Idlewild South

The Allman Brothers Band

Atco Records, 1970

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


So how vast is the now-legendary Pierce Memorial Archives, you ask?

Put it this way - every once in a while, while walking its aisles, I discover shit I don't ever remember buying. Case in point is today's album from the legendary Allman Brothers Band, Idlewild South.

Duane and Gregg Allman's band were building up quite a reputation for themselves as a live group, as well as for their musicianship. With this release, the band explored not only blues, but gospel and free-form rock (jazz?). If only they had settled on one particular style, this album would have worked much better.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The opening cut, "Revival," is the gospel tinge to the album, which shows how good Gregg's pipes can sound. The backing vocals are not credited on the album jacket (maybe Polygram fixed this when they obtained the rights for the album), but they add just the right touch to the song.

The highlight for me on this one is "Midnight Rider," which some people may recognize from a beer commercial some years ago. The dual guitars of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts complement each other so well on this one, three minutes of the most beautiful music I've heard.

Things start to bog down on "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed," an instrumental that has become a live favorite of the band. While the live version is always something special to hear, the studio version sounds cramped and forced. It is on this song that I hear some jazz tinges in the music as the band tries to free-flow in a mere seven minutes. The sad fact is, this song is at its best when it doesn't have time constraints on it - a similar example being "Dark Star" by the Grateful Dead, a "brother of the road" of the Allmans. (There are tapes of Dead shows, one of which I have, which feature Duane and Gregg jamming with the band.)

The second half of Idlewild South is the bluesiest, but it is also the weaker of the two (not to mention short, at just over 13 minutes). Berry Oakley takes a turn at the lead vocal microphone on "Hoochie Coochie Man," but his voice is nowhere near as powerful as Gregg Allman's. In turn, this cover of Willie Dixon's classic suffers.

The remaining two tracks, regrettably, are standard fare, "Please Call Home" and "Leave My Blues At Home." The work of the brothers Allman has been better than this side - or album, for that matter - proves.

Oh, sure, the Allmans would go on to record their classic live album at the Fillmore East, and they would twice be able to turn triumph into tragedy to create two of their best albums. But Idlewild South is a portrait of what could have been - this could have been one of the greatest modern blues albums, if only the band had allowed themselves to feel more free in the studio.

Rating: C+

User Rating: B-



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atco Records, and is used for informational purposes only.