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Born to play, born to write, born to rock n roll. I’m somehow experiencing all the stages of grief at once mostly anger. God damn it we need Tom in this day and age more than ever.

But this weird unfolding is taking place as well. His catalogue is enormous a dozen lifetimes worth of music. Every nook and cranny of his catalogue reveals something amazing, a sonic turn of tone or phrase. It may seem like simple rock n roll but there is a whole lot going on with each track. There is much to discover and I’m going to end up with all his recordings I just know it. They are dragging me toward them even though I’m out of room in my house and I’m resisting but I’m just not going to able to refrain.

In ice hockey we have whats called rink rats. Players, professional, amateur, kids, these are guys who show up to the rink early and leave late. They are always around in the locker room, trainers room, getting their skates sharpened and on the ice every chance they get practicing their shots and skating just waiting for the Zamboni to take its final turn. I fully believe Tom was a certified studio rat honing his craft, exploring the sonic journey and capturing what he thought sounded right chasing the muse and I’m guessing he lived in whatever studio he could find.

If you go out on the web and look at the pictures its amazing. No matter when or where in his life fans were on their feet with their arms in the air jumping up and down in appreciation. Since he was a skinny kid to a full grown adult and all the roads and stages in between in the adulation poured.

And Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers deserved every bit of it, every round of applause, every clap, every holler, every whistle, every breath, every sing along, every standing ovation they ever got and then some. He knew we loved him and the band. He knew he was universally adored and from looking at the pictures, reading the interviews and witnessing him in person myself more than a few times I believe he really was humbled by it and it knocked him out and he appreciated it maybe more than we know and maybe even needed it more than we know for what he had been through as a child. And I for one am god damn glad we could give it back to him.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker shows were a love fest and I’m proud to say it and he had to have felt that down to his core, piercing his soul as we sang his songs back to him. How unbelievably soulfully righteous is that?

Tom knew how much we loved him and how much he meant to us and thats the thought I’m holding onto with both of my hands and all of my heart as I try to grip my way through this one just after making my peace with losing Gregg and Doc Watson before that. My strength is my faith and my faith is in the music.

Paul

Tom Petty
I had a very interesting Tom Petty day yesterday. Those of you who know me well are used to these stories. Sometimes I scare myself, sometimes I have been scared it can be terrifying if you fling that door open to the other worlds fear can override the best of intentions. But as I have gotten older I have learned to vanquish that fear and amazing visions transcend sleep as if awake. We all know dreams. In the waking hours of Sunday morning I heard Tom’s voice speak one word to me thoughtfully, slowly in his regular cadence and tone, “sorry”.

The word rang out and I awoke. No matter what the coroner says or will say chain smoking is fucking bullshit and I have been pissed off that Tom submitted to corporate addiction. What can you do but this is the thing that riles me up. The guy who stared down corporate music let himself get snagged by corporate addiction arrrrgggghhhh!

Anger not attributed to Tom slipping away so young after all he left several lifetimes worth of song behind and I recall brother Duane speaking about how righteous it was for a person to leave recordings behind. I think he was ruminating on King Curtis and his senseless murder.

Anyway I was thunder struck by the clarity of the sound of Tom’s voice and how in a word it addressed my pissed offedness. As if somehow immediately resolved I rose to do my normal Sunday routine and the moment was lost to distraction.

The sun was shining so after a spell I headed for the yard and threw six Tom Petty CD’s in my Pioneer changer and hit the random button. A few days earlier I had bought my wife and received in the mail a bracelet with lyrics to Wildflower written on both sides. She is a huge Petty fan and it brought tears to her eyes – it was a moment in more ways than I can express here. There were layers around this gift giving that exceeded expectations.

We hadn’t listened to Tom for two days preoccupied by life so of course out of six CD’s and out of close to a hundred tracks Wildflowers comes on first. We both took notice and it was then I recalled his voice in my dream.

I worked in the yard for a good portion of the day listening to Tom and the Heartbreakers the soundtrack to a beautifully sunny and warm day. After a long soak in the pool I headed for the club to grab an early dinner. There was no one at the bar and I randomly sat at the far end and there before me was a golf ball just sitting by itself in perfect shape with the word MOJO written on both sides.

The ethereal is hard to capture in words but somehow someway Tom or the powers that created creativity formed the multiverse and spun off our little solar system and Earth was communicating to me and in such a small, persistent and magnificent way reminding me all is not as it appears, all our states of consciousness are intertwined. The unseen is real coincidences too many stacked one after the other all in one day to be written off and so somehow someway we are on our sacred path.

What may come I don’t know but what has been and what remains is still spectacular when you stop for just a second and immerse yourself in the moment take that pause as to what we are, who we are with and where we are going spinning on our axis hurtling through the cosmos.

Be well have faith and listen to the music – that according to Tom is where the magic transpires.

 

American singer-songwriter Tom Petty of American rock band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform during their "Mojo Tour 2010'" at Madison Square Garden in New York.
How about a little more love for Tom.

I’m just starting to go through his catalogue – trust me it’s only a partial catalogue the man was prolific. What strikes me is the quality of the tracks you’ve never heard or rather his less famous “hits” – no thats not right either – all the stuff thats not on the best ofs – well thats not quite right either oh damn Tom wrote a lot of brilliant lyrics, innumerable melodies of sonic sojourns, ballads, and love songs. Rock and Roll.

