Gregg Allman’s Remastered and Expanded Debut Solo Album ‘Laid Back’ and Out Of Print Live Album The Gregg Allman Tour’ Reissued (ALBUM REVIEW)

There was a time when Gregg Allman once contemplated whether he’d be remembered or easily forgotten. The answer, in this year that celebrates the 50th anniversary of The Allman Brothers Band, is a resounding “Yes, he’ll be remembered.” The music played by Gregg Allman, whether in a solo setting, with supporting casts other than his iconic ABB members, and unequivocally with the ABB is timeless. And, there’s certainly a demand for it. Last year Live at the Fillmore East ’70 was issued, next week will usher in a 4-disc set of the ABB at the Fillmore West in 1971, we’ve had the debut and touring of the next generation with the Allman-Betts Band, and now we get to enjoy Gregg Allman’s expanded and remastered first solo album Laid Back as well as the long out-of-print The Gregg Allman Tour accompanied by a 24-piece orchestra comprising members of the New York Philharmonic. This is 4 CDs across both projects, a feast of music.

Let’s turn our attention first to Laid Back. The album was first issued after the fourth ABB release, Brothers and Sisters, when Gregg wanted to further explore his love for blues and soul music without a guitar-heavy sound. Co-produced by Allman and Johnny Sandlin, the album favored gospel-tinged B3 organ, slower tempos and a choir. It was a different and highly effective way to showcase Allman’s bluesy, whiskey-soaked, distinctly Southern, now iconic vocals. He often trades his ABB fiery enthusiasm for mournful takes, perhaps still impacted by the recent passing of brother Duane and Berry Oakley. Just two tracks in, you can hear this on “Queen of Hearts,” later in “Please Call Home” and “Multi-colored Lady.”

The new Deluxe Edition of Laid Back expands the rather short original album to 34 tracks and includes 26 bonus tracks, (mostly demos and alternate takes along with a few rare songs). Disc 1 features the remastered versions of the original eight followed by the early mix of each. Disc 2 has the demos, outtakes, alternates and a must-hear intensely emotive acoustic live performance of “Melissa:” dedicated to Duane and Berry Oakley, from the Capital Theater recorded in April 1974. The package also has unreleased photographs and extensive liner by ABB historian John Lynskey.

The Gregg Allman Tour has been out of print for over 30 years. It, like the solo album, is being issued in vinyl on both 180-gram black and dual-colored marble. The recordings have also been digitally remastered and optimized for iTunes and other digital formats. And, double CD versions are available as well. The music on the live album (s) was recorded over three nights at Carnegie Hall in New York on April 10th &11th, and on April 13th at the Capitol Theater in New Jersey. Allman is accompanied by members of the band Cowboy (Scott Boyer, Randall Bramblett, David Brown, Chuck Leavell, Bill Stewart, Tommy Talton) and the 24-piece orchestra.

The set list contains songs from Laid Back along with versions of Allman Brothers tunes like “Stand Back” and “Dreams.” The album also features cover tunes such as Bobby “Blue Bland’s “Turn On Your Love  Light,” a rambling jam with a stirring sax solo from Bramblett, “Are You Lonely For Me Baby,” and the Elvis Presley hit, “I Feel So Bad.” Cowboy performs two of their own songs – “Time Will Take Us” and “Where Can You Go?” with Allman on keys for the latter. This performance also includes a song unavailable on any other recording, one with Gregg was especially proud of called “Oncoming Traffic.”

There are many versions of the same song across these two packages. Just for kicks, consider “Midnight Rider”(3), “Queen of Hearts”(4), “Multi-colored Lady” (3) and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”(3). For many Gregg Allman’s voice and songwriting are enduring treasures.  While these packages would leave most highly satiated, the demand is such that we shouldn’t be surprised to see even more Gregg Allman and Allman Brothers Band material reissued.

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