Monday, November 11, 2013

Allman Brothers 2: Idlewild South

Arriving less than a year after their LP debut, Idlewild South has some things in common with that album—seven songs four one side, three on the other, just over half an hour long—but it’s hardly a retread. While it does offer another program of blues, other influences creep in, helping to solidify what made the Allman Brothers Band unique, and heads above imitators.
Dickey Betts emerges as a songwriter here, bookending side one with a pair of distinct classics. “Revival” opens with an acoustic strum, switches into a modal riff that builds over other gear changes before settling into the gospel-influenced vocal part—even letting each instrumentalist take a one-bar solo. Compare that to “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed”, a mesmerizing instrumental loaded with jazz influences, running seven minutes in this version. In between, Gregg Allman offers up the funky “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” and “Midnight Rider”, which is either playing on the radio or a television commercial as you read this.
Side two takes a step way back into the blues, with an elaborate arrangement of “Hoochie Coochie Man”, shouted here by bassist Berry Oakley, and likely to give Gregg a rest. He comes back strong with the torchy “Please Call Home”, his piano giving brother Duane plenty of room to wander. “Leave My Blues At Home” is one of their hidden gems, a terrific showcase for the ensemble, driven by a very complicated bass line.
While it does show their growth, Idlewild South doesn’t have the same element of surprise as the first album. That’s not necessarily a criticism; in fact, the two albums were reissued a few years later as a two-record set, called Beginnings. It’s still available as a single CD, and it’s a highly economical option for newcomers.

The Allman Brothers Band Idlewild South (1970)—

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