Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tricky Beats: Whipping Post

The Allman Brothers Band: Whipping Post


Unless you have quite literally been sequestered in some radioless juror's motel for the last forty years, you know the Allman Brothers Band, even if you don't know the various guest spots (Duane Allman made Layla what it is), side-projects (see, for example, both Gov't Mule and the Derek Trucks Band) and incarnations (aka the infamous 1978 - 1982 years) which the various members have undergone since death began tugging at their core. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees for their role as "principal architects" of the Southern Rock tradition, these guys may not have cracked the top half of Rolling Stones top 100 acts of all time, but after almost forty years as a touring band and over a dozen albums turned gold, their high recognition factor speaks to their double-A rating as mainstays of classic rock radio, not to mention their roles as partial forefathers to a variety of more modern musical forms, from alt-country to jamband.

But though Southern Rock isn't known for any particularly innovative musical envelope-pushing, the Allman's ability to innovate within the confines of the powerful, typically 4/4 guitar-laden tropes of barroom bluesrock often go without notice. Case in point: familiar anthem Whipping Post, which owes its driving, overpresent pulse to the unusual choice of an 11/4 metric for the intro and verses. When the song swings into a set of pulsing triplets for the chorus, nominally framed around a twelve-beat 4/4, the transformation of odd meter into something familiar brings with it an overwhelming release and relief, making mincemeat of our hearts and souls. Bring a lighter, not a cellphone, for the encore; prepare to scream yourself hoarse, and enjoy.

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