The Allman Brothers Band: Idlewild South: Super Deluxe Edition

When the last notes of “Trouble No More” rang out at The Beacon Theatre in New York in the wee hours of the morning on October 29, 2014—closing an epic show comprised of three full sets and a two-song encore that had commenced over 4 hours previously on the night of October 28—most agreed The Allman Brothers Band had capped their long, storied 45-year career by hittin’ all the right notes. With thousands of performances under their collective belts, the Allmans triumphantly closed out the tab on being one of the most thrilling, adventurous, and aurally exciting live bands of the rock era.

Many also agree (myself included) that the double-live 1971 album At Fillmore East—later expanded into the definitive, masterful three-disc collection The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings in 5.1 on Blu-ray in 2014—to be the band’s definitive live statement. At Fillmore East captured the full range of the verve, interplay, and intuitive improvisational skills of a finely honed rock band from the South that could just as easily—and deftly—veer into jazz, blues, and country territory, sometimes even within the same song.

While the Allmans’ live reputation is well intact, the band’s studio output has often been viewed as being a secondary concern. That said, their second studio effort, 1970’s Idlewild South, showcased the ABB’s adeptness at displaying serious recording chops. Idlewild is now being presented in a 45th anniversary four-disc Super Deluxe Edition, complete with 96-kHz/24-bit surround sound mixes on Blu-ray. (We’ll get to that, shall we say, quite interesting 5.1 mix shortly.)

Disc 1 contains the remastered stereo version of Idlewild along with five bonus tracks, including an unreleased growlier alternate mix of “Midnight Rider” and the shorter, mono single version of “Revival (Love Is Everywhere)” that’s bursting at the seams with the band in full-on holy-rollin’ test- ifying mode.

Discs 2 and 3 consist of the expanded version of Live at Ludlow Garage: 1970, originally issued by Polydor as a standalone 90-minute two-CD set in 1990. The highlights of Ludlow, recorded live in Cincinnati on April 4, 1970, are most definitely the one-two punch of Disc 3’s 15-minute opening gallop through the previously unreleased “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” followed by 45 wholly (or should that be holy?) elegiac min- utes of “Mountain Jam.” Perhaps the latter track should be renamed “Hill and Dale Jam,” considering all the peaks and valleys the irrepressible guitar tan- dem of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts explore over that exhaustive three quarters of an hour. It’s not just the Duane and Dickey Show, though, as “Jam” is ably abetted and enhanced by the contributions of ABB bandmates keyboardist Gregg Allman, bassist Berry Oakley, and the drum and percussion interplay of Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson, a.k.a. Jaimoe.

But it’s ultimately Disc 4’s surround sound mix of the Idlewild studio album and its bonus tracks that will test your personal 5.1 mettle. At Fillmore East surround mixer Kevin Reeves again handles the 5.1, and it’s safe to say this may be one of the most polarizing surround mixes you’ll ever experience. If you can accept Reeves’ soundfield and placement premise, you’ll be in for quite the aural ride, but be forewarned—it will definitely challenge your expectations. Here’s what I mean: Duane prowls and slides across the front left and rear left channels, Dickey owns the front right and rear right, Gregg’s vocals and piano and Berry’s bass rule the center channel, Trucks drums onward in the front right, Jaimoe sets up his percussive shop in the rear left, and Gregg’s keyboards mainly permeate the rear right. Reposition everyone’s faces on the album cover accordingly—plus add in that “second” Gregg—and you’ll get the accompanying visual diagram.

Once I got into the vibe of the mix and visualized myself assuming the lotus position amidst the band in this configuration, there were a number of memorable highlights, including the full-channel clockwise rotation of the gospel-tinged chorus in the back half of “Revival,” Thom Doucette’s tasty guest harp-blowing in the rear right on “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’, ” the precision acoustic-guitar tone in the mid-left/center on “Midnight Rider,” the blistering diagonal-quadrant guitar-solo tradeoffs on “Leave My Blues at Home,” and Duane’s front/rear left Pong-like slide-guitar clinic on the session outtake of “Statesboro Blues” among them.

Bottom line: If Reeves’ surround arena isn’t exactly your cup of 5.1 tea, then you still have the full album in finely remastered hi-res stereo to enjoy via Disc 1 and/or download. People, can you feel it? Love is everywhere—and so is the jam-tastic legacy that The Allman Brothers Band singularly defines.

CD & Blu-ray
Label: Mercury
Audio Formats: 96-kHz/24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 96-kHz/24-bit Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (Blu-ray); 96-kHz/24-bit PCM Stereo (Blu-ray and download); 44.1-kHz/16-bit PCM Stereo (CD)
Number of Tracks: 32 (21 on 3 CDs, 11 on 1 Blu-ray)
Length: 2:42:55 (CDs), 51:52 (Blu-ray)
Producers: Tom Dowd, Joel Dorn (original album); Bill Levenson (box set and live mixes); Kevin Reeves (alternate takes, additional mixes, and 5.1 mixes on Blu-ray)
Engineers: Ron Albert, Howie Albert, Jim Hawkins, Bob Liftin (original album); Dan Britt, Rick Lemker (live material); Kevin Reeves (alternate takes, additional mixes, and 5.1 mixes on Blu-ray)