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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Allman Brothers Band: One Way Out


1) Statesboro Blues; 2) Don't Keep Me Wondering; 3) Midnight Rider; 4) Rockin' Horse; 5) Desdemona; 6) Trouble No More; 7) Wasted Words; 8) Good Morning Little Schoolgirl; 9) Instrumental Illness; 10) Ain't Wastin' Time No More; 11) Come & Go Blues; 12) Woman Across The River; 13) Old Before My Time; 14) Every Hungry Woman; 15) High Cost Of Low Living; 16) Worried Down With The Blues; 17) Dreams; 18) Whippin' Post.

With the kind of quality standard already established on Hittin' The Note, it certainly makes lit­tle sense to doubt that the same standards would be upheld for the Brothers' next wave of live shows as well. So the nearly simultaneous release, in 2004, of a high-quality live DVD (At The Beacon) and a double CD commemorating the band's live status at the same time, suffers from a certain lack of surprise (at least the two Evenings sets arrived after a fifteen-year break in live album production, and the latest live album before that (Wipe The Windows) really wasn't all that hot anyway).

One other significant flaw of One Way Out is that it relies way too heavily on recent material, with six out of eleven tracks from Hittin' The Note (including all the long ones) reproducing way more than half of that album. Of course, these are excellent tunes per se, but too little time has passed between their creation and reproduction for the band to think of any interesting new twists — for the most part, they just faithfully recreate the arrangements, structures, and moods of the originals, the only minor differences concerning bits of solo improvisation.

It is far more interesting to hear how the latest lineup handles the classics — and whether, for instance, Derek Trucks really lives up to the «Duane reincarnation» moniker. It is certainly not a coincidence that the first number to be played (or, at least, sequenced on the CD) is 'Statesboro Blues' and the last one an extended version of 'Whippin' Post' — the exact same way we experie­n­ced it on Fillmore East: more than a transparent hint at the fact that the band feels confident enough to declare that they are just as good now as they used to be then.

«Just as good», however, does not equal «exactly the same». No matter what, both Trucks and Haynes belong to a different, more modern, school of guitar players than Duane. A very rough phrasing would be to say that they emphasize complexity and precision over gut feeling — rough, because no sane person would ever accuse Duane of lacking amazing technicality, or Warren and Dereck of playing without their hearts in it. (Insanity, or, at least, extreme narrow-mindedness will be assumed for all the odd people who refer to Derek's total immobility and lack of stage mi­mics as showing a lack of emotion). But, on the other hand, it is hard not to sniff a whiff of «pre­dictability», an over-polished approach to these here shows — with the original Allmans, you ne­ver really knew where exactly a particular performance would eventually take you, whereas the Haynes/Trucks duo steers the ship like a pair of expert, grizzled boatsmen, disciplined enough to know when it is safe to stick to the bottle and when the situation requires complete sobriety.

This is, probably, what people mean when they call One Way Out «just one step below» the ori­ginal concerts — this is the step. On the other hand, there are also those who prefer immaculate, well-calculated professionalism, not to mention a perfect sound quality, unimaginable on Duane-era recordings, and we have to think of them, too. No matter how predetermined and safely pa­ckaged we see this guitar communication language between Haynes and Trucks, it is still an awesome challenge to both enjoy and study it. And then there are all the little interesting cha­n­ges they do to the classics. 'Whippin' Post', for instance, gets its second chaotic part (the 'Frère Jacques' bit) cut off — a respectable decision, allowing them to go for less self-repetition. 'Mid­night Rider' gets a much harder-rocking treatment than it used to. 'Wasted Words', in its final sec­tion, is transformed into one of the most furious twin-guitar battles on the album, etc. etc.

In between 2004 and 2007, the Allmans would practice a special «Instant Live» gimmick, where they would make rough soundboard quality recordings of all of their shows and then select the best ones and trade them for fans off their website, increasing their «official» discography sky-high. Nobody except for diehards and studiosos really needs to bother with all these «authorized bootlegs», but One Way Out, as one easily available sample of the Allmans' greatness in the 21st century, is recommendable for everyone.

Check "One Way Out" (CD) on Amazon

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