Sea Level – Same (1977)

FrontCover1Sea Level is the name of a Southern rock/funk/fusion jam band that mixed jazz, blues and rock and existed between 1976 and 1981. Initially it was an offshoot of The Allman Brothers Band, but as tensions grew between the loss of two of its founding members and personal grievances between Gregg Allman and other band mates and associates, Sea Level took on a life of its own as an independent band.

After the initial breakup of the Allman Brothers Band when Gregg Allman and Dicky Betts left, most of the remaining members who evolved into Sea Level were the trio “We Three” comprising bassist Lamar Williams, drummer Jaimoe and Chuck Leavell (piano, keyboards, vocals). The trio would occasionally open shows for the group in 1975 and 1976. With the Allmans disbanding in 1976, the trio added guitarist Jimmy Nalls and named the band based on a phonetic pun of their new bandleader Chuck Leavell’s name: “C. Leavell.” They toured relentlessly, experimenting and refining their sound, eventually signing with Capricorn Records (home of the Allman Brothers) and recording their self-titled debut album in 1977.

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After the release of their first album, the group expanded to a septet with the additions of Davis Causey (guitar), George Weaver (drums, percussion) and Randall Bramblett (saxophones, keyboards and vocals). That configuration recorded the group’s second album, Cats on the Coast, in 1978 (which produced a moderate “hit” with “That’s Your Secret”). By the time of the third album, On the Edge, Jaimoe and Weaver had both left, replaced by Joe English. The sextet of Bramblett, Causey, English, Leavell, Nalls and Williams recorded the fourth album, Long Walk on a Short Pier (1979), unreleased in the United States for nearly twenty years, adding percussionist Matt Greeley for their fifth and final album, Ball Room, issued on Arista in 1980. Their greatest hits album (CD) wrapped up their body of work, minus a handful of appearances on various compilation albums (mostly Southern Rock). They were also featured on a 1978 live Southern Rock album which included a live version of “Grand Larceny.”

Sea Level02Leavell later emerged as a much sought-after session musician and producer, touring with Eric Clapton and eventually becoming a “permanent” session player touring with the Rolling Stones.

In 1998, he issued his debut solo LP, a Christmas album called What’s in That Bag? and more recently Forever Blue that includes solo versions of two classic Sea Level compositions: “Whole Lotta Colada” and “Song for Amy.” He also released Southscape, an album of Southern anthems that hearkens back to his Southern roots. (by wikipedia)

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Keyboardist Chuck Leavell formed the Sea Level quartet in 1976 in the aftermath of the Allman Brothers’ first breakup of their post-Duane Allman years, and since two other Sea Level members had also been in the Allmans — bassist Lamar Williams and original Allmans drummer Jaimoe — it was tempting to regard the band as an Allman Brothers spinoff, but that wasn’t exactly the full story. Jaimoe and Williams had played together before the Allmans formed, and Sea Level guitarist Jimmy Nalls had been part of Alex Taylor’s band — which also included Leavell — before both Leavell and Williams had joined the Allmans in the wake of the deaths of Duane and original Allmans bassist Berry Oakley, so the four musicians of Sea Level might be seen as simpatico even outside the Allman Brothers narrative. Of course, the Allmans sound was a major touchstone for Sea Level; certainly, Leavell’s pianism had reached its largest audience ever with his solo break on “Jessica,” and he would bring similar stylings to his quartet’s 1977 eponymous debut album. But Sea Level didn’t need to stand in the shadow of any other group, as the debut made clear. The opening track, the Leavell-penned “Rain in Spain,” is as driving and melodic as any Allman Brothers instrumental but also possesses a jazzy harmonic sophistication beyond what the Allmans might have attempted in the lead-in to their first breakup, and the same goes for other instrumental tracks like Leavell’s “Tidal Wave,” the Neil Larsen composition “Grand Larceny,” and certainly the moody, sensitive read of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.”

