By Jack Sharkey, October 4, 2016

The seminal American band that may or may not have been the first “Southern Rock” band, your lexicon of American music is not complete without at least a passing knowledge of their music. To serve as an introduction to those who may not be familiar with the ABB’s body of work, this Essential Downloads will concentrate on the early period from 1969 to 1973 with a few later songs thrown in, but once you get in the groove, there’s a wealth of great material from the 80s and 90s that you should also check out. Before you compose your nastygram to me about the glaring omissions, if even the least familiar person isn’t aware of Midnight Rider and Ramblin’ Man, there is nothing this silly little list can fo to help.  


Essential Downloads: The Allman Brothers Band 

Statesboro Blues (Live At the Fillmore East). The slide work by Duane. Berry Oakley’s funky bass. The groove that Dickie Betts wraps around Gregg Allman’s snarly vocal. Yeah, that stuff is all great, but lawdy, lawdy, lawdy, listen to Jaimoe and Butch Trucks in the nineteen second intro and you will know what touch and feel and funk sound like.


Dreams (The Allman Brothers Band or Beginnings). An ethereal waltz through inner-anguish and desperation, Duane Allman’s lead guitar after the first verse is maybe the most beautiful and poignant three minuts of guitar work ever recorded. Berry Oakley’s bass falls in and out of Allman’s lead almost without notice – all the more reason to listen carefully to it.   


Whipping Post (The Allman Brothers Band or Live At the Fillmore East). The 11/8 (3-3-3-2) time signature in the opening riff has ABB - Big Housedriven many a garage band to distraction over the past 45 years, but this is the song that introduced the world to the power and pain of Gregg Allman’s vocals. The live version from Fillmore East is an amazing example of pure power and virtuosity.   


Revival (Idlewild South or Beginnings). This is a band that is having fun and it is unavoidable, plus, these guys were awfully good. Listen to Duane Allman’s guitar answer each of Gregg’s lines in the verse and then ascend as the chorus kicks in. It’s simple, but pure genius.


In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (Idlewild South or Beginnings). Dickie Betts begins to show his prowess as a song writer in this lovely instrumental that showcases the band’s talent probably better than any other song they did. Again, the live version on Fillmore East is simply amazing.


Please Call Home (Idlewild South). Somebody breaking your heart? Listen to this song. It’s a simple blues run turned into a ballad, but that simplicity perfectly underscores Allman’s plaintive plea to a former lover. Allman’s use of his upper register and nasal voice showcases a singer at the peak of his powers.


Blue Sky (Eat A Peach). If you find something to complain about during this five minutes and 10 seconds of sheer brilliance, you may never, ever, be happy about anything. Ever. Betts and Allman play pure country over top of a gentle shuffle that pretty much evokes everything good about being alive. Listen very carefully on the original master to producer Tom Dowd saying “very nice gentlemen” as the songs fades away.  


Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More (Eat A Peach). Written in part as an ode to the life of Duane Allman, Gregg Allman succinctly explains everything the culture was feeling in 1971 as well as what a brother was feeling after the untimely death of his beloved older brother. This is a great song, but it’s the backstory that makes it transcendent.  


Melissa (Eat A Peach). Dickie Betts steps up and fills the void left by Duane Allman’s passing in Gregg Allman's beautiful lament to a lover that may exist only in the mind of the story-teller. Berry Oakley’s bass line is simply stunning and worthy of as much attention as you can pay to it.


Stand Back (Eat A Peach). From the fierce opening riff to Oakley’s bass breakdown, this is one that will get you moving in whatever direction your energy happens to be taking you at that moment. Also one of the finest examples of Duane Allman’s slide work on record.  


Southbound (Brothers & Sisters). Dickie Betts’ influence is pronounced throughout Brother & Sisters but no more so than in this raver that is really listened to best while travelling quickly on an Interstate. New additions Chuck Leavell (piano) and Lamar Williams (who came on board after Berry Oakey’s death in 1972) help the band regain its footing and lift the dynamic to places that were always an expected part of what this band could do.


Jessica (Brothers & Sisters). Don’t get me wrong, this is a great song even without the piano, but Chuck Leavell’s piano solo is the quintessential example of what talent and practice can do when matched with feel – regardless of instrument. Leavell’s piano is simply stunning.


Can’t Lose What You Never Had (Win, Lose or Draw). The band was a shell of its former self and this is not a very good album overall, but this track is a standout. Another gem from this record that shouldn’t be forgotten is Betts’ beautiful instrumental High Falls.


Can’t Take It With You (Enlightened Rogues). After a four year hiatus, the ABB got back together in 1979 and released a really solid record of Southern Rock nuggets that was more pop than their earlier Blues and Jazz based music, but enjoyable nevertheless. The band cooks on this track.


Seven Turns (Seven Turns). Country music was always very close to the soul of the ABB because of Dickie Betts’ roots and affinity for classic country, and nowhere is that touch and feel more apparent than on this track from 1990’s Seven Turns.



Don’t let the time that has passed trick you into thinking the music no longer has relevance to your life. Great music, regardless of when it was written and recorded will always have relevance, and that’s the beauty of time – the longer we’re around the more relevant music we have to lean on. If you’re not a fan of the Allman Brothers Band but think you’d like to find out what the fuss is all about, these Essential Downloads will help get you started on your journey – the road goes on forever.