Sometimes you just have to get down on your knees and give thanks that music this good was ever made. The Allman Brothers Band's 'Eat a Peach' is as close to a perfect rock'n'roll record as has ever been...or, more specifically, a southern rock'n'roll record, but that's picking nits. Every cut is a stone classic and has forever become a part of the rock'n'roll lexicon. This one vinyl double LP became the template for southern-rock, jazz-rock, jam-rock and acoustic-rock ballad beauty.
The Allman Brothers Band came roaring out of
in 1969, burning with a mission. The release that year of their eponymously titled first LP let rip a new sound these six guys heard and wanted to unleash upon the world. They gave birth then and there to southern-rock (and, along with The Grateful Dead and Santana, the jam-band) and are single-handedly responsible for its success, and the myriad of progenitures over the years (including Lynyrd Skynyrd). If you love the blues and jazz inflected boogie of southern-rock (and extended jam-bands like Phish, moe., Widespread Panic and The String Cheese Incident), thank The Allman Brothers Band.
'Eat a Peach', released in 1972, is a landmark album for two reasons: one, it was a double vinyl LP consisting of both studio and live recordings, and was the Brothers first smash hit, kick-starting a legend. And two, it was the first LP released by The Allman Brothers Band after the shocking death (in a motorcycle accident in 1971 - I remember that as if it were yesterday...the community of musicians and music lovers took that as hard as a death in the family. I was stunned for days, as were all of my friends. We just couldn't believe it.) of lead guitarist (and slide-guitarist extraordinaire) Duane Allman, brother of organist/vocalist Gregg, and founder of the band. Thus, in this one package, we hear live cuts with Duane and Dickey Betts on lead guitars (there has never been a better, more complimentary pair in any band), and studio cuts with Betts playing all lead guitar parts (as the album was half in-the-can upon Duane's death). 'Eat a Peach' was released as the tribute album to brother Duane Allman, and a more perfectly fitting tribute could not have been paid. (Irony of ironies, their previous classic two-disc set, 'At Fillmore East', had just reached gold status, and The Allmans were just beginning to finally reap some rewards and critical and public acclaim when founder Duane Allman left this earth. He was never to know the ultimate success of what he had started. Little known fact: younger brother Gregg would not have been in the band [and that huge talent and perfect rock voice would have likely gone unheard through the ages] had not Duane connived and cajoled him - you see, they needed a vocalist.)
Any review of an Allman Brothers Band classic would not be complete without paying tribute to The Allman Brothers Band's classic line-up. In addition to Duane and Gregg, the other brothers line-up included Dickey Betts on guitar, Jaimoe on drums, Berry Oakley on bass, and Butch Trucks on drums. The band has been making a solid comeback these last few years, with Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, and Jaimoe still onboard, adding Butch's nephew Derek Trucks (also of The Derek Trucks Band) on killer electric slide guitar and the inimitable Warren Haynes (also of Gov't. Mule and The Grateful Dead) on expert electric lead guitar of all types, and vocals. Their last release, 'Hittin' the Note' (2003), was a true comeback and made many a Best Of List that year (mine included).
The SACD release is, thankfully, a hybrid disc. It'll play on your CD or DVD player in stereo, and in DSD stereo and multi-channel on an SACD player (hooked up to a Dolby Digital receiver, pre-amp, or processor having 6 channel analog inputs). The multi-channel sonic characteristics of this release are open and spacious, with a gently enveloping aural-depth-of-field and a front soundstage which only at times is noticeably augmented with specific placement of instruments in the surround speakers. Every song is a highlight, so we'll just touch on a few: "Ain't Wastin' Time No More" is wide open spacious, with just a trickle of percussion noticeable in the L rear speaker. "Melissa" uses a slight acoustic guitar bleed to the L rear and some R rear percussion. We move from the studio to the live, 33 minute "Mountain Jam", which places you nicely in the audience, surrounded by a sweet 180 degree soundstage. Very well done. Man, I could go on and on, but space demands brevity, so we'll move to the studio again, and the acoustic "Little Martha". Beginning with a beautifully recorded acoustic guitar figure in the L front and rear speakers, the sound then blossoms from all four corners and is simply breath-taking! Outstanding! Although the sonic presentation is great throughout the disc, "Little Martha" really stands out as one of the most beautiful recordings you will ever hear in multi-channel. And the reason for that brings us to one of the two faults with this release: being all acoustic guitars, "Little Martha" doesn't suffer from the thin sound of the disc. It's not unbearable, but the lower mid-range and bass are somewhat lacking throughout. But it's still damn good! (I docked the SACD presentation one star for this - it coulda been 5 stars all the way around.) The other problem deals with the liner notes. Except for track listing and times, there's nothing else offered. One would think that a classic re-release/remaster of this magnitude would deserve copious liner notes from every corner. C'mon, guys, there is no excuse for this! I DEMAND much better liner notes!
'Eat a Peach' is a classic rock album. They just don't get much better. The SACD Hybrid release improves so much on the previous incarnations, it is a must-have for anyone who considers their collection to be complete, or even to contain just the essentials. This disc earns my highest recommendation, and should be owned by everyone reading this review. No excuses. This is a must have.
Release Date: July 13, 2004
Tracks: 9 - Time: N/A
Produced by: Tom Dowd
Ain't Wastin' Time No More / Les Brers in A Minor / Melissa / Mountain Jam / One Way Out / Trouble No More / Stand Back / Blue Sky / Little Martha.
The Allman Brothers Band:
Duane Allman - Guitars
Gregg Allman - Organ / Guitar / Piano / Keyboards / Vocals
Dickey Betts - Guitars / Drums / Vocals
Jai Johanny Johanson - Percussion / Conga / Drums
Berry Oakley - Bass
Butch Trucks - Percussion / Drums / Gong / Tambourine / Tympani / Vibraphone