It was music he wanted to hear the way he wanted it played based on his early and life long passion for music. You don’t think buried treasure was an accident….it was his god damn record collection.

Tom was the other guy in the used record store you bumped into at 11 in the morning instead of going to work. Flipping through LP after LP studying the art work, the instruments, the players, the producers and labels who was able to join forces with a great band of lifelong friends and carve out a long, large, continent wide swath through the global consciousness of our lives.

Something spoke to him and something drove him. His passion exhausted him. Is there a better way to live?

He would want us all to carry on knowing rock n roll will save your soul. Real music, honest, not fame, not money, not attention the pure love and passion for the music that lies just out of reach until one of us, one of the members of this tribe called humanity reaches out and grabs it and lays it down with all their heart, dreams, drive and vision.

Something so free, so right, we are never, never, never, going to change our minds about it… heaven and nothing the arrogant, stupid, greedy whores can ever reach or take away. Turn it up! This machine kills fascism.

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Dear lord enough already – Gregg in the late Spring and Tom in the early fall?!!? Way to bookend the summer Dr. Death.

I remember the first time I saw Tom Petty I was late to the Tom Petty concert experience and it took me until my wife dragged me off to one of his shows. What Gregg Allman was to me Tom Petty was to my wife.

Tom to me was a savior to the 1980’s and all of that awful industry generated clap trap noise, empty, banal lyrics, costumes, posing and synth machines. Here was a Byrd’s influenced rocker with an edge and being in radio in the 1980’s I knew how good he and the band were. But not until I saw him live did I get a forehand across the brow.

A veteran of rock concerts having seen Bob Marley, Lowell George’s Little Feat, prancing around like a horse to Marshall Tucker in the middle of the afternoon working a Beach Boys concert in the sand, hanging with Peter Tosh, seeing the original Skynyrd a bunch of times, Steve Miller, the Rolling Stones in 1975, and catching Jerry solo and with the boys every time they came through town and then some I was no stranger to the rock scene or the concert going experience.

What transpired that night of 6/30/2001 might have been the most cathartic insanity of pure rock n roll bliss I had ever witnessed. Tom and Mike blistered through their songs in a relentless fashion. “Don’t bore us get to the chorus” indeed the set list and veracity in which they played it had me proclaiming it was the best concert I had ever seen and to this day that comment still gets repeated to the many folks interested in listening whether in a bar, or playing one of his tunes to a small crowd. That comment stands and it’s not hyperbole for the occasion.

This set list below blew my mind. Walking into the opener with that wonderful opening rif was a match to a fuse that stayed burning bright to this day.

Runnin’ Down A Dream
I Won’t Back Down
Breakdown
Billy The Kid
Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Here Comes My Girl
Even The Losers
It’s Good To Be King
You Don’t Know How It Feels
Green Onions
Don’t Come Around Here No More
Learning To Fly
Into The Great Wide Open
Refugee
Too Much Ain’t Enough
You Wreck Me
Free Fallin’
American Girl

What follows that was learning a bunch of his tunes for my shows, repopulating my collection of CD’s and going to see Tom every time they came to town. We have a real love affair for his lyricism, cynicism, ballads, his rockers biting tenacity and respect for the art form that he had and he delivered in all facets of the game. You know Last DJ was written for me …right 🙂 well I certainly felt that way.

We told everyone who stood still long enough go see Tom and we always hearkened back to that show from 2001 and the blistering assault and rock and roll euphoria from the first note. When the 40th anniversary tour was announced we were disappointed he wasn’t coming through our area. He had been through a lot so I just assumed for the 40th he would be back but he was playing the bigger venues and so good for him. I remember thinking wow what an extensive tour in relation to how could he be skipping our quadrant look at all these other venues he’s playing. But I figured after the big tour he would be back playing the smaller venues. I figured wrong but I am thankful we saw Tom and the band every chance we had since 2001. I was really looking forward to seeing them again in the future as a balm for missing Gregg and didn’t even guess at a future without the Heartbreakers.

I’m sad to think the enormity of that 40th celebration tour might have degraded his health. But he went out playing and on fire I’m sure. If that tour was one tenth of what we always, always witnessed over the past sixteen years the audiences got smoked and Tom left the stage with nothing left to give. A Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Concert was a much needed and desired immersion in rock n roll heaven. How can you top that?

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Southern Blood

Well, it sucks that Gregg got old before his time but what he poured into his time was several lifetimes’ worth of living and as he said he had himself a ball so why should we feel sad? For us the core fans who have been with him through thick and thin for decades it’s like losing a family member. It really is and it’s going to take time. I’ve been listening to Southern Blood exclusively. I wanted to get past the immediate emotional reaction as the song selections have laid us bare and ripped our souls out.

But there is more here than just all of that and even though the music is powerful beyond words it works simply standing alone. Imagine for a second if Gregg was healthy this album would still be a religious experience of expert playing, singing and sounding craft combine that now with the unfortunate circumstances and it will weaken your knees and tighten your throat.

