Saturday, June 9, 2018

Double Live Album!: Gregg Allman, Live: Back to Macon, GA

Since I seem to only write one of these every six months or so, here are my rules again on what qualifies to be considered:

  • The album will need to be at least two vinyl LPs (which means Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty isn’t eligible). For compact disks, I’ve set the minimum running time at 68 minutes – so I may have a single CD here from time to time.
  • Reissues that add to the running time are okay. Cheap Trick has reissued At Budokan in a two-disk version, so that would be okay.
  • I’m also okay with reviewing albums that are a combination of studio and live, as long as the live content is more than 2/3 of the total running time. (David Bowie’s Station to Station has been reissued with a full concert from Nassau Coliseum, which bumped the running time up to 135 minutes or so.)
  • I’m not going to review comedy albums (most comedy albums are live, anyway) or classical albums (no background in the subject).

Gregg Allman, Live: Back to Macon, GA

Year Issued: 2015

Running Time: 89:57

Dates of Live Performance: January 14, 2014, at the Grand Opera House, Macon

Track Listing:
Statesboro Blues
I’m No Angel
Queen of Hearts
I Can’t Be Satisfied
These Days

Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More
Brightest Smile in Town
Hot ‘Lanta
I’ve Found a Love
Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’

Before the Bullets Fly
Midnight Rider
Love Like Kerosene
Whipping Post

One Way Out

Background: Allman made piles of live albums with The Allman Brothers Band (I count six full live album releases during their career, plus a bunch of retrospective live albums released on their own label as their career was winding down), but he only made one solo live LP (1974’s The Gregg Allman Tour, which is still available for download), so this one is a welcome addition. Allman’s solo tastes run a little more toward R&B than The Allman Brothers Band, so there’s a three-piece horn section on most of the songs.

Does It Have the Hits?: “Ramblin’ Man” was written and sung by Dickey Betts, so that’s not here. Other than that, yes – eight of the sixteen songs here were originally by the Allmans, so even if none of them were “hits” in the Top 40 sense, you’ll be familiar with most of them. “I’m No Angel,” which was a major AOR solo hit for Allman in 1987, is also here.

Any Rarities?: Not really. There’s a remake of the old Wilson Pickett classic “I Found a Love,” but everything else appears to have been recorded previously by Allman either solo or with the Allman Brothers.

Studio Tracks?: None.

Musicians: This is embarrassing; the copy I have doesn’t have liner notes (bought it for a dollar at the library), so I’m picking this up from an Amazon review. Gregg Allman, guitar, keyboards, and vocals; Scott Sharrard, guitar; Jay Collins, saxophone; Art Edmaiston, saxophone; Dennis Marion, trumpet; Mark Quinones, percussion; Steve Potts, drums; Ron Johnson, bass; Ben Stivers, organ and keyboards.

Performance: Really good, considering Allman was 66 years old and had undergone a liver transplant a few years earlier (and, of course, he would die of liver cancer three years later). Allman’s voice sounds great, and the horn section shakes things up enough to ensure it’s not an “Allman Brothers music without the actual band” album. It’s nice to hear his version of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” as well (Allman recorded it for his first solo album, which came out the same month as Browne’s solo version on For Everyman ­– although Nico had made the first version of the song years before).

Sound Quality: Fine. There are a couple of sour notes on some of the vocals, but since this was a one-night only performance, they couldn’t pick the best one of several. I’d rather have the sour notes than have someone sweeten it in postproduction.

Any Songs Over 10 Minutes?: Just “One Way Out” at 11:28. For Allman, who spent a lifetime playing with a jam band, that’s restrained.

Warning, Will Robinson: The drum solo is on “One Way Out.”

Stage Patter: Virtually none. Gregg greets the audience after the first song, and thanks them for attending after the last one.

Still Available: Only released three years ago, so yes. My physical copy may have been missing liner notes, but it came with a Blu Ray disc of the concert and interviews with Allman (which I haven’t watched yet). The MP3 download is just $9.49 on Amazon. My theory is record labels have been throwing in DVDs and Blu Rays over the last few years not because they care if you can actually see the concert, but because they’re a lot harder to copy than music CDs, and collectors will feel like they’re missing something if they don’t have the whole package.

Chart History: Didn’t chart, to my knowledge. It’s on Rounder Records, which is an independent label with an affinity for folk and blues (Allman released two studio albums on the label in addition to this one).

Any More Live Albums?: Just this and The Gregg Allman Tour as a solo act. But as for the Allman Brothers Band, there’s a long and impressive list.
  • At Fillmore East/The Fillmore Concerts – Their first, and their most important live album, even though they’d only recorded two studio albums to this point. I have The Fillmore Concerts (two CDs), which is great; I would like to get At Fillmore East Deluxe Edition, which adds “Midnight Rider.” The single-CD At Fillmore East version (it was two LPs when originally released on vinyl in 1972) seems a little skimpy, but it’s the easiest one to find. The six-CD set seems more than anyone will ever need. I’ll probably review this separately at some point.
  • Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas – Meh. Product for product’s sake when the band had basically broken up.
  • An Evening With the Allman Brothers Band: First Set – I got this as a free download; it’s okay.
  • An Evening With the Allman Brothers Band: Second Set – The followup, obviously.
  • Peakin’ at the Beacon – Recorded in 2000, so of some value to hear Gregg after he’d sobered up and Dickey Betts before he was pitched from the band.
  • One Way Out – 2003 album with Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks.

As I noted earlier, there are a bunch of archival live albums, including several released under the band’s own label. The latter are recorded directly from the sound board, so any mistakes have been kept in. I have three of those from the days before Duane Allman died (American University 12/13/70; Boston Common, 8/17/71; S.U.N.Y. at Stonybrook, Stonybrook, NY 9/19/71), and they’re all pretty good; S.U.N.Y. at Stonybrook provides the most bang for the buck, running over an hour and 45 minutes.

Is It an Absolute Necessity?: Of course not – start with Fillmore Concerts, then see if you’re a fan. But this is a lot of fun.

My Favorite Song: “Whipping Post” isn’t my favorite Allman Brothers song (that honor goes to either “Midnight Rider,” “Revival,” or “Jessica”), but the addition of the horn section here makes it an entirely different song, and one that should be played on classic rock stations. If they were willing to play that stupid unplugged version of Eric Clapton’s “Layla,” there’s no reason this couldn’t be dropped into the rotation occasionally. “Statesboro Blues,” “These Days,” and “One Way Out” are also quite good. These all range from sounding almost exactly like the Allmans’ version (“Statesboro Blues”) to not much like their version at all (“Whipping Post”), so your love of this may depend on how much of a purist you are.