With his ongoing membership in the Allman Brothers Band, Gov't Mule, Phil Lesh & Friends, and the Dead, guitarist/singer Warren Haynes doesn't really have time for a solo career. He did put out a solo album, Tales of Ordinary Madness, in 1993, but his group gigs provide him plenty of opportunities to write and play, and except for a live EP compilation, Lone, in 2003, he hasn't otherwise bothered to issue solo discs. Yet while performing at the 2003 Bonnaroo Festival, he followed a Saturday night set with the Allman Brothers Band with a Sunday afternoon solo set, accompanying himself on acoustic and electric guitar, and here it is on CD. Haynes uses his guitar chording to support his soulful voice on what sounds like a personal, thrown-together set list.
Warren Haynes has been almost ubiquitous since he joined the Allman Brothers Band, and formed Gov't Mule with Allen Woody and Matt Abts. He's played and collaborated with everyone from the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan to Little Milton and Taj Mahal. Fans might be surprised to learn that Southern soul was an early love. But they shouldn't be. Man in Motion is Haynes' first conscious effort and to fully indulge his love for this music, and his first solo record with backing musicians since 1993. Co-produced with Gordie Johnson, Man in Motion boasts a stellar cast: George Porter, Jr. on bass, Ivan Neville on organ, clavinet, and backing vocals, Ian McLagan on Wurlitzer and piano, drummer Raymond Weber, tenor saxophonist Ron Holloway, and backing vocalist Ruthie Foster.
Produced by Chuck Leavell, Warren Haynes' first solo album is a refreshing change of pace from his work with the latter-day incarnation of the Allman Brothers Band. Although the feel of this album is undeniably classic rock, with much of Free's bluesy swagger, it is also vaguely reminiscent of '80s rock at times (check out the Mr. Big-esque verse to "Fire in the Kitchen"). The focus on Tales of Ordinary Madness is clearly on Haynes' songwriting chops. For the most part, the songs on this record are tight and concise, focusing on immediate riffs, gritty vocals, and cool arrangements to sell them. This, however, is not to suggest that Haynes has stopped tearing it up with his guitar, and he amply demonstrates why he is one of the most lauded straight-ahead rock lead guitarists of the '90s.
Here you have three absolutely breathtaking jazz performers locked into a studio for a day or so. From this combination of guitar, standup bass, and acoustic drum kit, you've got nine tracks of sheer jazz joy – three guys just blowing for the hell of it, recorded on the fly. There's a strong sense here that engineer Rob Eaton probably tried to get everybody properly set up and balanced before the session started and just gave up when everybody started playing. It's a delight to hear, because everything has gone into the performance, which is spontaneous and graceful – no going back for the next take here. Pat Metheny's playing is definitely modernistic, highly fluid, almost liquid lightning – no effects boxes here, though (he does play Synclavier on the last track, "Three Flights Up," but it's great anyway). Roy Haynes, likewise, should be heard by anybody wanting to get behind the traps: this man has a sense of humor, and he's a blur of motion. Dave Holland, on bass, is no slouch either, keeping pace with Metheny's guitar lines, and balancing up against Haynes' drums. Together, these guys are incredible.