james robert griggs

Who was Blue Floyd?

For us at Drifter Merch, we love to pay our respects to some of our favorite artists and bands out there on the scene.  For me, I wanted to feature one of the best side projects that have graced the stage.  With that being said, Blue Floyd was the obvious choice! 

Blue Floyd was a conglomeration of players from other big bands that you definitely know. Forming a traditional blues lineup, the band consisted of Allen Woody (guitar) and Matt Abts (drums) from Gov't Mule, Marc Ford (guitar) from the Black Crowes, Barry Oakley Jr. (bass), and Johnny Neel (keys) from the Allman Brothers Band.  Allen Woody once said that the concept came from Michael Gaiman of Jazz is Dead.  Gaiman called Woody to let him know that he wanted to put together a blues band to play tribute to Pink Floyd music. Seeming like an obvious choice, Gaiman already had son of Allman Brothers founding member Oakley on board along with Abts, Ford, and Neel who Woody stated would " take them to church". Woody goes on to say, "Pink Floyd's material is so timeless".  Dark Side of the Moon spent a total of 917 charted weeks on the Billboard 200.  The album, which was released in 1973 and spent a week at No. 1, continued to chart mostly on a regular basis through 1988.  "Everyone had their coming of age time with their experience with Pink Floyd," said Marc Ford.  "We've heard this band's music for so long.  Pink Floyd is a perfect band and I remember when this music had all the answers for me."  He continues, "When you break it down, it's really just a spaced out blues band and we're just putting a little more blue in the ink."  "I view this as a real tribute." adds Woody. "We all have a tip of the hat to Pink Floyd, respect their music and enjoy it. We really just wanted to put a different spin on it."

My perception is that these reworked Pink Floyd tunes get such marvelous treatment, that the result is just sheer jam and fusion bliss!  Not too many folks out there even knew that Allen Woody could shred the guitar like he does in this group.  With another extraordinary player like Marc Ford on the guitar, the two are a perfect concoction for any exploratory jam sequence. Vocals are peppered by almost every member in the band. It was during the jam sessions that the members organically figured out who was going to contribute vocally.  Berry Oakley Jr.'s style and approach to these jams are nothing short of spontaneous and world class.  As an avid Mule fan, I've been aware of Matt Abts technique for some time now.  He is such a force behind the Mule and I'm guessing the band nicknamed him "Stain" because he leaves a lasting impression on all of us as fans.  During the stint of Blue Floyd's existence, other mind-bending guitarists such as Jimmy Herring, Jeff Pever, Audley Freed, & Alvin Youngblood Hart sat in and jammed with the band.  If you weren't able to catch this incredible act in the early 2000s, don't fret. That's the beautiful thing about music, it lives on forever!

On the Hunt for Nuthin' Fancy

I'm always chasing down new vinyl.  I recently purchased Nuthin' Fancy, a 1975 album by Lynyrd Skynrd.  The third studio album, it was their first to reach the Top 10, peaking at #9 on the U.S. album chart.  It was certified Gold on 6/27/1975 and Platinum on 7/21/1987.  This album was drummer Artimus Pyle's premiere with the band. After being replaced by guitarist Steve Gaines, it was the departure of lead guitarist Ed King who was most notably known for co-writing their hit "Sweet Home Alabama". 

Co-written by King and Van Zant, the opening track "Saturday Night Special" is an instant hit, punching the critiques of the band right in the mouth! The perception of Lynyrd Skynyrd was often a bunch of substance abusing, gun slinging roughnecks.  The song's lyrics, "So why don't we dump 'em, people, to the bottom of the sea?" sets a powerful anti-gun course to belied the southern rock kingpins pistol-packin' image.  The second track "Cheatin' Women" is reminiscent of a drug & booze filled man who is at his wits end, tying off another late night, with the final conclusion of how to deal with his unfaithful counterpart.  Then there's "I'm A Country Boy" written by Allen Collins & Ronnie Van Zant, a rock & roll heater that signifies the pride in which the band feels being born down on the Dixie line.  The tune "On The Hunt" has been a centerpiece of many a road trips of my own.  It was a permanent fixture in the playlist that my friends and I shared during our late night debauchery.  This song premiered in Paris in '74 and in my humble opinion is one of the focal points on the album.  Gary Rossington lays down some tasty licks during this bluesy number.  "Am I Losin" is a intimately personal tune by Rossington & Van Zant.  It was written about original drummer Bob Burns leaving the band due to being overwhelmed by life on the road.  (Bob Burns is credited with the band's debut album Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd as well as Second Helping.) While this song would be something desired in any Skynyrd fans set list, it has only seen the light of day a handful of times.  Closing the album and written by Billy Powell, King, & Van Zant, "Whiskey Rock a Roller" focuses on the band's time spent on the road.  Ronnie came across what he called a stupid writer who asked him, "What are you man?"  Van Zant responded he was a "Whiskey Rock a Roller."  There one thing for certain, Lynyrd Skynyrd was in their prime while releasing Nuthin' Fancy.  There is no telling where the band could have gone if the plane would have landed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 20, 1977.**

