Sweet Charlotte (Rattlesnake RS 194/95)
Disk 1 : You Don’t Love Me / Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More / Statesboro Blues / Rockin’ Horse / Desdemona / Trouble No More / Black Hearted Woman / Patchwork Quilt / Melissa [ 69:22 ]
Disk 2 : Midnight Rider / Good Morning Little Schoolgirl / High Cost Of Low Living / Mountain Jam / Layla (70:52)
Recorded live at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Charlotte, NC, August 9th, 2003
The Allman Brothers Band are some of the unsung greats of the rock world – many more plaudits get paid to their contemporaries but they’re certainly not without their fans. Live they’re quite the spectacle utilizing two drummers & some of the greatest, liquid & grooving guitar histrionics being played out. With a 40 year history under their belts the band show no sign of slowing down still playing a surprising amount of shows each year including a residency in New York & have extended in to a strong business selling such wares as pint tumblers, suede jackets & anniversary Christmas decorations.
Their sound is one sewn through with the spit of a bar-room, the louche strength of a hit of bourbon & the good feeling of a night spent with the best of your buddys or, if you’re more inclined the sound of a Saturday afternoon, sat indoors with the rain falling outside. A very warm, round sound with the best of a few broken hearts lingering at the back. This tour was the leader to a new album “Hitting The Note” & with that then the band would be playing tracks for this album tonight as well as some of the tracks that made the Allman’s names. The Recording itself could be taken from an “Instant Live” release meaning that it would be recorded straight from the soundboard on the night thus almost making this a pirate release although the Live Releases are usually burned to CDRs at the venue where as this is a silver disk release & the CDRs are usually sold on the night
The sets starts with a glorious romp through one of their best known tracks “You Don’t Love Me” often included in their sets since the 70’s & it’s a great platform for a lot of their trademark expressive & liquid soloing. The audience lap this up as they do the next track “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” a brothers tribute that Gregg wrote for Duane shortly after his motorcycle accident & about how Gregg was coming to terms with it all. It’s the first track to open “Eat A Peach” the bands first post – Duane album & is based around an improvised melody from “Whipping Post” as improvised on the Bands official live album “At Filmore East”. The guitar work here is, rather than the theme of the song should suggest, one of buoyant optimism rather than sadness & grieving & almost sounds like the notes are trying to escape from the guitars with out the might of the players. “Stateboro Blues” follows, a song originally written by Blind Willy McTell & one of the songs that originally pushed the young Duane to learn slide guitar. “Rockin’ Horse” is the first track from this new album & is the first track in which Gregg’s vocals can be heard as clear & forcefully as it should be intended. Still as rough & raspy singer as ever throughout his career Gregg’s vocals. The track is another slice of prime Allmans jam – band styling. The soloing is fluid & sublime before branching out like an old oak in to strands of crazed, psychedelic wig outs, the bass playing is
“Desdemona” is a jazzy tinged, swirling ballad. Somewhat more respectfully paced & less giddying that other songs from the set. it introduces Karl Denson on Saxophone for the linguine bass lead middle before picking right up again with more of Derek Trucks’ fevered soloing. It harks back to a sweet Sixties sound wrapped with the smashy twin drumming. ascending like ropes around a maypole.
Back to the past once more & another cover. This time of Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More” another song that has struck with the Allmans since their genesis & a song that sticks to the theme that the Allmans seem to work from best & a sentiment hat their audience can appreciate – the wronging by a woman. Gregg spits out the lyrics to this track that he’s played out thousands of times before & it’s clear to hear that he’s rightly revered for his growling prowess. the next track follows the same theme, from their 1969 eponymous album, “Black Hearted Woman” is another track that epitomises the Allman sound & would have been the first time that the best part of their audience heard just what they could wring out back when the band were starting to come to fruition. It’s a heavy riffed beast featuring many of the wild licks & fevered drumming of a band who were ready so show their chops.