Those are tears you are trying not to cry and why not you’ve just lost a family member and a friend and the music is so very soulful and moving and isn’t that what we want from our art? It’s supposed to make us feel something. We are inundated with the shallow, exasperated by the petty. It is our art our creativity that reminds us of our humanity and the essential and real depth of our lives. Often ignored daily preoccupied with self-imposed distractions we paper over our experience with the superficial. But it’s a carnival as well believe it or not The Band sang so truthfully to us a celebration and a tragedy all at the same time. It’s a dualistic reality in which we choose what to accentuate. It’s a horn section and a backup singer’s good time and it’s a drunk in a gutter you step over or become.

The Album Southern Blood jumps out righteously with Steve Potts muscular drums and then Gregg’s voice recorded so clear. He picked the right time to get into the studio. He was in exceptional voice and it’s all there the nuanced pronunciation the extended vowels for just the right length. Bravo to the engineers, the makers of microphones and recording equipment and the mixers. The disc sounds beautiful, the musicianship outstanding. Scott’s guitar work is tasteful, elegant, piercing and punctuates the melody with strength and grace. My Only True Friend climbs and falls dramatically with the poignant lyrics and heart felt voice. Gregg is writing and singing to all of us and speaking to his fans, friends and family without any other consideration except for getting it right. The ending with Marc Franklin’s trumpet and Scott’s outro is warm with the lights turned down low. The timing is paced beautifully with Peter’s piano cascading over the ending.

Then comes Gregg Allman’s great American song book. I really truly think this among other things is Gregg saying once again look here. Southern Blood is like a sign post pointing the way to Tim Buckley, Jackson, Percy Sledge, Robert Hunter, Lowell, Willie Dixon, New Orleans, and Bob Dylan and the Band. Everything is on this platter soul, gospel, R&B, swing, blues, and country sweet heart of the rodeo twang.

To begin with navigating Once I Was will slice through you and lay you low. The acoustic guitar opening followed by Gregg’s vocals slowly, calmly, not exactly a whisper but singing quietly those words to us and the band in the background subtly waiting for all of Gregg’s delivery clearly makes this a beautiful delicate song. Lorca is Tim’s album that really got me as well as Goodbye and Hello from which this song originated. And then Planet Waves. What a great choice. This is a Bob Dylan album that is immediately accessible and features The Band and some of Bob’s finest work. Going, Going, Gone is righteous and again we find Gregg in a contemplative mood, singing slowly, with purpose delivering the important messages of our lives as written by Bob.

“Grandma said Boy go and follow your heart and you’ll be fine at the end of the line all that’s gold isn’t meant to shine don’t you and your one true love ever part.” What more does anybody need to know than that? Don Was and Gregg’s band wrapped this number up with a Flying Burrito Brother vibe and it invokes the heart wrenching finest work of Graham Parsons with Greg Leisz’s pedal steel. It’s different than the original but it’s just as great.

For me the song track list is like Gregg peered into my record collection or listened to my show. I never anticipated he’d pull off of In The Dark – Black Muddy River. After listening to Garcia sing that song when it first came out I got worried how could Gregg deliver this tune. It’s Garcia at his heart wrenching best and I was worried but there it is with the mandolin opening and the familiar melody. Robert’s lyrics and we all love Robert Hunter’s lyrics are delivered beautifully and by the time we get to the scream of an eagle on the fly we are all in and Gregg has us. Bring in the McCrary Sisters and we are in the pews nodding our heads.

Thankfully Gregory gives us a break I mean how much can we take and one of our favorite classics comes “nasty” strolling down the sidewalk on its way to the pool hall. I mean this was our rallying call growing up I Live the Life I Love and I Love The Life I Live. Jay’s big baritone sax and Scott’s guitar work shades of Roomful of Blues and Sugar Ray Norcia another outstanding vocalist come to mind. No regrets here people this is a swanky, swinging, punch back of defiance. Gregg’s growl before the “how I love it” lyric and his little well placed howls as the song winds down are expertly placed and extended just at the right volume well I’ll take every day you got… amen brother amen.

Willin’ are you kidding me? Gregg needs to give me my albums back. How great are these lyrics, how great was it when we first heard this song? Gregg, Buddy Miller and the band breathe new life into this seminal work. Peter’s piano and the pedal steel briefly dance and the acoustic guitar is right there in the background supporting Gregg’s voice. It’s a great arrangement with the horns quickly punctuating the beat anchored by Steve and Ronald’s solid rhythm. How great it is to hear this song sung and played so well again… Dallas Alice.

Thankfully we get nice and greasy with Blind Bats and Swamp Rats. You have to mix it up when you are putting your play list together and after repeated listens of the whole album this is an excellent segue. Mac has got to be proud as Marie Laveau herself comes straight up out of the swamp brushing the Spanish moss from her hair and laying down her voodoo magic. Gregg snarls and growls out the lyrics and you feel like you are in the middle of the bayou, hot, sweaty, something other worldly breathing down your neck, eyes darting looking for gators….love it!

Then out of left field we get Percy Sledge’s soulful love song. And it isn’t hard to imagine Gregg recorded this for Shannon what a sweet song and gesture and if you aren’t thinking about your significant other when this is playing you are missing the point. She made me a mountain from a little grain of sand. Everything is all right and the horns sound like Memphis Stew, Stax, and Sun Records all rolled up into one. Gregg grew up with this music it was of the era and he reminds us all of the treasure trove of soul and R&B that is out there waiting for us and that we should be listening to that as well.

