Here’s a theory: the Allman Brothers Band established an undeniably classic sound without ever writing a truly classic song. One US Top-10 hit in 40 years is testament to that. But they nailed that sound right out of the box.
This multi-disc set, released to mark the 50th anniversary of the band's formation, kicks off with the first recording they made – a previously unreleased demo of Muddy Waters’ Trouble No More – and it’s already there: those jazz and country licks, that harmony, that slide, that friskiness, the effortless joy.
Cut to 44 years later, and they end their final show at New York’s Beacon Theatre – and this collection – with the same song, sound essentially unchanged. Unlike 2016’s limited-edition Life’s A Peach crate, this isn’t a glossy repackaging of their albums. Instead it’s a soup-to-nuts chronology, removing the songs from their original album context and placing the highlights into distinct historical periods.
It’s a bit clumsy: ‘The Capricorn Years 1969 – 1979 Part III’ and ‘The Arista Years 1980 – 1981’ are on one disc, and the track list reflects the compilers’ desire for solid representation rather than focusing on the early highlights.
There are pleasures to be found among the seven unreleased tracks, though: a lovely, almost lackadaisical 12-minute version of Mountain Jam performed in front of 600,000 people at Watkins Glen in 1973, and the smooth, effortless funk of I’m Not Cryin’, recorded live in 1999 but sounding every inch 1971.
An accompanying 9,000-word essay by John Lynskey (Executive Vice-President at the Allman Brothers Band Museum) makes sense of it all.