Released: May ?, 1977
Placed squarely in the category of albums that are too often overlooked, Playin’ Up a Storm is an excellent mixture of old and new Blues, Southern-Rock, and, surprisingly, Soul from Gregg Allman. While this album has Allman stepping outside of his roots a bit in some of the performances he doesn’t seem to be outside of his comfort zone, perhaps showing the amount of versatility in his instrumental abilities and more particularly his voice. Allman runs the show on Playin’ Up a Storm, and he and his band do just what the title says by mixing some new material with some personal favorites and making it all sound good.
One of the more interesting aspects of Playin’ Up a Storm is the absent lead guitar. In an era of American music where the guitar was front and center with the vocalist Allman sticks with his keyboard for a lot of the songs, relegating the guitar to a secondary member. That doesn’t mean the listener won’t be able to hear guitar on this album, or that there aren’t solos, which there are. It’s just interesting that a man that has spent most of his career playing Blues and Southern Rock, genres dominated by the guitar, would instead vie for the more soulful sounds of piano and keyboard on this album.
To be fair keyboard is the instrument Allman is most known for playing while with the Allman Brothers, but soul is not the style he is associated with. Whatever the reason was that Allman chose to mix up his sound he pulls it off almost effortlessly on Playin’ Up a Storm by taking his southern flair and mixing it in with the rest. Allman isn’t phoning it in on this album. Every song that Allman is singing is given the respect it is due. It wouldn’t be too surprising to have learned that the songs on this album were personal favorites of Allman’s, or that they are special to him because he and his band perform each of them as if they are which is what makes Playin’ Up a Storm such a joy to listen to.
Perhaps one of the great missteps on Playin’ Up a Storm is the lack of original material. Around half of the album is composed of covers. The second half specifically has four tracks of covers, and one track of original material. But would the material have been played with the same vigor and energy that these songs are played with? It’s possible that Playin’ Up a Storm was an album meant for Gregg Allman more than it was meant for other people, filled with songs and emotions he felt strongly about, allowing him to lay it all out. If that’s the case Playin’ Up a Storm is a better album because of it. Listeners can tell when the musicians care about the music being played, and it makes the music so much better when they do.