**Note: Neil Young wrote the song "Powderfinger" for Lynyrd Skynyrd, but the three band members passed in the plane crash before they could ever record it.  This is interesting to note as some thought there was bad blood between them.

Track Listing:

Side One:  
1. "Saturday Night Special" (E. King, R. Van Zant) – 5:08
2."Cheatin' Woman" (R. Van Zant, G. Rossington, A. Kooper) – 4:38
3."Railroad Song" (E. King, R. Van Zant) – 4:14
4."I'm a Country Boy" (A. Collins, R. Van Zant) – 4:24  

Side Two: 
1. "On the Hunt" (A. Collins, R. Van Zant) – 5:25
2."Am I Losin'" (G. Rossington, R. Van Zant) – 4:32
3."Made in the Shade" (R. Van Zant) – 4:40
4."Whiskey Rock-a-Roller" (E. King, R. Van Zant, B. Powell) – 4:33

Taking a Look into the Allman Brothers 2nd Set Album

The Allman Brothers has always been one of my favorite bands. Recently, I came across 2nd Set and had to get it on vinyl. Produced by Tom Dowd, this album was the Allman Brothers Band's fifth live release in 25 years. It was recorded during 1994 at the Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC and the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey with track five in 1992 at R&R Club in Los Angeles, CA. This hot album portrays this lineup at the band's highest point in the 90s, and shows how they were hitting on on cylinders.

ABB2ndSet.jpg

I completely agree with Rolling Stone magazine's reviewer John Swenson when he said, "The Allman Brothers Band live on because live performance is what they're about. The call of the road and the thrill of collective improvisation are the animating forces behind this rock institution, ever since 1971's live At Fillmore East confirmed their reputation and provided their commercial breakthrough."

Writer Marc Greilsamer states, "Old-timers might cry blasphemy, but the band's resurgence in the early 1990s came remarkably close to recapturing the glory of their seemingly insurmountable peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With five years in the band under his belt, slide guitarist Warren Haynes had truly come into his own, magically interacting with Dickey Betts and serving up scorching leads that might have made even Duane look twice."

Swenson goes on to say, "2nd Set, the sequel to the 1992 concert disc An Evening With ..., documents the miraculous revivification the Allman Brothers have undergone since reconvening in 1989. They've survived the losses of guitarist Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley more than 20 years ago, not to mention a few lost years in between. In fact, they've managed to retain and refine their musical identity. The continuity is provided by the seemingly indestructible core of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts. These men have endured the ravages of rock & roll and emerged strengthened, with the kind of world-wary depth and wisdom that informed most of the great blues musicians." 

Both reviewers were dead on. Take a look at the tracks below and then listen for yourself. You will not be disappointed. 

  1. "Sailin' 'Cross the Devil's Sea" (Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Allen Woody, Jack Pearson) – 4:49
  2. "You Don't Love Me" (Willie Cobbs) – 6:36
  3. "Soulshine" (Warren Haynes) – 6:42
  4. "Back Where It All Begins" (Dickey Betts) – 12:32
  5. "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" (Dickey Betts) – 10:15
  6. "The Same Thing" (Willie Dixon) – 8:22
  7. "No One to Run With" (Dickey Betts, John Prestia) – 6:29
  8. "Jessica" (Dickey Betts) – 16:09