The first time I heard Gregg and the boys tear into Love Like Kerosene I leaped out of my seat. Bring it on this is the gutsy roots ripping barrel house jam my soul requires. I want my ears pinned back I want that shuffle, I want that beer spilled on the floor things to get a little dangerous, dance a little too close, a sweaty night with an edge but never losing the fun. She’s pretty ain’t she and you’re dead meat I might just be having a heart attack. It’s a joint is jumping horns are screaming bass is pounding drums are thrashing good time. Hell yeah! More of this!

The opening guitar of Song for Adam turns us once again and immediately we are thrown back into church where we belong whether your church is an ever expansive wildflower field in the plains of Denver like mine or a wooden pew with stained glass windows we are there. Gregg and Jackson’s delivery of the lyrics is the focus. Throughout the whole album Gregg’s voice paints the landscape with all the depth of life and twists and turns and death the fantastic, wretched journey all of it and all it can be and all it is. “And when I stood myself beside him I never thought I was as strong” listen to how Gregg sings this line and how the word strong rolls out. Imagine now you are a young boy without a father and somehow your older brother is strong and you can’t fathom it the first one into the fire going a hundred miles an hour or at rest and now still while so young he vanishes as well. But strength is not just all about bravado and bellicose behavior strength is not false, strength is passion, strength is honesty, strength is open, strength is understanding and wisdom and vision and drive and compassion and the ability to persevere.

Gregg Allman was as strong as they come relentlessly coming back like Sisyphus. Fifteen times he went into rehab pursuing and scraping his will and soul to survive exhausted by trials and tribulations and getting out of the way of himself and the record machine to finally emerge fully realized, happy resolved. It was a herculean effort and many, many others fell by the way side when confronted with challenges far fewer and just as many self-imposed. To walk from chemotherapy when you have the best doctors in the world at your disposal not fearing death but challenging it one final time and living on your own terms those actions take deep resolve, deep faith in something unseen. That takes strength the kind of inner strength you cannot find by just adding muscle to your bike, car or body. That’s the foundational strength of love, a love or many loves of something other than and outside of yourself.

For all the words, music, fame, money and looks that is the real beauty of one Gregory LeNoir Allman.

2016 atlThe Gregg Allman Anthology is a thirty four track two disc set released by Bill, Kirk and Alan on Mercury Capricorn. It is my absolute favorite Gregg Allman collection because he is often accompanied just by himself with voice, guitar or piano.

It’s thoughtfully put together and Alan’s liner notes are another informative, good read. I am so happy I scooped this up before it was pulled from circulation. Officially titled “One More Try: An Anthology a quick google search turns up copies on amazon and elsewhere that run around eighty dollars. That is a pittance to hear Gregg working these tunes out. All the tracks are fully realized they do not cut off or trail off. He finishes each track. I do seem to recall him mentioning that he loved rehearsing – it shows!

Demos, outtakes, covers, alternate versions, band rehearsals have never sounded better. Gregg took the music seriously and to heart and thats what separates him from all those to come and all those who have come before. The Jackson Browne cover Shadow Dream Song is biblical. These are not just run throughs. And there is a 1969 version of Cross To Bear recorded out in LA with session musicians that is absolutely the birth of the Allman Brothers as much as anything we have heard or have been told before. These selections are just beautiful, intimate and haunting.

There’s not a track on here that doesn’t ring true. I’m listening to an alternate version of These Days from the collection as I’m writing and it’s very hard to concentrate. There’s a track featuring Johnny Winter Berry Oakley and Buddy Miles (Hendrix) on Wasted Words that screams and then later Bonnie Bramlett joining Gregg singing a stripped down, slowed down Win, Lose or Draw feels like its just you and them in front of a fireplace late at night. Catfish Blues is another great tune just Gregg and his guitar. I mean dear lord he’s just finger picking his way through Will The Circle Be Unbroken by himself that alone is worth the price.

This is like an intimate house concert and Gregg just shows up to play in your living room. It’s powerful and clean. There are full band performances as well from the Laid Back era, The Live Tour era, and The I’m No Angel era. The earliest track is 1968 with Gregg and Duane doing Melisa.

Twenty million, bazillion stars and thumbs up!
Highly recommended!

 

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Hittin’ The Mule

Hittin The Note our final studio release from 2003 this outstanding lineup recorded one studio album and it doesn’t get any better.

HTN opens with a very crunchy Haynsian guitar line and Gregg’s vocals with authority. What follows is a cascading churning number that’s brisk and punctuated with excellent guitar tones. As it closes we have a classic Betts like scale rundown that repeats and pays homage to the ABB signature sound. With Warren Co-writing nine originals this is definitely an ABB meets Mule release but that’s more than okay. Anything with Gregg’s voice, lyrics and playing is an Allman Brother release no matter which way you look at it and then there’s the twin drums of Butch and Jaimoe unmistakable with authority passion, drive and finesse. This is an absolutely excellent release and as a cap stone to their legacy just about as perfect as it can get. Derek’s slide work is sublime the power and subtlety is all there both in the playing and the singing from everyone. The next track the High Cost of Low Living has Derek stepping out for an extended break. I recall hearing it for the first time and feeling this is as close to Duane as we are going to get and it’s a thing of beauty.

