The Allman Brothers Band Peach Picks: Cream of the Crop 2003
The Allman Brothers Band only recorded one studio album, 2003’s Hittin’ the Note, during their final lineup’s 13-year run. That’s a shame for many reasons, not least of which is that, as their new archival release Cream of the Crop 2003 quickly demonstrates, the group came alive when they had some new material. The four-CD package includes 36 tracks recorded at six shows from July 25–Aug. 10, 2003. Avoiding any song repeats, the collection has the flow of a show, thanks to excellent selection and sequencing by supervising producer Warren Haynes. The set kicks off with the first three tracks on the band’s 1969 debut, “Don’t Want You No More”> “It’s Not My Cross to Bear” and “Black Hearted Woman,” then goes into its first Hittin’ the Note selection, “Rockin’ Horse.” This opening sequence makes it immediately clear that on both their oldest and newest material, the entire group was firing on all cylinders in the summer of 2003. Haynes and Derek Trucks’ guitars soar, spar and dance, split hard left and right; Oteil Burbridge’s bass and the three-man percussion section of Butch Trucks, Jaimoe and Marc Quiñones are locked and loaded; and Gregg Allman’s surging organ and vocals are on point. His singing has a muscular depth, and physicality that he never quite regained after his 2010 liver transplant. Guests Karl Denson (“Good Morning Little School Girl”), Susan Tedeschi (“Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”) and Branford Marsalis (“Dreams,” “Whipping Post”) add variety and excitement but the strength here is just a hot, focused band playing a great catalog. The summer 2003 tour marked the debut of the Allman’s Instant Live recordings and some fans have already grumbled that this material has been previously released. Yet, the curation, packaging and improved sound quality makes this collection more than worthwhile. The sad part is the reminder of what the Allmans were capable of, even this deep into their career, on any given summer night.