35 Years Ago: The Allman Brothers Band Releases ‘Enlightened Rogues’
In January 2014, guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks announced their plans to leave the Allman Brothers Band at year’s end, prompting longtime leader Gregg Allman to proclaim the band’s simultaneous retirement. However, you shouldn’t bet against an eventual rebirth, since the iconic southern rockers made their first comeback from an extended “breakup” in Feb. 1979 via their ‘Enlightened Rogues’ LP.
Three years earlier, the Allmans had conclusively ground to a halt, when years of personal tragedies (brother Duane and Berry Oakley’s crushing deaths), escalating substance abuse, diminished inspiration, competing solo careers and celebrity wives culminated in Gregg ratting out his road manager to beat federal drugs rap.
But musical marriages seem to heal all wounds, in time, because by December 1978, Gregg, Dickey, plus drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks were already working together again as the Allman Brothers Band — this time complemented by guitarist Dan Toler (latterly of Betts’ solo outfit, Great Southern) and bassist David Goldflies — at Miami’s Criteria Sound Studios.
Even longtime producer Tom Dowd was back on the team, but ‘Enlightened Rogues’ tellingly saw Dickey Betts running the show, creatively speaking, thanks to multiple contributions like the country-inflected ‘Crazy Love,’ the instrumental ‘Pegasus,’ the Latin-flavored ‘Try it One More Time,’ dreamy ‘Sail Away,’ and pure southern rocker ‘Can’t Take it With You.’
Gregg, for his part, simply weighed in with the mellow, weary and mournful ‘Just Ain’t Easy,’ which seemed to carry the weight of the world on its shoulders but, thankfully, not the rest of the album (rounded out by a pair of covers), nor the inherent pressures and tall expectations associated with an Allman Brothers reunion.
This, in the event, clearly met with success. The reshuffled band was warmly embraced by most critics and certainly their fans. While it proved no blockbuster at the cash register, ‘Enlightened Rogues’ performed well enough to get the Allman Brothers Band back on track for a few years.
Still, true stability wouldn’t come until the 1990s, thanks in large part to the integration of the aforementioned Warren Haynes (and sorely missed bassist Allen Woody) and the Allman Brothers Band has remained a reliable touring force ever since, despite continuing turnover. Or at least until now, and while the band’s long road appears to be finally ending, one can find some consolation in the original rebirth carried out by ‘Enlightened Rogues,’ all those years ago.