Sitting in my car one early summer evening outside a beach side Seven Eleven windows down Hittin’ The Note cranked I recall one brother passing by, “you listen to “good” music!” With an emphasis on the word “good” you could take to the bank. No clue who the band was not the popular music of the moment no matter it’s tight, excellent, righteous, searing, and honest. This is an undeniable recording. High Cost of Low Living ends gently as if ready to play Duane’s bird calls but Derek just leaves that space there. We know it was coming and even today it feels expected but he leaves the space vacant. It’s a really nice touch.

Desdemona follows and it’s a beautifully sung tune, bluesy like the night. The lyrics are poignant and truthful. Gregg is so good at throwing in the bibliographical wrapped in an anonymous story. It’s as if he’s saying here’s the truth friends but hey the song might not be autobiographical specifically but this line I sing here sure as hell is. It’s always been real between him and the fans as he composes. At the four minute mark Desdemona just takes off as we are treated to Derek’s gritty signature slide sound and fierce attack. Then Warren steps in with almost a Wes Montgomery like elegance before he crunches it up. Oteil’s bass work is perfectly mixed in without too many flourishes. This is after all a blues holler and Greg’s delivery of the lyrics is damn near perfect. They are sung with feeling not overwrought and wonderfully slated in the melody.

Then we get Freddy King. Who doesn’t love Freddy King? He gives Albert and B.B a good run for their money and quite frankly he’s my favorite King. We all know Woman Across The River by now as Warren trotted it out plenty. It’s a fiery fierce recording with blistering guitar runs but what follows is one of my favorite songs ever of regret and redemption.

Old Before My Time is a heartbreakingly bittersweet tune that gets me every time. Gregg is really singing to us here and I was the one with arms raised and butane lit whenever this came out in concert. “No more feeling guilty for things I never did.” The mix of acoustic and electric guitars is outstanding and the quiet solo acoustic opening with just vocals really puts the focus on the lyrics where it should be. Oteil’s bass line makes brief beautiful entrances then the Freight Train chugs in keeping the calm time with Derek’s slide making simple statements. Gregg’s organ chimes in and the guitar players get to work ripping our hearts out of our chests. It’s glorious. Well pronounced lyrics come back in sung at such an even pace with a little soft whoo hoo placed so quietly. The man knew what he was doing with his voice. “There is a long hard road that winds so far behind me….” fading out with a bottleneck slide on an acoustic…brilliantly placed after Butch’s cascading cymbals. To me Old Before My Time is bittersweet perfection.

Then we get a count off. How can a count off be so perfectly placed after a song and we are back to rockin the blues. The melody stalks with a cool sensibility somebody tell me Who to Believe. Unhurried guitar refrain bops quietly in the corner. I imagine that there was never another studio release because this effort was so good. The band has it right here. Each song and cover a strong righteous rendition of master musicians at their craft. Butch said something about the expense of studio time and that well may be but for my money I’m guessing they finished with this album and made a conscious decision to let it be. I’m just spit balling here who knows another effort might have been just as worthy but it’s hard for me imagining them topping this effort. There are subtle touches everywhere and it really is a genius well thought out effort played with passion and perfection. It really is brilliant and sits as a pantheon cap stone with no need to alter and no need for an addition.

Maydell (Johnny Neel -remember him) comes rockin’ in with a great upbeat shuffle and then Rockin’ Horse (Allen Woody – remember him) with just ridiculous firing of guitars and bass lines and that freight yard rhythm section with Marc playing his palms off then Derek getting greazzzzzzzy and the damn thing just funks out all over the place.

Heart of Stone was a great surprise and makes me laugh – this heart of stone darlin’. How perfect are the Stones lyrics for Gregg to sing and Warren and Derek give this song a wicked work out at the close. Take that Mick and Keith.

Instrumental Illness this mighty disc gets ready to close with an Oteil and Warren effort that is like a carnival ride, a crazy kangaroo of a song careening down the highway. It’s such a fun bop of an opening and then we’re down to some serious jams people. Introducing the one and only Gregg Allman on keyboards. It’s outstanding to hear Gregg give the keys a great work out before we launch into … what’s that familiar winding note … like a lone wolf howling at the wind … ladies and gentleman introducing Derek Trucks in all his mighty double cut away glory. The rhythm section stalks the lead as the guitar tries to turn away not today Mr. Trucks here comes Oteil bounding after you better take cover under those splashing drum skins, Zildjian Cymbals and drum heads of Marcs now making way for Warren sauntering down the street ready to throw a funky break down Haynsian groove a funky riffttastic orgy of growling staccato frenzy and the beast lives. Oh excuse me time to go up an octave nine minutes in we’re over right…. Ha,ha,ha yeah right they’re just letting the listener relax. Here comes Gregg with the closing of the Fillmore riff and then oh hi Oteil were you been and off again we go with the closing stanza a classic ABB wind down and subtle clashing close.