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Leavell also wrote the swampy, funky “Nothing Matters But the Fever,” with wah-wah slide guitar from Nalls, woozy, disorienting effects on the piano, and a fine vocal turn from Leavell as well, a bluesy cry from the soul that never crosses the line into histrionics. Another pleasure of this album derives from Jaimoe’s role as sole drummer/percussionist; for those who had only heard him as half of the Allman Brothers’ powerful drum tandem with Butch Trucks, his inventiveness, drawing from jazz, blues, rock, soul, and funk idioms, stood out on Sea Level in a way that was revelatory for many listeners. Sea Level was a fine debut from a killer quartet, and with the addition of singer/songwriter and saxophonist Randall Bramblett, guitarist Davis Causey, and drummer George Weaver to the lineup for the recording of the sophomore album Cats on the Coast, it did not seem unreasonable to surmise that this band’s future possibilities were nearly without limits. (by Dave Lynch)

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Personnel:
Jai Johanny Johanson (drums, percussion)
Chuck Leavell (keyboards, vocals)
Jimmy Nalls (guitar, vocals)
Lamar Williams (bass, vocals)
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horn section:
Charles Fairley – Earl Ford – Leo LaBranche – Rudolph Carter – Donald McClure

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Tracklist:
01. The Rain In Spain (Leavell) 6.47
02. Shake A Leg (Hoerner) 3.53
03. Tidal Wave (Leavell) 5.40
04. Country Fool (Leavell) 3.39
05. Nothing Matters But The Fever (Leavell) 7.20
06. Grand Larceny (Larsen) 5.22
07. Scarborough Fair (Traditional) 5.32
08. Just A Good Feeling (Leavell) 3.01

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Various Artists – Hotels, Motels and Road Show (1978)

FrontCover1Southern rock is a subgenre of rock music and a genre of Americana. It developed in the Southern United States from rock and roll, country music, and blues, and is focused generally on electric guitar and vocals. Although the origin of the term Southern rock is unknown, “many people feel that these important contributors to the development of rock and roll have been minimized in rock’s history.”

The Allman Brothers Band played blues rock with long jams. Loosely associated with the first wave of Southern rock were acts like Barefoot Jerry and Charlie Daniels from North Carolina. In the early 1970s, another wave of hard rock Southern groups emerged. Their music emphasized boogie rhythms and fast guitar leads with lyrics extolling the values, aspirations – and excesses – of Southern working-class young adults, not unlike the outlaw country movement. Examples include The Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, and Blackfoot. Bands such as Drivin N Cryin, Dash Rip Rock, and Kentucky Headhunters emerged as popular Southern bands across the Southeastern United States during the 1980s and 1990s. The Georgia Satellites also had some widespread popularity in the mid to late 1980s.[citation needed] Some rock groups from the South, such as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds incorporated Southern musical and lyrical themes.

StillwaterThe 1990s also saw the influence of Southern rock touching metal. In 2001, Kid Rock went from a rock/rapper to a southern rocker/country singer. Southern rock currently plays on the radio in the United States, but mostly on oldies stations and classic rock stations. Post-grunge bands such as Nickelback have included a Southern rock feel to their songs.[clarification needed] Additionally, alternative rock groups like Kings of Leon combine Southern rock with garage rock, alt-country, and blues rock. Several of the original early 1970s hard rock Southern rock groups are still performing today, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, and Canned Heat.

Bonnie Bramlett

Bonnie Bramlett

Rock music’s origins lie mostly in the music of the American South, and many stars from the first wave of 1950s rock and roll such as Bo Diddley, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis hailed from the Deep South. However, the British Invasion and the rise of folk rock and psychedelic rock in the middle 1960s shifted the focus of new rock music away from the rural south and to large cities like Liverpool, London, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. But Sir Douglas Quintet, Tony Joe White and Dale Hawkins issued nice albums. In the late 1960s, Blues rock band such as Canned Heat (from Los Angeles), Creedence Clearwater Revival (from El Cerrito, California), and The Band (Canadian, though drummer Levon Helm was a native Arkansan) were under the influence of Southern blues, boogie and country music.

The Allman Brothers Band, based in Macon, Georgia, made their national debut in 1969 and soon gained a loyal following. Their blues rock sound on one hand incorporated long jams informed by jazz and classical music, and on the other hand drew from native elements of country and folk. Because a certain type of blues music, and essentially, rock and roll, was invented in the South, Gregg Allman commented that “Southern rock” was a redundant term, like “rock rock.”

The Allman Brothers were signed to Capricorn Records, a small Macon label formed and headed by Phil Walden (former manager of Otis Redding) and partner Frank Fenter, former European Managing Director of Atlantic Records. Similar acts recorded on Capricorn included The Marshall Tucker Band from Spartanburg, South Carolina, Wet Willie from Alabama, Grinderswitch from Georgia (and composed of Allman Brothers’ roadies) and the Elvin Bishop Band from Oklahoma.

