I’ve been trekking around the world and have made many amazing discoveries but none more amazing than finally finding the source of mercury; apparently it’s Hg wells.
Welcome back my friends to the blog posts that never ends, (I’ve got that ‘joy’ to review some time down the line!) and another double live album from the seventies to review. This time ’round it’s this majestic beast!
At Fillmore East was released in July 1971 by Capricorn Records as a double album, but reduced to the cost of a single LP. Atlantic and Atco initially rejected the idea of issuing a double album, with Jerry Wexler feeling it “ridiculous to preserve all these jams.” Their manager Phil Walden explained to executives that the band were less of a studio band and that live performances were most important to them. In a contemporary review, George Kimball of Rolling Stone magazine said that “The Allman Brothers had many fine moments at the Fillmores, and this live double album (recorded March 12th and 13th of this year) must surely epitomize all of them.” Kimball cited the band as “the best damn rock and roll band this country has produced in the past five years” and said of comparisons to the Grateful Dead at the time, “The range of their material and the more tenuous fact that they also use two drummers have led to what I suppose are inevitable comparisons to the Dead in its better days.” In a less enthusiastic review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau gave At Fillmore East a “B-” grade and said the songs “sure do boogie”, but ultimately found it musically aimless: “even if Duane Allman plus Dickey Betts does equal Jerry Garcia, the Dead know roads are for getting somewhere. That is, Garcia (not to bring in John Coltrane) always takes you someplace unexpected on a long solo. I guess the appeal here is the inevitability of it all.”
So what do I know about the Allman Brothers Band? Well, aside from ‘Jessica’ (or the Top Gear theme, as UK readers may know it), the excellent ‘Midnight Rider’ (check out Patti Smith’s great, acoustic version) and the song Frank Zappa always closed his shows with, once Bobby Martin came into the fold, ‘Whipping Post’, I know next to nothing about them. They were, if you excuse me, a little before my time and by the time I did get into that late 60’s-early 70’s period of rock music the Allman’s never reached my radar. So with an acclaimed double live album, 4 of the 7 tracks over 10 minutes (one of them taking up an entire side!) and a band with 2 drummers (!), I gingerly dove in head first! (is that even possible? – Ed)
Things start off great with the 1-2 bluesy rock punch of ‘Statesboro Blues’ and ‘Done Somebody Wrong’. It’s bluesy, it’s groovy and the band sound tight but loose. Taking on the classic ‘Stormy Monday’, the band slow the pace down and show off their chops, before picking the pace up again with ‘You Don’t Love Me’ ; a good song for about 7 mins before they activate jam-mode and then it turns into a great song. ‘Hot Lanta’ features some great keyboards from Duane Allman and has a superb funky/groovy riff. More groovy, jazzy riffs ahoy as the band launch into ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed’ and features yet more fabulous guitar solos, not sure which is Gregg’s or which is Dickie Betts’ but they all sound fantastic. Finally, side 4 features ‘Whipping Post’, a near 24 minute song/jam that, quite frankly, is one of the highlights of the album; the whole band are on top form here and the song seems to fly by despite its length.
So, is it excessive? As stated earlier, 4 of the 7 tracks are over 10 minutes yet none of them seem to drag or outstay their welcome, and when it was originally released it cost the same price as a single album, so that is good VFM in my eyes. Were the critics right? Yes. Although I feel that Robert Christgau just doesn’t like rock music and graded the record a tad harshly, I kind of get the Grateful Dead comparisons however in my opinion, I feel that the Allman Brothers take you on a journey starting from A, go off on a detour with their jamming and still get you to B without getting lost, swearing at the sat-nav or having the kids whine “are we there yet?” unlike the Grateful Dead, who sometimes make you feel that you should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque. Would I listen to it again? Definitely, in particular ‘Stormy Monday’ would be a great song to listen to on a grey, rainy day. Though in fairness, I would have to need to be in the mood to listen to this in it’s entirety, it’s a great album to pick and choose tracks from and I’m thankful for this album helping me break my Allman Brothers Band peach. They were perfect gentlemen. Would I recommend it? Hell to the yes! It’s a great record for playing air guitar to. In fact, if you’re going to listen to this bring some crumpets ‘cos these guys are bringing the jam! (and I’ll be bringing the cheese!) Is there a drum solo? 4 tracks over 10 mins, one song filling an entire side of the album, a band renowned for jamming and improvisation AND two drummers and you have the nerve to ask me “is there a drum solo?” Happily there isn’t! I know, I’m just as shocked as you!
So the final score for this album is a healthy 9/10, which puts it atop the leaderboard of classic double live albums. Will it stay there? Only time will tell, but the album that knocks it off is going to have its work cut out. Will our next entrant achieve this? Stay tuned to find out! 🤘