This is the second multi-disc collection that spans the career of The Allman Brothers Band. The first, 1989’s Dreams, marked the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Famers 20th anniversary and, at least in part, led to a band reunion tour and 25 more years of performing. This set in celebration of the group’s 50th anniversary will not yield such kismet; the band officially retired in 2014, and the subsequent passing of vital members laid any notion to rest.
Which is where the five-CD compilation ends, with the farewell night of The Allman Brothers Band in October of 2014, and the final performance of “Trouble No More.” The title track is also where it all begins- on a 1969 demo, previously unreleased- and is one of the ways this box differs from its predecessor. While Dreams was comprehensive in selecting excerpts from the pre-Brothers bands like Hour Glass and The Second Coming, as well as solo tracks from the catalogs of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, this set focuses solely on the 45-year output of The Allman Brothers Band.
Using their contemporaneous record label homes as markers, the five discs are divided accordingly: The Capricorn Years; The Arista Years; The Epic Years; The Peach Years. And while the earliest of the Capricorn period- 1969-1973- is most often seen as the ensemble’s peak, the set does quite well at making a case for several ascents competing with that four-year crown. Especially the Peach Years, with the twin-guitar transcendence of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, and its wealth of live, previously unreleased cuts from their adopted home, NYC’s Beacon Theatre.
The Brothers were among the first in the download age to issue recordings of their concerts immediately following their conclusion. They’ve also routinely mined the vaults for archival shows, some dating back to the band’s earliest tours. So, yes, there is a lot of ABB out there already.
Why Trouble No More is essential to those beyond the completist is that, including the neatly inclusive historical essay by the group’s chief archivist John Lynskey, it’s more than just a bounty of great songs in one place. This is the goalpost-to-goalpost story of their five decades together- never overwhelming nor too finite- for a sum experience unparalleled in telling their tale. Every lineup of the band’s 13 incarnations is represented with at least one track. Every crucial venue or event- Fillmore East, Watkins Glen, the Beacon- has multiple entries. (It’s particularly worth noting that Watkins Glen is recognized with an elating, previously unreleased “Mountain Jam” that includes the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, as well as The Band’s Robbie Robertson, sitting-in.)
As Lynskey writes, 50 years for a rock band is almost inconceivable. What is more inconceivable after listening is that any band 50 years from now will be able to say it has accomplished such an incredible, indelible career as The Allman Brothers Band. Innovating, evolving, thriving, surviving.