In a truly odd move, he begins with a version of “Midnight Rider” that downplays the defiance of the original with a more haunted, hunted feel. Without a hotshot guitar to take over, a new bridge sports unobtrusive horns. The horns stick around for “Queen Of Hearts”, a terrific torchy number that touches on jazz, its instrumental breaks jumping between 6/8 and 5/8. By contrast, “Please Call Home” is made over with a bigger arrangement, even a female choir, but still remains the same song. After three moody tracks, “Don’t Mess Up A Good Thing” is an oddly timed dose of boogie.
Jackson Browne’s “These Days” was not yet a standard, but this version had a lot to do with how it became one. Gregg’s voice is perfect for the melancholy of the song, particularly the final couplet (“please don’t confront me with my failures/I’m aware of them”). “Multi-Colored Lady” comes the closest to a true Allman Brothers Band candidate, a mildly sleepy tune bettered by “All My Friends”, which sounds familiar until you realize the initial melody was used by Neil Young for “Comes A Time”. The little switch in the key at the end of each verse is very effective. Finally, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” is the gospel standard, played with fervor and passion.
Particularly for those less enamored with Southern rock, Laid Back is a surprisingly fresh change of pace from the established Allman Brothers brand. The strings and horns have a lot to do with the smooth sound, without straying too far into Adult Contemporary territory, and we can thank Chuck Leavell’s touch on the piano. The cover art is hideous, courtesy of the same guy who did Bitches Brew and Abraxas, but that was the ‘70s for you.
Gregg Allman Laid Back (1973)—3½