“Patchwork Quilt” is another tribute song, this time written by Warren Hynes for guitarist & founder of the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia. The sound is different to other songs for far in the set sounding more like 1980’s A.M. rock rather than 60’s / 70’s barroom boogies or the slightly more experimental, newer Allman tunes. It still hits a resonant chord with the audience who lap it up & are full off appreciation for the song & it’s subject. “Melissa”, another of Gregg’s slower paced ballads is played out & is mostly acoustically driven with a weeping electric guitar solo running through it. It was written way back in 1967 & was reportedly a favorite of Duanes which once Gregg had worked out the lyrics ( and heard the girls name being shouted in a grocery store! ) was added to the “Eat A Peach”.
“Midnight Rider” Gregg’s ‘Signature’ song follows. The set’s briefest attraction & one of the bands best known tunes having been covered by such artists as Patti Smith, Joe Cocker & Alison Krauss. It certainly sounds like the best of a commercial endeavor & would be perfectly scored for a film ( which indeed it was in “The Devil Rejects” in 2005 along with various others ). the perfect introduction to the Allmans being that it’s usually never extended out to olympian proportions but seems to be the perfect blend of all that makes their signature sound. This Is followed by the Blues classic “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” written in the 1930’s by Sonny Boy Williamson it’s been covered countless times by a multitude of various different artists including the Derek Trucks band. Given a perfect retread by the band tonight – a slunky, head nodding paean to a certain young woman that starts with a low slung guitar riff that that sounds like a wounded dog would walk. The track then meanders in to a stinging guitar line as it finds strength & then doubles in pace with a scattershot bassline, a screaming solo & a repetitive cowbell sounding in the background before slowing in to a bass heavy, reflective coda with Gregg’s vocal fading in to the swamps
Back to a track for the new album “High Cost of Low Living” – presumably written about a drink & drugs lifestyle – is a highlight from “Hittin’ The Note”. Of a more relaxed pace that would suit an after hours jam with it’s barreled piano sound, Claptonesque guitar solo, the kind that would seem to signify the end of a set proper & lead in to the encores.
And here it is .. the song thats been expected all night, the song that would sort the wheat from the chaff, the song thats been one the most expected of the night & very possibly, the one thats bound to get more lighters going & not because you’d want to wave them in the air .. this is the song to the Allman brothers as Ulysses is to James Joyce – those with the want, the will & the push to follow it through will do so to the very end but only the few will manage. Since the invention of the ‘pop’ song then attention spans have shrunk & most wouldn’t want to venture past the 4 min mark, the 5 minute mark or even the Beatles “Hey Jude” as they’ll find that brevity is best but the beauty of “Mountain Jam” ( an apocalyptic & majestic 38:52 in length ) is that because of the talent here tonight it will present itself as the musical answer to Pablo Picasso’s ‘Gurnica” – ever formed but ever changing & all in the details. The pace will spill over & all consume it’s listener. Regardless to say that each hand on this stage will take a part in creating this behemoth with a brilliant, tremulous kick drum punctuating proceedings at around 16 minutes only giving way to a measured & jazz wise, stattaco, military drumfill in the following few minutes later with a cartoonish, heavy & dreamlike bassline. The pace varies wildly throughout the track ( as one might expect! ) but this only piques the interest furthermore.
The set ends with a rabble rousing cover of Derek & the Dominos “Layla”. It’s obviously no secret that the band have played with Clapton before & will after ( see Slowhands excellent “Southern Comfort” review on this site ) & the bands version of this track is pretty much pitch perfect with only the soloing being radically different & it seems to strip the paint off of the walls of the venue. Gregg’s voice is a perfect match for the song, easily comparable to Clapton’s own ( but never surpassing what most be one of rock’s finest performances ).
This is an excellent release from one of the better producers of silverdisks. The aesthetics are clear & crisp fitting with the band photos from that tour. The 12 page booklet features many colourful band shots over which are displayed several of the mushroom motifs that were included in the bands imagery that year with a full rundown of the cast on page 10. The sound, as noted, is exemplary. An Allman must have.