Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Allman Brothers Band

  • Idlewild South [Atco, 1970] B+
  • Live at the Fillmore East [Capricorn, 1971] B-
  • Eat a Peach [Capricorn, 1972] B
  • Brothers and Sisters [Capricorn, 1973] A-
  • Win, Lose or Draw [Capricorn, 1975] C
  • The Road Goes On Forever [Capricorn, 1975] A-
  • Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas [Capricorn, 1976] B-
  • Enlightened Rogues [Capricorn, 1979] C+
  • Hell & High Water [Arista, 1994] Neither
  • Mycology: An Anthology [Epic, 1998] **
  • One Way Out: Live at the Beacon Theatre [Sanctuary/Peach, 2004] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Idlewild South [Atco, 1970]
Anybody who can comp for Aretha Franklin and ghost as the fifth Domino is obviously on his way to titanhood. One guitarist never made an album, though, and this is a lot more than brother Duane's showcase. Backup guitarist Dickey Betts puts in two songs of inspiration--"Revival" shoulda been a hit--and Berry Oakley's bright "Hoochie Coochie Man" is a relief from the one-dimensional moan of the real leader of this band: little brother Gregg, whose "Midnight Rider" puts me in a forgiving mood anyway. B+

Live at the Fillmore East [Capricorn, 1971]
Four sides comprising seven titles--only two of them repeated (ad infinitum) from the band's studio albums--and they sure do boogie. But even if Duane Allman plus Dickey Betts does equal Jerry Garcia, the Dead know roads are for getting somewhere. That is, Garcia (not to bring in John Coltrane) always takes you someplace unexpected on a long solo. I guess the appeal here is the inevitability of it all. B-

Eat a Peach [Capricorn, 1972]
Side three is a magnificent testament. It opens with Gregg doing Sonny Boy Williamson justice, wrenches through some of the most formally intense accompaniment Duane ever played, skips into a high-spirited Dickey Betts tune, and provides a coda for a whole sensibility in one two-minute acoustic duet. Side one sandwiches two subordinary Greggeries around an instrumental excursion that sounds like Dickey OD-ing on Live/Dead. And sides two and four comprise thirty-four minutes with an all-too-relaxing theme by Donovan Leitch. I know the pace of living is slow down there, but this verges on the comatose. And all the tape in the world isn't going to bring Duane back. B

Brothers and Sisters [Capricorn, 1973]
Simplicity can be a virtue--the nice thing about the Allmans is that when they put two five-year-olds on the cover we know it's not some "decadent" joke. Gregg Allman is a predictable singer who never has an unpredictable lyric to work with anyway, and the jams do roll on, but at their best--"Ramblin' Man," a miraculous revitalization of rock's earliest conceit--they just may be the best, and on this album Dickey Betts's melodious spirituality provides unity and renewal. A-

Win, Lose or Draw [Capricorn, 1975]
I've been telling cynics that the Brothers haven't broken up. Now I feel like maybe I was taken. C

The Road Goes On Forever [Capricorn, 1975]
Not all of it is great as those who crave it all believe. But given how poorly the Brothers' live extrapolations fare without their spectacular visuals, this seventeen-cut, two-record compilation is the one to own if one is all you need. A-

Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas [Capricorn, 1976]
I suppose Duane (as well as Berry) is missed on this second ABB live double--Dickey's guitar ripples begin to sound like mirages over the long haul. But as boogie Muzak it's only marginally less useful than Live at the Fillmore. "Whipping Post"! B-

Enlightened Rogues [Capricorn, 1979]
The heartening sense of overall conviction here doesn't extend to many specifics, with the surprising exception of Gregg's rough yet detailed vocals. But Ronnie Van Zant himself couldn't breathe life into these songs, most of which Dickey Betts was saving up for the third Great Southern album--now never to be heard, which is one good thing. C+

Hell & High Water [Arista, 1994] Neither

Mycology: An Anthology [Epic, 1998]
that's Warren Haynes, rhymes with Duane's ("End of the Line," "Nobody Knows") **

One Way Out: Live at the Beacon Theatre [Sanctuary/Peach, 2004]
The best live album of their career because both age and youth suit them, and because--just compare this 2003-vintage double-CD to the recently dug-out Atlanta International Pop Festival set or the expanded Live at the Fillmore East--they're better now than they ever were. Right, the original Allmans were true visionaries, and there's no reason to think Warren Haynes or Derek Trucks would have become what they became in the blank space that vision filled. But both have more chops than 2001 layoff Dickey Betts or, sorry, Duane himself. On their solo/leader records, both prove better-than-average virtuosos. But in the band context they have the good sense to play Duane's kind of music. Power audio, curtailed drum solos, and songs not yet buried alive in the uncharted expanses of the Allmans' live catalog finish the concept, and at 55 Gregg finally sounds as if there's more to a man's life than the parlous fate of his latest erection. A-

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