Not the Pazz and Jop 1972 – #19

Allman Brothers Band – Eat A Peach

When I think of the Allman brothers, it isn’t for the music they made together. Rather, two things come to mind: one cultural (Duane’s playing on “Layla”), the other pop cultural (Gregg’s marriage to Cher). The only song of theirs I can say I certainly knew was “Ramblin’ Man”, which never inspired me to dig deeper into their catalogue. I’ve never much liked southern rock. The things I heard on the radio growing up didn’t trigger any sort of sweet spot, and it was too close to country, which, as my parents’ music, I was mostly trying to avoid in my personal listening. Later, I came to love some country, and now I think southern rock has an unearned sentimentality to much of it, a claiming of country-and-western tropes but with a poser’s lack of commitment and honesty. That’s a pretty broad brush stroke, and maybe my attitude will change as I continue along this exploratory path. But I’ll fight to hold this hill right now.

So, this album turned out to be an unexpected pleasure. It hasn’t changed my mind about southern rock because that isn’t what the Allman Brothers were in 1972. There are hints of it coming down the pike – most notably on “Blue Sky” – but this version – half dominated by Duane’s guitar, half finding a new path after his sudden death during the recording process – shows a band in transition, making for a bit of a Frankenstein. They were at heart a blues jam band during Duane’s tenure, more spiritually akin to the Grateful Dead than later notables like Lynyrd Skynyrd. Their blues bonafides show up in the covers of “One Way Out” and “Trouble No More”, and there’s no jam band flex like having some 45 minutes of a record taken up by instrumentals.

Of the originals, “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” finds Gregg in a contemplative mood after Duane’s passing, and I love the uptempo ballad “Melissa”. But the highlight, unexpectedly, is the 33:41 “Mountain Jam”. I never thought I could ever love listening to a band noodle around for over half an hour, yet with every play of this track I become more entranced. The energy never flags, no one mails it in even once, and there is not a second of this that doesn’t hold your attention. Every time I started to think, “Well, this is going on a bit too long”, they would switch it up, a keen sense of the moment taking control. I can’t ever just skip to the end, because I want to hear what’s coming next. A lot of prog bands could’ve taken a lesson from this had they been paying attention.

(Originally posted on Facebook, August 29, 2021)