GrinderswitchLoosely associated with the first wave of Southern rock were acts like Barefoot Jerry and Charlie Daniels from North Carolina. Charlie Daniels, a big-bearded fiddler with a knack for novelty songs, gave Southern rock its self-identifying anthem with his 1975 hit “The South’s Gonna Do It”, the lyrics of which mentioned all of the above bands, proclaiming: “Be proud you’re a rebel/’Cause the South’s gonna do it again.” A year earlier, Daniels had started the Volunteer Jam, an annual Southern rock-themed concert held in Tennessee. The Winters Brothers Band from Franklin, Tennessee was a band Charlie Daniels helped to get started with “Sang Her Love Songs”, “Smokey Mountain Log Cabin Jones”, and more. They still perform and hold an annual festival in Nolensville, Tennessee every year.

In the early 1970s, another wave of hard rock Southern groups emerged. Their music emphasized boogie rhythms and fast guitar leads with lyrics extolling the values, aspirations – and excesses – of Southern working-class young adults, not unlike the outlaw country movement. Lynyrd Skynyrd of Jacksonville, Florida dominated this genre until the deaths of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and two other members of the group in a 1977 airplane crash. After this tragic plane crash, members Allen Collins and Gary Rossington started The Rossington-Collins Band. Groups such as Ozark Mountain Daredevils, .38 Special, Confederate Railroad, Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, The John Lee Walker Band, Point Blank, Black Oak Arkansas, and the Edgar Winter Group also thrived in this genre.

WetWillieNot all Southern rock artists fit into the above molds. The Atlanta Rhythm Section and the Amazing Rhythm Aces were more focused on vocal harmonies, and Louisiana’s Le Roux ranged from Cajun-flavored Southern boogie early on to a more arena rock sound later on, while the Dixie Dregs and Allman Brothers’ offshoot Sea Level explored jazz fusion. At Southern rock’s peak The Allman Brothers and other Capricorn artists played a part in Jimmy Carter’s 1980 campaign for the presidency (by wikipedia)

Capricorn Recording Studios in Macon

Capricorn Recording Studios in Macon

And this is the the ultimate live compilation from Capricorn. Two LPs featured live tracks from Stillwater, The Dixie Dregs, The Marshall Tucker Band, Bonnie Bramlett, Grinderswitch, Elvin Bishop, Wet Willie, Richard Betts, Gregg Allman, and The Allman Brothers Band. Enjoy the power of Southern Rock !

PhilWalden(This entry is dedicated to Phil Walden: Hereá picture of Walden with The Allman Brothers Band in the studio)

Booklet1Tracklist:
01. Stillwater: Out On A Limb (Walker/Hall/Causey/Spearman) 5.05
02. Stillwater: Mind Bender (Walker/Buie) 5.07
03. Sea Level: Grand Larceny (Larsen) 8.00
04. Dixie Dregs: Refried Funky Chicken (Morse) 2.55
(Recorded At The Fox Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia, May 1978)
05. The Marshall Tucker Band: Fire On A Mountain (McCorkle) 4.35
(Recorded At The Palace Theatre, Manchester, England, December 1976)
06. Bonnie Bramlett: Superstar (Russell/Bramlett) 6.16
(Recorded At The Apollo Centre, Glasgow, Scotland, December 1976)
07. Grinderswitch: You’re So Fine (Schofield/Finnie) 3.28
(Recorded At The Hammersmith Odeon, London, England, November 1976)
08. Elvin Bishop: Travelin’ Shoes (Bishop) 7.22
(Recorded At The Roxy, Los Angeles, California, October 1976)
09. The Marshall Tucker Band: Take The Highway (Caldwell) 7.55
(Recorded At Uhlein Hall, Performing Arts Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1973)
10. Wet Willie:  Teaser (Duke) 4.05
(Recorded At The Roxy, Los Angeles, California, March 1976)
11. Richard Betts: No Hard Times (Rodgers) 4.28
(Recorded At Winterland, San Francisco, California, December 1974)
12. Gregg Allman: Are You Lonely For Me, Baby? (Berns) 4.22
(Recorded At Carnegie Hall, New York, NY, November 1973 )
13. The Allman Brothers Band: Statesboro Blues (McTell) 4.26
(Recorded At Fillmore East, New York, NY, March 1971)

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