirst. When I got the guys together who were going to play on my record, I told them to picture a Freak Brother, and they laughed for about half an hour, but they got it.||”|
Laid Back received glowing reviews from music critics at the time of its release. Rolling Stone reviewer Tony Glover said "Laid Back isn't quite what you'd expect from Gregg's work with the Brothers Band. Instead, it's a moody LP, often tinged with grandeur, and maybe just a little too rich and one-colored in spots. But on the whole, a moving look at another side of a finely charismatic singer/writer." Billboard named it a "Spotlight" pick among its Top Album Picks in November 1973, with the reviewer deeming it "a masterpiece of a set ... featuring exceptional displays of vocal and instrumental talent in many musical areas."
The album has continued to receive positive attention in the years since its release. Allmusic stated: "Recorded in the same year as the Brothers and Sisters album, this solo debut release is a beautiful amalgam of R&B, folk, and gospel sounds, with the best singing on any of Gregg Allman's solo releases." In 2006, Tom Moon of NPR reviewed the album as a part of his "Shadow Classics" series, calling it "amazing stuff, deep and intense yet nowhere near the decibel levels of his work with the [Allman Brothers] band. ... But he's equally compelling — maybe even more so — in a quieter space, when he's less fired up."
To promote the album, Allman embarked on a nationwide tour with the musicians who helped record the album as his band. Long inspired by Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen (1970), Allman hired a string orchestra to accompany the group. Drawn from the New York Philharmonic, it consisted of three cellos, six violins, and seven violas. The tour lasted one month and performed exclusively in upscale theaters, which Allman requested for the best sound quality possible. He found performing with the orchestra strikingly different than singing with the Allman Brothers Band, having to adjust his normal singing volume to blend better. A live album of material from the tour was released as The Gregg Allman Tour later that year, to help recoup costs for the tour. "I was really pleased with how the tour went. Some nights were better than others, but they were all good," Allman would later recall.
All tracks composed by Gregg Allman; except where indicated
- "Midnight Rider" (Allman, Robert Kim Payne) – 4:28
- "Queen of Hearts" – 6:17
- "Please Call Home" – 2:48
- "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing" (Oliver Sain) – 4:13
- "These Days" (Jackson Browne) – 3:56
- "Multi-Colored Lady" – 4:55
- "All My Friends" (Scott Boyer) – 4:32
- "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (Traditional; arranged by Allman & Johnny Sandlin) – 4:49
|Canada Top Albums (RPM)||19|
|US Top LPs & Tape (Billboard)||13|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||500,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
- Mike Mettler (April 2015). "The Road Goes on Forever for Gregg Allman". Palm Springs Life. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
- Sutherland, Sam (October 6, 1973). "Studio Track". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 85 (40): 14. ISSN 0006-2510.
- Bruce Eder. "Gregg Allman – All Music Guide". AllMusic. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
- Paul 2014, p. 94.
- Bruce Eder. "The Allman Brothers Band – All Music Guide". AllMusic. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
- Allman & Light 2012, p. 212.
- Allman & Light 2012, p. 213.
- Allman & Light 2012, p. 214.
- Allman & Light 2012, p. 216.
- Allman & Light 2012, p. 215.
- Laid Back (liner notes). Gregg Allman. US: Capricorn Records. 1973. CP 0116.
- Allman & Light 2012, p. 218.
- Allman & Light 2012, p. 232.
- Allmusic review
- Rolling Stone review
- Robert Christgau review
- "Top Album Picks". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 85 (47): 52. November 24, 1973. ISSN 0006-2510.
- Tom Moon (October 25, 2006). "Gregg Allman: A Classic in a Quieter Space". NPR.
- Allman & Light 2012, p. 217.
- "RPM Top Albums" (PDF). RPM. Ottawa: Library and Archives Canada. 21 (2). February 23, 1974. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
- "Laid Back – Gregg Allman – Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
- "American album certifications – Gregg Alman – Laid Back". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH