Idlewild South is the second album by American Southern rock band the Allman Brothers Band. Produced by Tom Dowd, the album was released on September 23, 1970, in the United States by Atco Records and Capricorn Records.
Following the release of their 1969 debut, the Allman Brothers Band toured the United States extensively to promote the album, which had little commercial success. Their performances, however, did create positive word of mouth exposure that extended to more famous musicians, such as Eric Clapton, who invited group leader Duane Allman to contribute to his 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.
As a result of the band’s relentless touring schedule, Idlewild South was recorded gradually over a period of five months in various cities, including New York, Miami, and Macon, Georgia, the band’s home. Tom Dowd had previously been sought to record the group’s debut but had been unavailable. The material presented on Idlewild South was written during this period and tested out on the road at shows. The album’s title comes from the band’s nickname for a rustic cabin the band rented out and used for rehearsals, as well as parties. Idlewild South contains two of the band’s best-known songs, “Midnight Rider” (later a hit for various artists) and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, which became one of the band’s famous concert numbers.
The album was released in September 1970 but again failed to achieve significant success. Sales began to grow, however, due to over 300 shows the band put on in 1970, setting the stage for their artistic and commercial breakthrough with 1971’s live follow-up album, At Fillmore East.
The Allman Brothers Band formed in March 1969, and began writing music and touring together. By that August, the group had recorded their self-titled debut album, which was released that November on Capricorn Records, a division of Atlantic Records. The record received a poor commercial response, selling less than 35,000 copies upon initial release. Executives suggested to the band’s manager and Capricorn president, Phil Walden, that he relocate the band to New York or Los Angeles to increase their exposure. “They wanted us to act “like a rock band” and we just told them to “fuck themselves,” remembered Trucks. For their part, the members of the band remained optimistic, electing to stay in the South. “Everyone told us we’d fall by the wayside down there,” said Gregg Allman, but the collaboration between the band and Capricorn Records “transformed Macon from this sleepy little town into a very hip, wild, and crazy place filled with bikers and rockers.” In March 1970, Oakley’s wife rented a large Victorian home on 2321 Vineville Avenue in Macon, which they dubbed “the Big House”.
Idlewild South was the band’s first effort with Tom Dowd, known for his work with Cream and John Coltrane. Dowd first heard the band rehearsing while visiting Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon, asking their name and remarking to Walden, “Get them the hell out of there and give them to me in the studio. They don’t need to rehearse; they’re ready to record” Dowd was initially scheduled to work with the band on their debut album but was called away at the last minute. Initially, the band had asked friend and colleague Johnny Sandlin to produce their second album, but as recording inched closer, it became obvious they wanted him to co-produce with Dowd. In one of their first sessions, Sandlin was giving suggestions and acting as a co-producer, though no one had informed Dowd; Sandlin was embarrassed and did not return to the studio
They had to get on the road to support themselves. They were working 300 days a year. So they would just blow in and do some songs and blow out. That was it — in and out — just like that.
The first recording sessions for Idlewild South took place in mid-February 1970 at the newly built Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon. Subsequently, the band moved to Criteria Studios in Miami in mid-March, where Dowd felt more comfortable producing albums; he viewed the then-new Capricorn studio as still a work-in-progress and unfit to record in. The band was constantly on the road while Idlewild South was developed, leading to a fractured recording process completed in fits and stops. They reconvened with Dowd during short breaks from shows. In addition, group leader Duane Allman still received invitations to play as a session musician elsewhere; on the “rare instances when [the band] could return to Macon for a short break”, Allman would hit the road for New York, Miami, or Muscle Shoals to contribute to other artists’ sessions. On days that the band would be available, manager Walden phoned Dowd to inform him; he would often catch their show and spend the rest of the night in the studio. After nearly half a year and over three different recording studios, production wrapped up by July 1970.
Instead of using multitrack recording (which was quickly gaining popularity), the Allman Brothers Band opted to cut most of Idlewild South live, with all of the musicians performing together. On rare occasions, they would go back to overdub sections that weren’t up to standard. “The idea is that part of the thing of the Allman Brothers is the spontaneity — the elasticity. The parts and tempos vary in a way that only they are sensitive to”, said Dowd. Duane often left a song alone for more work and testing out on the road. “They would record maybe five songs. Then they might say, ‘I don’t think that song was good enough,’ or, ‘I don’t think that song was ready to record,”, remembered Dowd. Joel Dorn, predominantly a jazz producer for Atlantic, stepped in to produce one song on the album, “Please Call Home”, which was recorded at Regency Sound Studios on July 14, 1970. The band were in New York at the time and Dowd was unavailable.
Following the recording process, Duane was invited to join Eric Clapton and his new group Derek & the Dominos on the recording of their debut album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Clapton later formally invited Allman to join the group, but he reluctantly declined, expressing loyalty to the members of the Allman Brothers and musical concept that had birthed it.
Idlewild South was issued by Atco and Capricorn Records on September 23, 1970, less than a year after the band’s debut album. It sold only “marginally better, in spite of the band’s growing national reputation, and included songs that would become staples of its repertoire—and eventually of rock radio.” Jim Hawkins, engineer of the album, remembered that Walden informed him that Idlewild South opened to 50,000 copies in its first week, before settling in at 1,000 per week. While the album did help boost the band’s popularity, the Allman Brothers’ name really grew in fame due to their live performances. Walden doubted the band’s future, worrying whether they would ever catch on, but word of mouth spread due to the band’s relentless touring schedule, and crowds got larger.
Rolling Stone’s Ed Leimbacher wrote that Idlewild South “augurs well for the Allmans’ future,” calling it “a big step forward from the Allmans’ first” but considered the second side of the LP a disappointment. Robert Christgau at The Village Voice gave the album a “B+” and considered it a companion piece to Duane Allman’s work on Layla, noting that “a lot of people think that Duane Allman is already a ranking titan of the electric guitar.” A retrospective five-star review from Bruce Eder at Allmusic deemed it “the best studio album in the group’s history, electric blues with an acoustic texture, virtuoso lead, slide, and organ playing, and a killer selection of songs.”
In 2014 Rolling Stone listed it among the most “groundbreaking” albums, covering its impact on Southern rock: “On their second album, the Allman Brothers transmogrified from mere blues-rockers to an assemblage creating an entirely new kind of Southern music.” (by wikipedia)
Duane Allman (slide guitar, guitar)
Gregg Allman (keyboards, vocals)
Dickey Betts (guitar)
Jai Johanny Johanson (drums, percussion congas, timbales)
Berry Oakley (bass, vocals on 05., background vocals on 03.)
Butch Trucks (drums, Timpani)
Thom Doucette (harmonica, Percussion)
01. Revival (Betts) 4.06
02. Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’ (G.Allman) 3.30
03. Midnight Rider (Allman/Payne) 3.00
04. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (Betts) 6.56
05. Hoochie Coochie Man (Dixon) 4.59
06. Please Call Home (G.Allman) 4.04
07. Leave My Blues At Home (G.Allman) 4.18