This CD review was originally published in the November 27, 2014 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com
Various Artists -- All My Friends: Celebrating The Songs and Voice of Gregg Allman
2 CDs / 26 tracks / 2:31:54
1 DVD / 2:40:55
The Allman Brothers Band has survived its share of adversity since their first paying gig in 1969, and after 45 years they have finally called it quits and had their finals shows at New York City’s Beacon Theatre. One of the founding members, Gregg Allman, will continue on with his solo career, which is to be expected as he has quite a following of fans, including countless professional musicians.
On Friday, January 10, 2014, some of these legendary artists joined at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia to honor Gregg and join him in song. All two-and-a-half hours of this show were captured on two CDs and a DVD, so you can experience this magical evening for yourself! All My Friends: Celebrating The Songs and Voice of Gregg Allman includes 26 songs with performances from a lengthy list of industry hard-hitters and hall-of-famers, including Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Dr. John, Eric Church, Pat Monahan, Jackson Browne, John Hiatt, Vince Gill, Martina McBride, and more! Gregg Allman joined in the celebration too, along with the rest of the Allman Brothers Band for a.
The set list is chock full of Allman goodness, with early Allman Brothers Band albums represented as well as tunes combed from Gregg’s solo catalogue. It is noteworthy that the Allman Brothers Band actually performed a few of the tunes, but they also assembled a house band to die for that played for the rest of the evening. This included Don Was on bass, Kenny Aronoff on the skins, Jack Pearson and Audley Freed on guitar, Chuck Leavell on piano, Rami Jaffee behind the Hammond, and Jimmy Hall tearing it up the harmonica. This would have been good enough, but they also brought in the McCrary Sisters on backing vocals and a killer horn section of Jim Hoke, Vinnie Ciesielski, and John Hinchey. These are all pros with centuries of combined stage experience and they made the evening enjoyable and complete.
This is a high-quality release with excellent production values, and the producer for this Rounder Records project is the one-and-only 3-time Grammy award winner Don Was. He was definitely qualified for this task, with credits that include The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison and Neil Diamond. The sound and mix is as good as you will get with a live album, and the cinematography and editing of the DVD is crystal clear and it was put together so that fans get to see everything worth seeing.
Listening to the CDs is more challenging than the DVD as the first few times through it is difficult to envision what is happening on stage and who is actually singing – and most of the time it is not Gregg Allman. In fact, he does not even appear on stage until almost an hour in, when he joins Grammy-winning blues musician Taj Mahal on “Statesboro Blues.” But, without the visuals there is also a better of idea of who is getting the mail delivered, and there are definitely standout vocal performances. The highlight of the evening was “Midnight Rider” with Zac Brown and Gregg on lead vocals and Vince Gill backing them up on the harmonies: it induced goose bumps! Not far behind was McBride and Monahan’s duet of “Can You Fool” and the Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave) take of “Please Call Home.”
But the best part of the set is the DVD, and if you are not terribly busy you can take most of an evening to sit back and watch it. There are no special features or commentaries, but it is probably one of the better-produced concert videos that you will ever see. On the screen you get to see the mountains of amplifiers and the huge cast of musicians that made this tribute possible. This video gives a better idea of what a bang-out job that the house band does, including the powerful drumming of the indefatigable Aronoff, and the kicking yet subtle contributions of Pearson and Freed on guitar. The pedal steel work of Robert Randolph on “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had” was a complete jaw-dropper and he did a righteous job alongside Gregg’s son, Devon Allman, on guitar. Also, the finale of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” is very touching as all of the musicians returned to the stage one last time with Gregg kicking things off.
If you are a fan of Gregg Allman or the Allman Brothers Band, then purchasing All My Friends: Celebrating The Songs and Voice of Gregg Allman will be an easy decision. If you like Southern rock, you will certainly want to pick up a copy too. But the universal appeal of this well-produced set is that it includes work from some of the most influential artists of today, which makes adding this well-rounded music collection to your library almost irresistible, even if you are only the least bit interested in the man or the band. Check it out for yourself, and do not be surprised if you end up buying a copy too!