Tag Archives: Duane Allman

The Weight

Bruce Springsteen found a classy way to pay tribute to the late Levon Helm at last night’s Newark show:

Sounds like at least half the people in the stadium were singing along. It reminded me that the first time I really listened to this song was when I bought Before the Flood, right at the start of what would turn out to be a lifelong Bob Dylan obsession. The album hasn’t aged well, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for it because I realized I’d already heard “The Weight” and “Up On Cripple Creek” at some point and gotten the choruses wound into the cellular structure of my brain.

It also got me thinking of what other artists have done with the song. Aretha Franklin, for instance:

Nice little slide guitar intro from Duane Allman. Gives Aretha the perfect launch platform for her vocals.

And then there’s this version from Gillian Welch:

This is a performance from last summer, with Levon joining Wilco on the stage. At about 3:39 Levon’s voice falters and his daughter smoothly steps in to complete the verse. The grin on her father’s face speaks volumes:

Finally, a performance from The Band itself, in its prime:

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Blue Monday

The Allman Brothers Band performs “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’, a tune from their Idlewild South album, for a September 1970 show at the Fillmore East in New York. I was a latecomer in appreciating this group — chalk it up to coming of age in the years when Gregg Allman was better known as Cher’s drug-sozzled paramour — and the appreciation has been spurred mainly by Duane Allman’s distinctive guitar backup for the likes of Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis and Boz Scaggs. And, of course, Layla — the only Eric Clapton record I have much use for. You can’t judge artists by their imitators, and if the Allmans gave rise to legions of long-haired Southern rock boogie bands ramblin’ their way through endless blues cliches at top volume, that doesn’t diminish the quality of Idlewild South or The Allman Brothers at the Fillmore East one iota. But there’s still no getting around the fact that I would happily spend the rest of my life without ever again hearing “Whipping Post,” much less “Free Bird.”

This clip, taken from unused PBS footage, is one of the few bits of film capturing the Allmans in their early 1970s prime. That’s Duane Allman on the Les Paul, meshing his sound wonderfully with Thom Doucette’s harmonica. As was his wont, Duane is playing slide with a Coricidin bottle. (Coricidin was a high-octane decongestant Allman used for recreational purposes — one of many pharmacological amusements that could have killed him if he hadn’t died in a motorcycle accident in 1971.) The muddy sound is unkind to Gregg’s singing and it doesn’t so much for their two-drummer lineup, which was a pretty advanced idea for any rock band at the time. As the two-volume anthology series demonstrates, Duane Allman was a one of a kind talent who should have stayed around a lot longer.

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