Phew what next well we get ceremoniously tossed into the swamp as Old Friend steps out from the Ridge across the holler and down to the creek. Warren brings his gentle growl and we have a finger picker’s delight vintage bottle neck attack with Skip James and Son House coming to mind.

And here we close my friends back from which we came full circle. God bless the Allman Brothers Band every single one of them in all their incarnations and god bless the music and god bless the fans and god bless the source from which it all sprang and from which it all springs.

In this crazy world with good and evil living side by side keep dancing, keep singing, keep playing the blues and driving your train. It’s your world too you know grab a hold of what speaks to you and build your foundation of life. Mold the clay that is you drink deep from the waters. It’s a mystery and a miracle a struggle and a defeat a victory and a redemption a journey worth living tear it up in balance with your soul, body, mind and spirit.

Paul

 

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Where it all Begins –
In 1994 we got treated to yet a third studio album by the Allman Brothers. On the heels of Seven Turns and Shades of Two Worlds and a live disc this third Studio release from the reinvigorated band is a complete, cohesive effort and an excellent album.

While Seven Turns had a more disparate feel of different songs slotted next to one another and Shades was a pin your ears back assault from beginning to end Where It All Begins sits in between those two efforts tempo wise. Here we don’t have the all-out blistering attack as captured on Shades or Set One an Evening With a live disc that was recorded teeth bared in Macon, Boston and at the Beacon that came out in 1992 but rather Where It All Begins has a distinctive shuffle song after song. It seems the Brothers were concentrating more on song craft with this release than burning the studio down.

Tom Dowd again at the helm helped the Brothers achieve their vision while still maintaining the tone of their dynamic sound and intricate interplay. It bounces and feels jaunty. Those are strange words to describe the Allman Brothers and their screaming stack of Marshall’s but the playing is definitely more relaxed and that makes for a more relaxed listening experience which over time is very enjoyable.

Rest assured it is the Allman Brothers sound in its entirety and several of the songs became performance regulars that fit well within the cannon of early classics. Gregg’s singing of Soulshine is a treat and No One To Run With and its Bo Diddly shuffle was a concert favorite an anthem of acceptance and defiance that we all loved. Song after song shuffle with almost a reggae back beat intertwined and they deliver. This album also includes Sailin Across The Devils Sea, Change My Way of Living, What’s Done is Done and of the three resurgent studio releases may be my favorite and I’m very passionate about Shades of Two Worlds.

So we have a little bit of a mellow twist here a little less aggressive but certainly high quality songs and arrangements that let you hear a little more carefully the overall skill and talent of each of the players drum and rhythm section, bass and B-3 working together as well as the complexity of Dickie and Warren’s playing.

Where It All Begins is a relaxed groove with great slightly understated playing and a swing sensibility with hints of island back beats. It makes for an any time of day or night enjoyable funky, swing fest listen.

There are bouncy meandering segues, peaks and valleys intertwined with plenty of quick little fires of intensity but it is a different listening experience than Shades and a seemingly earthier offering than Seven Turns.

It all sounds great and mixed not so it’s coming at you but more like you are at the center of the listening experience. The growling tones are all there and the quick flourishes both strings and cymbals but not until the seventh track do our faces get ripped off with the tremendous Mean Woman Blues.

I can only imagine after Shades of Two Worlds and the Blistering An Evening With First Set the band wanted to dial it back a little bit and write some strong songs that gave their playing room to breathe. Tom Dowd did a great job mixing as all the vocals, Gregg’s, Dickie and Warren’s float just above the mix while at the back end of the mix the Hammond stalks the groove. Woody’s bass is dialed in nicely and the guitars when featured sizzle and dance. The drums Butch, Jaimoe and Marc always fantastic sit nicely as well right there trading licks with the guitars supporting the melody.

This is a fine album by mature skilled and accomplished musicians and lyricists that rocks and rolls through the swamp of our souls. Put it on feel your head bop as all the touches and ambiance returns and your smile emerges. Where It All Begins is a fully realized set of songs sung and played with passion and pin point fire that delivers a seemingly effortless Allman Brother journey down the road and yet it still retains that seductive smolder we all know and love.

I’m really enjoying rediscovering this effort and although not knowing for sure get what they were trying to achieve. I feel they slowed down their attack so that their musicianship and song crafting could really come to the fore be heard and really be appreciated. To that end I think they succeeded tremendously!

 

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Seven Shades:
In the 1990’s we were treated to two back to back releases Seven Turns and Shades of Two Worlds. There is a plethora of jamtastic music on both albums. Seven Turns set the table and Shades of Two Worlds slammed the door with authority. We are the Allman Brothers Band and this is the music we play and it speaks for itself. Here we come like it or not and just like that we were back fans, friends, family and band. No top forty airplay, no striving for recognition, damn few releases just live shows one after the other and the church filled right back up with young and old alike and we got it on. Who needs all the hyperbole all the media it’s all a distraction. The band was back down to business and that nights show was the mission. They recommitted to the music and their original passion and vision despite personnel, despite airplay, despite everything and guess what when they did what they loved because they loved it everything else took care of itself. The music came first not the booze, not the drugs, not the women, not the fame, accolades or attention and we were back with a vengeance. I was still on the air ten years later in 1991 and fell in love with Shades of Two Worlds. It screamed from the studio and out over the airwaves. Nobody Knows ricocheted everywhere I could broadcast it from my car, backyard, studio and airwaves. The energy was fierce and the college kids sheepishly admitted the old guy jams. It was nice of them to say but the phone was ringing off the hook. Your back this year thank god your show is the best thing on campus. It felt good to deliver and it felt good to have the goods to deliver. Thank you fellas!!!!!!!

