Idlewild South is the communal sound of one of the best band and producer combinations in music history. Recorded just one year before tragedy would strike and forever change the Allman Brothers, the 1970 set features the peerless lineup of slide guitar legend Duane Allman, rhythm guitar ace Dickey Betts, organist Gregg Allman, bassist Barry Oakley, percussionist Jai Johnny Johnson, drummer Butch Trucks, and multi-instrumentalist Thom Doucette playing under the guidance of iconic session master and kindred spirit Tom Dowd. A more essential hybrid of Southern rock, country, jazz, gospel, and blues you will not find. Scaled down and lighter on its feet than its promising 1969 debut, the Allman Brothers Band’s sophomore masterpiece is also a product of its environment. A subtle rejoinder to the horrors of the Altamont Music Festival and increasing quagmire of the Vietnam War, the group’s lithe songs restore a peaceful, optimistic vibe without coming across as preachy or overreaching. “People can you feel it/Love is everywhere” the collective sings in heavenly unison on the lead-off “Revival,” which opens the floodgates to an album of scampering boogies, slippery leads, greasy grooves, and soul-soaked interplay. Named after a ranch the Allmans often frequented in Georgia, Idlewild South is a prelude to the group’s jam-flavored concerts but is at once more digestible, focused, and tight. In a word, this is the Allman Brothers’ defining moment. Here are the tunes that transcend eras and generations: The rambling “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'.” The sweet ache of “Midnight Rider.” A smoking cover of Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man” that puts all other versions to shame. The instrumental standard “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” now a staple of the Guitar Hero video game franchise. And never has it all sounded so sublime. Sourced from the original master tapes, Mobile Fidelity’s 180g LP allows you to finally hear just how much is going on within the arrangements. It also brings to fore the music’s acoustic foundations and the deep emotional conviction that pours from Gregg Allman’s vocals. Open, warm, airy, detailed, and vivid, the newly unveiled sound also exposes the record as being an undeniable influence on the Southern rock scene that would soon follow. This is a must for any music fan.
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