Album of the Week 23-2015: The Allman Brothers Band – Shades Of Two Worlds

In the history of The Allman Brothers Band, there’s two eras that I truly love. First, there was the raw Blues era when Duane Allman – to this day one of the most incredible talents ever to touch a guitar – was still alive and then, there’s the period that Warren Haynes dialed the Rock factor back up for the band. No disrespect to the legacy of guitarist Dickey Betts and singer/organist Gregg Allman, but the latter was when the band got its songwriting focus back and the extended jams regained their fire. ‘Shades Of Two Worlds’ shows the band’s fearless multi-genre approach as well as their most passionate studio playing since ‘Idlewild South’.

Part of the album’s live energy is due to the fact that the seven-piece band likes to record everything as live as possible. It shows, because the interaction between Haynes and Betts, as well as the shared swing of drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe and percussionist Marc Quiñones is at its absolute best. The glossy early nineties production has a bit too much sheen for the raw sound of the band, but that hardly is a disturbing factor here, because the songwriting is absolutely stunning.

While I would blame Betts’ greater involvement after Allman’s tragic early demise for the “countrying down” of the band’s music – remember ‘Ramblin’ Man’? – he does show what a truly great Bluesrock writer he is here. The absolute highlight here, ‘Nobody Knows’, is from his hand completely and contains the greatest riffs of the album as well as an utterly amazing vocal melody and long, spirited jams with fantastic climaxes. His compositions with Haynes are highlights as well: ‘Kind Of Bird’ finally brings back the Jazz influence of ‘At Fillmore East’, ‘Bad Rain’ has an unbelievable swing and ‘Midnight Man’ has this irresistible swampy feel and ditto riffwork.

Gregg Allman, however, did contribute two great songs to this record. Most typical for him is the slow, passionate Blues of ‘Get On With Your Life’. No white man can sing the Blues like Allman does, look no further than here for proof. Opening track ‘End Of The Line’, which he co-wrote, is another masterpiece. A journeyman lyric typical of the Southern Rock tradition – although I would categorize the Allman Brothers Band as Bluesrock rather than Southern Rock – supported by muscular Rock riffs, brilliant vocal work by Allman and passionate solo trade-offs by Haynes and Betts and as such, a true winner.

During the aforementioned eras, The Allman Brothers Band never really released an album that was any less than very good, but ‘Shades Of Two Worlds’ is one of those moments when all the stars are aligned just right. The septet gained their reputation as a live band and it is the stage where their music comes most alive, but as far as collections of songs go, none of them is better than this unusually inspired album. Where many jam bands forget to write an actual song and many normal Rock bands just aren’t good enough to keep a jam entertaining, this album really brings the best of the two worlds it may refer to in its title.

Recommended tracks: ‘Nobody Knows’, ‘End Of The Line’, ‘Kind Of Bird’, ‘Midnight Man’

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