I was at a Lynyrd Skynyrd Allman Brothers gig in North Carolina a decade later and it was a hoot fest and a half. I told my wife we are at ground zero tonight. The bikers were out in force. The flags were waving and the lawn after the show was strewn with bodies. My wife tried to help one poor flag bikini clad daisy duke wearing chippy as she stumbled barefoot into the washroom, “oh honey put some shoes on before coming in here.” We were back having fun!

I put a Seven Shades disc together which works well and features the songs I think are the best tracks from these two efforts.

Good Clean Fun (Seven Turns)
Seven Turns (Seven Turns)
Get On With Your Life (Shades of Two Worlds)
Low Down Dirty Mean (Seven Turns)
Shine It On (Seven Turns)
True Gravity ( Seven Turns)
End of the Line (Shades of Two Worlds)
Come on in My Kitchen (Shades of Two Worlds)
It’ Ain’t Over Yet (Seven Turns)
Kind of Bird (Shades of Two Worlds)
Nobody Knows (Shades of Two Worlds)
Gambler’s Roll (Seven Turns)
77 minutes

Just a few comments about some of these tracks:

True Gravity – takes off at the 2:50 mark into a beautiful array of sound, splashing drums, and thoughtful melody lines. It’s ethereal with the drums chugging underneath and the bass line jumping in and out in sympathy. And then at the 4:30 mark Johnny Neel charges out with a blistering piano line that wraps around the highway of sound that steals the show and sets the table for the next guitar lead and band to crescendo in a group ascent and fall. That middle segue is a thing of beauty.

Low Down Dirty Mean – opens with an acoustic twang and has a great juke joint feel, with a great set of gutsy lyrics.

Get on With Your Life – has some great call and response blues guitar work and Gregg brings the blues vocals to church.

End of the Line – “Oh when I think about the old days it sends chills up and down my spine.” Do you think Gregg is trying to tell us something here? It’s another gutsy, sizzling track and you can literally feel the band spitting the music out with purpose. A wonderful slide segue melodic and a change of pace leads us back to Gregg’s soulful proclamations. “Spent most of my life downtown sleeping behind the wheel.” Yeah baby tell it like it is!

Come on in My Kitchen – is the perfect pallet cleanser for screaming stacks of Marshall’s and I had to include it as it pays homage to the massive root of music that the ABB sound emerges from. Gregg slows it way down and it’s his singing that carries the melody. The backup vocals are spot on gospel and Dickey and Warren get to do a little chicken pickin and grinnin. It’s a real front porch holler.

Kind of Bird – I remember first listening to this tune and it not really grabbing me because it is a departure from the heavy straight ahead attack of say Black Hearted Woman. But here now decades later I totally get it and love it and get the groove. There are some great touches behind the shifting theme and flourishing riffs. A song structure ahead of its time to my ears back then but now it stands solid and undated dive back into this one if you haven’t in a while it’s all there.

Nobody Knows – Better lyrics may not have ever been written anywhere by anyone. They are straight ahead, unpretentious, speak the truth simply and clearly. I love hearing the band play but I love hearing Gregg sing these lyrics… “they ALL claim to know.” The music gets to the heart of the matter and doesn’t dance around the edges. Gregg’s Hammond gets a good work out to open the assault it’s building you know it’s coming…another verse and then it’s an earthy fierce work out. Nobody Knows sits firmly in the pantheon of great righteous Allman Brother Tunes from Whipping Post to Elizabeth Reed and the aforementioned Black Hearted Woman. Too many righteous classics to mention but this is foundational Allman Brothers at its best. It’s a righteous riffing screaming pin your ears back blow your mind melt the speakers excursion of dexterity, force and truth. It’s an in your face assault that says here we are this is what we do bitch and we do it better than anybody else!

Gambler’s Roll – After Nobody Knows what can you play? Well this tune brings the blues right back and has an opening crescendos that screeches to a halt mellows the mood and then lights the fire again. It builds slowly more truth is spoken with authority and the Hammond builds and stalks the opening assault. It’s so good to hear Gregg at his craft working that massive keyboard. Then the guitar comes in from around a dark alley the mood set screaming out in agony and flourishes with passion. This is a great tune and a good song. Gregg sings us out while the band flourishes and charges and retreats around his voice. It’s a thoughtful arrangement gritty, soulful, dark.

The amount of music this band put out over forty years might lend itself to some missing these tracks. Don’t do it dig down deep in their cannon and enjoy. They deserve to be heard and we deserve to hear them as well.

