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Allman Brothers Band history: 1980 -- from gee-tar to key-tar

Can you imagine seeing this at an Allman Brothers show? Welcome to 1980.

The ABB reunion in 1979 had gotten off to a decent start with a new ABB 3.0 lineup and a respectable comeback effort entitled Enlightened Rogues. This would also be their final album for Capricorn Records. Strongly believing that the label had not been paying them proper royalties for years, Dickey took Capricorn to court -- and won. The judgement resulted in the label declaring bankruptcy. The band would never see the money they were awarded and more importantly, they lost the support of people that had always given them complete creative control.

They signed with Clive Davis and Arista Records, also the home of the Grateful Dead. Davis had managed to exert some control over the notoriously-difficult Dead by insisting they use outside producers. Now he would do the same to the Allmans. 

Music was different now. Blues was considered old people music. Southern Rock was now passe as well and had never really recovered from the demise of Skynyrd. Corporate Rock dominated the radio: Journey, Styx, Supertramp, Boston, Foreigner. That was what Arista wanted the Allman Brothers to be. They didn't have to wear new wave skinny ties but the label did ask that they stop wearing their cowboy hats onstage.

The two albums for Arista, 1980's Reach For The Sky and 1981's Brothers Of The Road are unquestionably the career nadir of the Allman Brothers. A band trying to be something they're not. Reach For The Sky's producer Mike Lawler wound up joining the band full-time, adding painfully-dated synth sounds and yes -- keytar solos.

And as their label was putting the screws to them, Dickey would do the same to the band. Gregg had become a figurehead, singing the old hits in a substance-addled stupor but contributing little in the way of new music. This was the Dickey Betts Show now and into ABB 3.0 he brought Dan Toler on guitar and David Goldflies on bass from his Great Southern solo project. As the band's drawing power began to plummet, founding member Jaimoe was ruthlessly fired after a fall 1980 tour of Europe and replaced by Dan Toler's brother, also from Great Southern.

After battling with Chuck Leavell for years over the musical direction of the band, Dickey had no more time for ambitious newcomers. He was in charge and the for-hire sidemen would do what he said.

So here's a radio broadcast from Holland in September 1980. To my knowledge, this was the second-to-last show with Jaimoe before he got fired. The newer songs aren't unlistenable -- I kinda like the trading off of lead vocals on "Try It One More Time" -- but haven't aged well and all disappeared with ABB 4.0. Dan Toler has his fans but I find him to be a total Dickey clone and it can be difficult at times to tell them apart. The longer instrumental passages rapidly chug along with a minimum of group-mind interplay. Everyone's just kind of bashing away as if their thoughts were on other things.

A generous fan might consider Mike Lawler's synth solos to be a harbinger of jamtronica.

The Allman Brothers Band
The Congresgebouw, Den Haag, Holland

mp3 @ 320 [118 mb]
sq: EX

01 Need Your Love So Bad
02 I Got A Right To Be Wrong
03 Mystery Woman
04 In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed 
05 Angeline
06 Try It One More Time
07 One Way Out
08 Jessica
09 Ramblin' Man

tt: 51:15

and here's a Paris show six days later:


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