THE ALLMAN Brothers Band is haunted by ghosts -- not merely the ghosts of its dead founding members but also the ghosts of its own past performances. Thus the band's first all-new album in nine years, "Seven Turns," finds itself overshadowed by an album of previously unreleased live recordings, "Live at Ludlow Garage 1970." The new album, the first to feature the group's reconstituted line-up, is a good if not great extension of the band's tradition, but it just can't compare to a good night on stage by the original sextet.
When "Dreams," the four-CD retrospective of the Allman Brothers' music, was released last year, the band put together a national tour to capitalize on the publicity. The four living original members were joined by three new members, and the tour was so successful that the septet went into the studio to make "Seven Turns." New members Warren Haynes and Johnny Neel each co-wrote four of the nine tunes; they do a good Allman Brothers imitation, but too much of this album sounds like that -- a good imitation of the past.
Founding guitarist Dickey Betts wrote or co-wrote seven of the numbers, including the catchy country-pop of the title track and the soaring twin-guitar instrumental "True Gravity." Founding organist Gregg Allman only co-wrote one song, but Allman's gruff, gravelly vocals provide the album's best moments. When he digs into "Good Clean Fun" or "It Ain't Over Yet," he recalls the band's early days when it was primarily a gutbucket blues band with extra musical finesse.
Two of the most interesting tracks on the "Dreams" box set were numbers from an April 11, 1970, concert at Ludlow Garage in Cincinnati. Now those two tracks are part of the 91 minutes of music from that same concert included on "Live at Ludlow." This isn't nearly as powerful an album as "The Allman Brothers at the Fillmore East," which a more mature band would record in New York a year later, but "Live at Ludlow" is still an invaluable document for it is one of the too few examples we have of the late Duane Allman's brilliant guitar work.
THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND -- "Seven Turns" (Epic) and "Live at Ludlow Garage 1970" (Polydor). Appearing Saturday with Meatloaf at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.