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Seven Turns:
Before I launch into the merits of the music a little context is needed for this yarn. We all know death but do we know it as a good thing? Believe it or not and it makes no difference to me I’m not here to convince you of anything but if you haven’t experienced the jolt of death the righteous slap in the face that it is you have no idea and zero comprehension of life. It’s a rude awakening but it is an awakening. You may think you know it but until you experience it the proverbial rug has not been swiped from under your feet and the seemingly emptiness revealed. Death challenges you and braces you like turning into the wrong neighborhood at night in a different city where you have just arrived. Death wakes your ass up. Death provides gratitude and awareness it provokes faith and amplifies and informs your life. An unexpected death like a bolt from a canyon rips the false veneer of shallow comprehension off your back and drops it at your feet. Pick it up or run away it still provides the provocative phenomenon that a spinning oasis in space is just a start and what the hell is really going on here? Death raises your consciousness even if you think you have already raised your consciousness to dizzying heights. Death is the ultimate thunder clap and sudden death is its howitzer.

I’ve been blasted by that howitzer several times and in its place fleeting memories and artifacts and phenomena. My beautiful older sister knew how to act. With a sly smile and a warm heart and the true sting of a Scorpio. Perfectly placed five years older than me she sometimes paved the way and when in her sphere raised me up. On rare occasions she pointed her boyfriend’s little sisters my way. Looking out for me she would have stuffed a little surfer girl in the mail to me from Hawaii if she could and told me so but all I got was a tee shirt. She was honest, brave and fun and then in a snap she was gone and I’m still so very young.

Seven turns landed in my lap in 1990. After the wilderness years of solo albums, band feuds, people magazine covers and releases that had glimmers but only a few tracks to cling to I ripped the cellophane off the new CD. How the fuck do you open a CD Jesus mother of marry get that freakin’ label sticky crap sealed again under the cellophane off? What fresh packaging hell is this!? Wait don’t break the plastic case. Okay CD’s came out in the mid 1980’s but I mean seriously!!?

I deposited the new disc in my player and like many of you I was ten years in the waiting….please don’t suck, please don’t suck, please don’t suck. Heightened anticipation positive but still please no more over synthesized pablum puke for the masses. Not since Brothers and Sisters come on we need a complete effort not just one or two righteous explorations and then fill come on mannnnnnnnnn.

So there I was in my old Victorian on the precipice of exaltation, disappointment or somewhere in between. I was all alone no roommates, holding down several gigs, making ends meet, no television, finalizing Journey Home and my music and art surrounding me. Vintage hippie pad, crooked floors, bay windows, complete with tapestries, incense and Native American flute music emanating from the windows. My Cousteau Calypso flag hanging from the second story out front proudly. Plants and bookshelves The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Van Gogh, acoustic and electric, an old typewriter two kittens pesticide free pest control and support system please don’t shit in the rubber plant Sylvia it was Jeana’s.

The marinara steeping in my small antiquated kitchen, pasta at the ready, fresh bread and a nice bottle of red. Good Clean Fun comes roaring out of the speakers! Yeeeees! Fist pump, arms raised, eyes to the heavens nirvana in my crib but no one to share it with. No matter I’ve always been a god damn independent. As one song rolls into the other and I’m preparing my modest feast the thought that grows naturally from my soul and heart is that Duane must be so proud of his younger brother right now and I feel it I really do and the smile is there the music is righteous, strong, invigorated and there it is right in the middle of the floor as I turn my sisters fedora with the feather she stuck in the trim ribbon waiting to greet me.

We live in a beautiful world an amazing world surrounded by creativity and beauty and honor and goodness and magic. It’s a reality unknowable and the ying and yang of it all gives us our work to do and presents those challenges. If met we are the wiser for it more fulfilled brimming with soul satisfaction and awareness at every step, every waking moment and in our dreams as well the visions abound both here and there. It really is a beautiful world and it’s all tied together whether we know it or not in ways we cannot seem to see but sometimes do and more often then afterwards we hear the song birds sing thank you.

 

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Journey Home Reviews

I can't wait to read your book!!!! -- Sophie
Loved it! -- Woody
I didn't want it to end ... Dave
Made My Upper Lip Sweat..- - Jay
I am definitely digging it! -- Devin
Hello from the United Kingdom. Thanks for a brilliant book -- Terry
I must tell you how truthful and inspiring it was -- Debbie H
Paul Burke is some fantastic, talented writer. Journey Home is an eye-opener. It is down to earth and humanly raw! I highly recommend it as a must read!!" -- Knowledge Tree Bookstore
I randomly stumbled upon this book online and it looked intriguing. Little did I know that it was more than just a curious cover...a wonderful picture of nature and a nice mindset of our place within it. I recommend the hell out of it!" -- Jonny Bear
Paul, I got Journey Home sent to my house and eagerly devoured it on a trip to New York and back via a long delay courtesy Delta Airlines. You proved to be a great companion... YOU ROCK -- Ken
I just finished reading Journey Home and I can't tell you how bowled over I am. It is so insightful and powerful and it emanates such wonderment of reality. It is Phenomenal on so many levels...tremendous! -- Aimee'
When I first started reading Journey Home I couldn’t put it down! Each person and situation became vivid in my mind. I could feel the book. It became one with me and the sounds ... here on Big River. The unexpected twists and turns, continued to peak my interest, and the first night I read till I could see no more. Then, as I awoke I read till I was done. A book of this quality is an Amazing Gift for all to read and Understand!!!! -- Dusty

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