Text © Robert Barry Francos/FFanzeen, 2013
Images from the Internet
Images from the Internet
Directed by Jim Yockey
Cherry Red Films
52 minutes, 1989 / 2011
Southern rock certainly had its heyday, mostly from the very late 1960s via the early works of Texas’s Winter boys¸ Johnny and Edgar (that is until Johnny saw the error of his ways and took a more purist blues route in the early ‘70s) through the early ‘80s.
Along the way, some the stars included Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Oak Arkansas, ZZ Top, arguably Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (who were initially lumped in with the punk movement for some gersh-dern reason), and especially the Allman Brothers, led by Gregg and Duane (until the latter up’n died in 1971, though the band kept going for years afterwards).
What these bands and this genre had in common was a heavy reliance on the blues (ironically more of an electric Chicago style with some dirty Delta chops), an absolutely blazing guitar upfront, a singer with a gravelly voice, and for some reason long blonde hair upon the vocalist’s head (often accompanied by facial hair). Sure, there were some more blues purists, such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, but Southern rock was more into some heavy bottom-end rhythm and pyannah (that’s piano), usually electric for this genre.
Even after the metamorphosis of the Allman “Ramblin’ Man” Brothers after Duane’s dreadful death via motorcycle accident at age 24, Gregg kept the band going, but eventually giving it up and forming his own Gregg Allman Band (also known as Gregg Allman and Family, again seeming ironic to me), which is represented here. Recorded at The Cannery in Nashville, in November 1988, it was after their second LP, and just before the collapse of this line-up at the end of that year.
Honestly, I believe that calling this the Gregg Allman Band (GAB) is inaccurate, actually, since most of the heavy lifting is done by ace guitarist, Dan Toler. Sure, Gregg sings away in a sort of distant, almost I’m-somewhere-else mode, Toler works his finger magic, and actually has more solo time in the songs than does Gregg vocals. But the Allman name has the clout, so this is technically his group. While singing in that recognizable relatively minor growl (compared to some other Southern rockers), he tinkles at a two-level keyboard, but even that seems kind in half-hearted compared to the occasions when the other keyboardist, Tim Heding, does his Jerry Lee speed (especially on the finale of the Sonny Boy Williamson cover, “One Way Out”).
There is absolutely no talking between songs including individual tune introductions (Johnny Winter is great at that, albeit self-depreciating at times) by anyone in the gropj. Most of the tunes are either from the Allman Bros. period, or written for the two GAB releases from the mid-to-late ‘80s. Honestly, the earlier numbers are the one that resonate, and have more of a pure feel. “It’s My Cross to Bear” (written by AB guitarist Dickie Betts), “Don’t Want You No More” (a Spencer Davis Group cover), “Just Before the Bullets Fly” (by Warren Haynes), and “Statesboro’ Blues” (classic by Blind Willie McTell) have a more genuine feel from the band.
Some of the later-recorded numbers, such as the awful “Slip Away” smacks too much of ‘80s gloss and riding the Top-10 attempt wave. Perhaps I’m seeing what I want to see, but Allman seems to bland out even more on these tunes, like his heart just isn’t in them. Another assumption I’m making is that as Gregg Allman went through treatment for substance abuse in the mid-1990s, so he may be a bit absent for other reasons.
I think it’s important to point out that whatever weak link the leader of this group is, overall the sheer power of the rest of the troupe hauls his ass out and makes this a strong entry, whether you’re a fan of the genre or not (I’m admittedly closer to the latter, but respect the workmanship).
Despite being originally shot on video and transferred to digital, the image is pretty good, if a bit grainy, but the sound is pretty sharp, as that is more of what is necessary.
Gregg Allman: Vocals / keyboard
Dan Toler: Guitar
Bruce Waibel: Bass
Tim Heding: Keyboards
Chaz Trippy: Percussion
David “Frankie” Toler: Drums
Don’t Want You No More
It’s My Cross to Bear
Just Before the Bullets Fly
Fear of Falling
I‘m No Angel
One Way Out