Graded on a Curve:
The Allman Brothers,
Eat a Peach

You can say what you want about yours truly, but you’ve got to grant me this much; not knowing jack squat about a thing has never stopped me from writing about it. No, I am not one those lily-livered sorts who let something as minor as complete ignorance stand in the way of stating an opinion.

Take the Allman Brothers. I’ve been a detractor for years, based largely on an LP (1971’s At Fillmore East) I’ve never actually listened to. But the way I see it, I don’t have to listen to it; it’s enough for me to know that it contains such interminable blues numbers as “Whippin’ Post” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” for me to write it off out of hand. The road, as Gregg Allman sang, may go on forever, but that’s no reason a song should.

But the recent passing of brother Gregg inspired me to give the Allmans another listen. I mean, ignorance may be its own reward, but sooner or later you have to suck it up and learn something, as unpleasant as that is. That said, I lacked the intestinal fortitude to give At Fillmore East a spin. But 1972’s double-LP Eat a Peach, why not??

And so I did. And I’m here to say that actually listening to the Allman Brothers mostly corroborates what I already believed about the Allman Brothers; to wit, they’re a powerful blues band when they keep things short, and they’re a great band when they write songs that break out of the blues idiom, but set them loose to meander and they’ll wear out your patience, and then wear it out some more. Indeed, on “Mountain Jam” they wear out your patience to the tune of exactly 33 minutes and 38 seconds. You actually have to take Side Two off and put Side Four on to listen to “Mountain Jam” in its entirety, which cannot be an easy thing when you’re as stoned as you have to be to want to listen to “Mountain Jam” in its entirety. Many an argument must have taken place over which wildly tripping hippie was going to stagger to his feet and do the album turning. Well I say kick out the jam, brothers and sisters. Kick it right off the LP.

The good news about Eat a Peach is that the Allmans keep the blues numbers within reasonable lengths. The other good news is that the blues numbers on the album are very good blues numbers indeed. The live “One Way Out” not only bubbles and percolates but is redolent with authentic dread, while the band’s live take of Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More” sets off sparks thanks to Duane Allman’s inimitable slide guitar work. Meanwhile, both the cocksure “Stand Back”—on which Gregg delivers a bravura vocal performance, and Duane soars—and “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” deliver the boogie. The latter was recorded after Duane’s untimely death, but Dickey Betts plays some slide guitar worthy of his late co-guitarist, while Gregg plays some bouncy piano and once again serves up some great vocals.

I have always loved extraordinarily lovely “Melissa,” and the same goes for the sweet as summer honeysuckle “Blue Sky,” on which Betts’ guitar twists and turns and shines in its bends like a clear mountain stream. Both are Southern Rock at its delirious best, pretty but not at all cloying and delightful in their sinuousness. “Lord you know it makes me high/When you turn your love my way,” sings Betts in his nasal drawl, before launching into a guitar solo that not only dances like a butterfly but glistens in the early morning Georgia sun. Hell, you can practically smell the corn ripening. This is the best evocation this side of Van Morrison of being stoned by the simple joy of being alive under the blue country sky.

“Mountain Jam” offers, if you can actually sit down and listen to the whole thing, some rich rewards, but it also suffers from the same afflictions—the chief of which are the benighted drum solo, an equally irksome bass solo, and some prolonged organ noodling by Gregg that leaves me cold—as its early seventies’ rock bloat brethren. On the plus side “Mountain Jam” is more Grateful Dead ramble than blues rumble; on the negative side it meanders like a shaggy dog stopping to sniff at every damn weed it passes on its shambolic way down a dirt road. Which isn’t to say that both Allman and Betts don’t play some great guitar, or that the song at its best doesn’t generate real excitement. They do, and it does—in fits and starts. But the real question is—will I ever sit down and pay real attention to this monolithic slab of boogie again? Of course I won’t. I would have to be mad.

Eat a Peach is a very good album that would be a great album if it were a single album instead of a double album. It would be an ever greater album than 1973’s Brothers and Sisters, I think, because Duane Allman, whether you’re a blues lover or not, was a thrilling guitarist with mad skills, and as everybody knows he was dead before the Allman Brothers got around to recording Brothers and Sisters. Alas, “Mountain Jam” takes up two of the LP’s four sides, and that’s at least one side too many. A foreshortened “Mountain Jam” and another side of real songs and hey, Eat a Peach would be one for the ages. A real humdinger. But instead we get a drum solo. And a bass solo. I mean, gee whiz. Talk about your buzz harshers, brothers and sisters.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B

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  • Derek Christian

    I did not read your above series of words and paragraphs which, I suppose, you term “an article,” at all which, according to you, gives me the complete right to tell you that the letters that you conjured up on screen by raking your ass across the keyboard betray the advanced state of dementia brought on by your coprolitic mind. Funny thing is, I’m not even a big ABB fan, but your willful pig ignorance about their very raison d’être makes me want to skull fuck you. Write about something you know, like making booger sculptures, or bands you know something about – such as Hanson, or Ohio Express – and leave the actual journalism to those who bring more to a “review” other than opinion which, in your case, are simply malformed thoughts and brain droolings.

    • dan_oz

      “Funny thing is, I’m not even a big ABB fan, but your willful pig ignorance about their very raison d’être makes me want to skull fuck you”,

      This implies that the ABB had a raison d’etre, & that the author has a dick.

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